CDS’ Benedic Dasalla was homeless. Now he’s an advocate for the community

Michael Browne

Benedic Dasalla gets to do something he enjoys every day.

In his position as an event manager for Club Demonstration Services (CDS), an Advantage Solutions company, he’s constantly interacting with teammates and the public, supervising product sampling demonstrations and events at Costco warehouses in the Vancouver, Canada, metro market.

“Every day is different,” Dasalla says. “My work gives me emotional and physical fulfillment, as well as financial stability.”

The rewards of the job go well beyond a paycheck for Dasalla, who just eight years ago was homeless. 

In 2015, at age 21, Dasalla was adrift. He didn’t have a job, and he was in debt due to a combination of family and personal issues. He recalls aimlessly riding the city’s Skytrain, searching for hope anywhere he could find it. On that train, he saw a poster advertising a hotline for young people in need. His next phone call changed his life.

On the other end of the line was Covenant House Vancouver, an organization that provides shelter and support for young people throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. There, Dasalla found not only a bed but a community.

“I remember it was November and it was cold,” says Dasalla. “They said they might have a bed available if I could get there by 11 a.m.”

Dasalla says that when he got to Covenant House, he saw many young people who he felt were worse off than himself, including those with substance-abuse and mental-health issues.

“Some of them were dealing with worse things, so I didn’t feel like I was really deserving of this service,” he recalls. “I told my case worker that I was only going to stay for three months because I didn’t want to be a burden. She said to me, ‘Why are you in such a rush?’”

His three-month plan became a four-year journey. After aging up through the organization’s youth program, Dasalla continued on at Covenant House through its Crisis Shelter Program and, later, Rights of Passage, a longer-term residential program for young adults who have transitioned out of a crisis shelter.

It was during those years at Covenant House that Dasalla, who immigrated to Canada with his family from the Philippines when he was 12, says he began to truly find himself. “When you’re young and move to a different country, that shock of values and culture, you’re just kind of at a loss,” he says. “This is a completely different world with different values and beliefs. Between family issues, financial issues, homelessness, it was a challenge to find my real self.”

With the new stability he found at Covenant House, he left the program and found work, first at a tea company, and then a float spa, before learning about product demonstration openings with CDS at Costco in 2019.

“It seemed like a cool job, and I have a background in food, so I got the interview and was hired as a field advisor,” he recalls. “I liked that you get to work with so many different people.”

Dasalla proved to be a perfect fit, earning his first promotion after just one month on the job.

“CDS helped during my stages of independence out of the Covenant House transition program,” Benedic says. “Aging out was a stressful and uncertain time, and it helped to work at a place that I loved showing up to and genuinely enjoy. This is the first work where I don’t dread showing up every morning.” 

Four years later, Dasalla still says he has a “cool job.” He’s become friends with many of his coworkers. He loves interacting with his team and with shoppers, and he’s proud to “lead by example,” showing CDS sales advisors the value of engagement with members and providing them with a unique experience.

But what energizes him more these days is seeing the evolution of both CDS and parent company Advantage Solutions as businesses that echo his own values.

“I’ve always enjoyed my job, but even more so over the past year as I’ve seen transformation at Advantage and the new values that have been put into place,” says Dasalla. “It’s great because these are the kinds of things I think about when I work: being more human-centered, not forgetting about people and serving with heart. It’s invigorated my desire to work for the company.”

And it’s provided him with community.

“When I first moved out of Covenant House, I felt like I lost a community,” he says. “But at CDS, I’ve become friends with a lot of my coworkers, in a workplace I value. It’s kept me stable and kept me going.”

And it allows him the time and opportunity to give back. Dasalla knows what it’s like to be homeless, and he has made it a mission to support young people who struggle like he did. He helps with fundraising events, speaking about his experiences in public forums, and participates in the local version of Sleep Out, Covenant House’s global movement to shine a spotlight on and help end youth homelessness. (Each November, Covenant House also holds an Executive Sleep Out in major cities during which business leaders tour facilities and spend the night.)

“Homelessness can happen to anyone, and we need programs and services from private to public sectors to work together,” he says. “I would not be where I am today if Covenant House didn’t take me in when I needed it most.”

“Benedic is such an inspiration,” says Deb Lester, who is CEO of Covenant House Vancouver and has joined Dasalla at speaking events. “He is a natural leader, and his approach of leading with compassion provides a safe space for authenticity and vulnerability. We need more leaders like him.”

Perhaps most rewarding for Dasalla has been helping young homeless people get back on their feet by helping them get jobs at CDS.

“As an event manager for the past two years, whenever I need to hire, I always reach out to Covenant House first,” he says. He seeks referrals for people who are reliable, independent workers and are willing to learn.

During Dasalla’s tenure, he’s hired several former Covenant House residents at CDS. And while some move on to attend school or pursue other opportunities, he says, “I’ll hear back from some of them saying, ‘Hey Benedic, can I come back?’”

That kind of payback is its own reward.

To support Covenant House Vancouver, visit their “Ways to Donate” page online.