Heart of Our City: Giving back to their street friends one meal at a time

Heart of Our City: Giving back to their street friends one meal at a time

Karlene Campbell and Marvin Spencer feed the homeless every Sunday

On Sundays it is especially hard for those living on the streets to find a meal in Prince Rupert.

The two kitchens are closed and during the summer the lunch menu at Annunciation church cannot be accessed because it is also closed, according to Marvin Spencer, 37.

“They are not fortunate enough to find a meal on this Sunday. We know this because we both came from the streets and here we are bound in alcohol and drugs. Two years ago we were exactly where they are,” Spencer said talking about his fiancé Karlene Campbell, 34, and himself.

Campbell and Spencer have been feeding the homeless, who they refer to as their street friends, for 12 weeks in a row. Every Sunday at 11 a.m. Campbell and Spencer prepare burgers, cupcakes and other foods which have been donated by community members.

At around noon the barbecue begins in the back of their house, where their street friends are greeted with a smile and a song played on Spencer’s guitar.

READ MORE: LETTER: No empathy for Prince Rupert’s homeless

Spencer begins to sing a religious hymn. One would never be able to guess it is only his second year playing the guitar.

“I take it as a passion of mine to sing praises and to worship God. That’s why we do this here today. Our barbecue is a ministry that we share with the people to let them know that it isn’t the end. This isn’t the means to an end. To let them see us in our life where we found our saving grace gives them an understanding that you know there is a way out,” Spencer said.

Marvin Spencer plays some tunes and sings for his street friends as he and his financee prepare a barbecue lunch for them. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Spencer found himself struggling with alcoholism years ago when a tragic accident occured involving his kids.

“I went through a downward spiral that started alcohol. I was grieving a lot and alcoholism set-in for three years. I kind of just drank my sorrows away.”

After finding his way to sobreity in Terrace, Spencer came back to Rupert. He found himself still living on the street but this time he understood that he had to look out for his wellbeing, he said.

Preparations for the barbecue begin at 10:30 a.m., with food being served by noon. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

At this point the conversation with Spencer was interrupted as a community member, whom he has never met before, dropped by to hand Campbell $20. She immediately left with her kids and mother to head to the store, returning 10 minutes later with more snacks and beverages for her street friends.

Campbell had been an addict for nine years. She went through several different treatment centres and Alcoholics Anonymous groups, but nothing helped.

Karlene Campbell and Marvin met while living on the streets.(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Campbell was lost in addiction and eventually ended up on the street for the better part of a year, she said. That is where she met Spencer.

“We had no place to go, we slept on the streets and all these people behind us helped us make sure we were safe and ate. They kept us warm if we had no place to sleep,” Campbell said.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Homeless shelter opens with 25 beds

Slowly the couple started going to Compassion Explosion church and decided to dedicate their life to God. Campbell said religion was the only thing that staved off the cravings.

For the past year and a half the pair has been sober. Campbell now has full-time custody of her nine-year-old daughter and Spencer has shared custody of his own kids. The couple has a little one on the way and have found themselves full-time employment. Campbell has been working at the Emergency Weather Shelter full-time for the past six months and her finace is beginning a work program with Pembina in construction.

“We’re just trying to pay back by making sure our friends eat,” she said. “Any little thing helps; a smile, a hug and just an acknowledgement.”

Karlene Campbell and Marvin Spencer feed about 40-50 street friends every Sunday. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View))

Every Sunday she and Spencer feed 40-50 people. Campbell and Spencer have been receiving donations from the community who have seen their story on Campbell’s Facebook page. The couple plans to feed their street friends for as long as they can.

“We really enjoy having all our friends come. These are people that we don’t turn our backs to because they looked out for us,” Spencer concluded before going back to play on his guitar.

READ MORE: MVP of the Week: Runner ready for his biggest challenge yet

READ MORE: Heart of Our City: From pen-and-paper to senses and relationships


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Heart of our City

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Cancer Care Unit at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, April 14, will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Prince Rupert Port Authority towards renovations. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Port Authority donates $100,000 to hospital renovations

Cancer Care Unit at PRRH to undergo upgradesat PRRH to undergo upgrades

Teresa Van sorts bottles at the April 10 Rainmakers Interact Club bottle drive to earn funds for six Seabin garbage collection units for harbours and waterfronts in the local region. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Bottle drive successful with more collected than can be sorted in one day

Rainmakers Interact Club supports local community with funds toward ocean garbage collection units

Flights are to resume to Prince Rupert and Sandspit airports under an Air Canada and federal government $5.9 billion agreement that was reached on April 12. A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
$5.879 billion agreement between Air Canada and Fed’s will assist YPR in re-opening

Prince Rupert Regional Airport to reopen flights by June 1st, if not earlier

BC Housing townhouses on Kootenay Ave. were demolished during March to make way for new affordable residential units by Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Despite a recent reduction in units project will still be able to house many

Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society says 60 units is still the plan

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

New HousingHub financing funds will encourage developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Video captured Wednesday, April 14, shows a white BMW driving along the seawall between Vancouver’s Plaza of Nations and Science World. (Krimda Toravantian/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Motorist takes a drive along Vancouver seawall

Pedestrians near False Creek expressed disbelief after seeing the car join them on the walking path

Parliament Hill is shown in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and irremediable mental illnesses should be entitled to receive medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick photo)
Self-advocates ‘sad, scared, angry’ over revisions to assisted-death legislation

Bill C-7 was expanded to include access to medically assisted death for non-terminal conditions

Most Read