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‘Skid row CEO’ Joe Roberts back in Abbotsford for beneficial brunch

Salvation Army hosting Hope in the Valley with popular guest speaker
Joe Roberts (The Skid Row CEO) spoke at the annual Character Abbotsford conference at Abbotsford secondary school on Oct. 20, and met with conference attendees afterward. He will be back in Abbotsford on Nov. 29 for Hope in the Valley. (Submitted photo)

Joe Roberts keeps pushing for change.

He once walked more than 9,000 km across Canada, pushing an actual shopping cart through every type of weather this country could throw at him. But he was determined to raise money and awareness about youth homelessness.

He was once homeless and addicted himself, in 1989, on Vancouver’s so-called skid row. Since then, he has become an author, a businessman, and a motivational speaker who often leaves his audience both moved to tears and motivated to make change.

Roberts tells the story of how he came to be on the streets, how he disconnected from his family, and then how he found himself again.

And while it took perseverance, he didn’t do it alone, he explained in an interview with The News.

It was only with the help of organizations with the resources he needed that he was able to tackle his addiction and get back on his feet. He attracted media attention on his walk across Canada between 2016 and 2017, and he is now the executive director and co-founder of The Push for Change Foundation.

He lives in White Rock, and travels across North America telling his story. He has spoken to more than a million people. He was a keynote speaker at a Character Abbotsford conference last month, and he’s back in town on Nov. 29 speaking at Salvation Army’s Hope in the Valley Brunch event (see information below).

“Some groups like the Salvation Army are just a joy to work with,” he said. “The work they do is so connected to my story of transformation. Often people will get this belief that I’m somehow special, but I’m here today because of over 10,000 people, who through their love, care and support were there for me. I was incredibly supported.”

He speaks honestly and openly about stigmas associated with mental health and addiction, and shares the tools needed to build resiliency in any situation.

Since 1989, Roberts has acquired two college diplomas, became the CEO of one of Vancouver’s leading multimedia companies, and has been recognized by MacLean’s Magazine as one of 10 Canadians who make a difference. He has received the BC Courage to Come Back Award, The Ontario Premier’s Award for Business, and has an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University. He has also been awarded the Senate’sCanada 150 Medal, and a meritorious service medal from the Governor General of Canada.

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His story is a positive one, and he said there are more like him he wishes people could hear about.

“Great stories are happening every day,” he said. “People getting the keys to their own apartment, getting back on their feet, getting a job. This is an opportunity to balance the narrative, especially before the holidays, and say, ‘It’s not all bad news, folks.’”


The Salvation Army – Abbotsford/Mission is hosting the first Hope in the Valley Luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre.

The events runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and brings together thought leaders and philanthropists from Abbotsford, Mission and surrounding communities to ring in the holiday season and recognize the importance and impact of philanthropy in local communities.

Funds raised will support the programs and services of the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope in Abbotsford.

“With one in 10 British Columbians living in poverty, our Hope in the Valley Luncheon is particularly important due to the increase in demand for services,” said Maj. Ruth Gillingham.

“As the cost of living continues to rise in British Columbia, more people than ever live at or below the poverty line and turn to the services provided by the Salvation Army for support.”

The Hero for Hope award will be presented to Darshan, who has worked hard to overcome a series of life-changing setbacks to transform his life.

Guests will enjoy a plated, traditional turkey lunch and performances by the Gospel Brass Band and the Mountain elementary school choir.

Bob Singleton, well known as the voice of the Abbotsford Airshow for many years, will be the master of ceremonies.

Tickets are $80 or $600 for a table of eight and are available at or by calling 604-852-9305 (ext. 138).


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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