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Jennifer Breakspear, pictured in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Wednesday, says homelessness is the greatest issue facing Vancouver.

Rafal Gerszak/the globe and mail

For this feature, Globe B.C. borrows from Marcel Proust (and other media who have popularized the French author's questionnaire) as a way to get to know important people around the province when they're not making headlines. Here is Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of PHS Community Services Society.

Do you have a non-work-related passion or hobby? What is it?

Dragon boating. I love getting out on the water, the races are thrilling, and the community aspect of the sport and the team building that happens in the boat really appeal to me.

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Dog or cat?

Dog. Cats are cool, but dogs love so easily. Our sweet Mexican rescue dog, Chawley, is a perfect example. She was a street dog, had to fend for herself, clearly suffered some abuse and yet she leapt into our lives eager to love and be loved.

If you have $1-million to give to a charity, what cause or group would you select?

I'd split it between PHS, the SPCA and Amnesty International.

Walk, bus, bike or drive?

Walk to work, walk the dog, walk to shopping, walk socially. Bus when necessary. Bike when the weather's nice. Drive out of town.

Which living person do you most admire?

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My wife, Laurie. Her integrity and wisdom inspire me daily.

Which living person do you most despise?

I'm not comfortable with the notion of despising anyone, but the current American President comes pretty close.

What do you most value in your friends?

When it gets tough, they're there.

What trait do you most despise?

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Selfishness.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A sunny day on or near the water with little to do and lots of time to do it.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My experience developing and hosting Pride House Vancouver at QMUNITY during the 2010 Olympics. For the first time in Olympic history, LGBTQ athletes, coaches, fans, friends, and families had a safe, welcoming and inclusive venue that raised awareness of issues of homophobia in sport and visitors from all over the world visited Pride House. It was a group effort to bring that Olympic first to fruition and I'm very proud to have been a part of it.

What is the greatest issue facing Vancouver?

Homelessness. Until everyone has a roof over their heads and somewhere warm and dry to lay their heads at night, until everyone has the safety and comfort of a place to call home, we are failing our neighbours. As the Homeless Count has demonstrated, more and more people are deprived of the most basic right to housing. Working in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I see the impacts of this trend every day. There is no way it should be acceptable that, in a city with so much to offer, so many have so little. Shelter and safety should not be too much to ask.

What food or restaurant do you most crave when you're away from Vancouver?

Sushi, particularly at our neighbourhood local, Yanaki. Dim sum is my next favourite Vancouver craving.

What life lessons have you learned in the past year?

This past year was my first year at PHS and it was a huge time of learning and growth. We often talk about steep learning curves, but when I started at PHS I started on a learning wall. When my brain feels like it can't possibly absorb more information, process more learning, or solve any more problems, I've learned that taking a few deep breaths creates more brain space.

Who was your favourite teacher or learning experience?

Professor Amy Bartholomew and her second-year Human Rights Law course at Carleton University. She introduced me to the concept of cosmopolitanism and suddenly I had a word for my world view.

What's your favourite way to recharge?

Relaxing weekends with Laurie and Chawley on Salt Spring Island.

When, if ever, have you been most moved by a piece of art (play, painting, song, novel, poem … other)?

k.d. lang singing Hallelujah at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. That night, her rendition brought me to tears.

If you were to die and could come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

A well-loved dog in a lesbian household. Or a crow.

What is your motto?

Make a difference.

Who is your favourite fictional character?

Star Trek Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway.

What's the favourite thing you remember about the place you were born?

The glorious colours of autumn leaves in the Gatineau Hills outside Ottawa.

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