-courtesy of the downtown Business Association and
your City Government
One of Newton’s Laws of Motion is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. With objects or bodies in motion or at rest this lets you calculate what reaction you will get from your actions. With people it is not so nice and neat when it comes to the reaction you will get from your actions. But, should you choose to use your brain for more than a spacer to keep your ears apart, knowing you are dealing with people permits you to anticipate the kind of effects you will get from your actions. Assuming you care about what effects you will get from your actions. If you are concerned only about yourself, you need only consider the effect the actions will have for you and not about the effect they will have on your fellow citizens and business people.
This point was brought strongly to mind at the Global Harvest pancake breakfast for the homeless and hungry on Saturday January 21, 2006. Usually it is packed but on that day the crowd was sparse. The continuing efforts of the downtown business people and the city to drive the homeless elsewhere is beginning to have an effect – dispersing the homeless to other parts of the city. Looking around the emptiness of the breakfast I could see these actions were having an effect. It is now to far for some homeless to travel to make it to the breakfast – especially given our poor weather of late.
So what? The charities are set up to feed the homeless and hungry centered around the downtown area. When you disperse the people and close down places like Street Hope you are creating hungry people. These hungry people are going to need – food. In dispersing them or closing down/driving away the charities that feed the hungry you are in fact denying them access to their regular food sources. Can you honestly say that YOU would just sit there and starve? Neither will they. They will steal the food or they will steal items they can sell for cash to buy food. Resulting in a crime wave spread throughout the city. If those responsible for these policies of denying food to the hungry/homeless claim any crime wave was as an unexpected consequence of the efforts to clean up downtown – all I can say is that being brain dead is required not to be able to see the kinds of problems creating all those hungry/desperate people would have.
So, if at some future point you find yourself standing and surveying the direct effect these policies had on you through the theft of you property (TV, computer, jewelry etc.) remember to thank your city government and the Downtown Business Association. Make your thanks appropriate: voting in competent, intelligent representatives and boycotting downtown businesses.
Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
I have acknowledged that it was mental illness that led me here. I have no words that would express just how thankful I am that I had started on the road to mental health and had built up a support system that helps me through the rough patches. If I had to depend on the so called ‘assistance’ system for help I shudder to consider how badly I would be doing or how ill I would have been driven to be. While the pettiness and stupidity of having to RE-register and RE-file may be driving my crazy; it currently remains just the craziness of any (semi)sane person coping with insane demands.
Far too many others are not so lucky. When you close mental institutions, facilities and programs the people do not cease to exist. Transferring them onto welfare may sound as if you are not abandoning them, it may permit the government to claim they were being cared for, but that is not reality. I have found what could only be termed ‘disgraceful numbers’ of the mentally ill trapped at the mercy of the system without any of the help they really need or driven onto the streets as homeless.
Some of those addicts that so many look down upon, were created by the Liberal policies. They are those in need of Mental Health aid abandoned by society. To escape the demons in their heads they turn to self-medication, for they have been denied any other help. The Liberals can claim what they want, their actions have denied these people adequate aid and in leaving them alone and without help the Liberals must accept responsibility for their homelessness, self-medication and addictions.
Some of the abandoned end up in the ‘care’ of the justice system, lacking the mental health help they so badly need, their illness plays itself out in their acting out and leads to incarceration. I suspect it would be far cheaper to provide mental health care as opposed to jailing them. I know it would definitely be more productive in providing help to these lost souls and far more ‘just’.
Some drop into the ranks of the homeless and onto the streets. They struggle to survive, day to day, but without the mental health resources they need they are condemned to continue this day to day struggle for survival without any chance of recovery and getting out of the ranks of the homeless and back into life.
Some live a twilight life. They exist in the system; shelter of some type, food enough and minimum basic needs met. They exist; they live, but are denied life.
We are our brothers’ keeper.
I volunteer. My time is the only asset I have to donate right now, but that is exactly what so many worth while groups need. The ingredients for meals would just lie there without those who give of their time to cook, deliver and serve the food. It matters not how much money is in the bank account of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, without people willing to be big brothers and sisters – giving their time – there is no one to pair with little brothers and sisters.
Hmmmm. Here is a challenge for those who so casually apply the labels addicts, bums or your label of choice. Volunteer. Somewhere you will have repeated contact with those in need. Serve lunch at the Salvation Army or give your time to one of the groups that feed the hungry. For those who are seeking a real challenge: Street Hope. No group has come forward to provide food and open up on Tuesdays to provide warmth and a chance to dry out (literally not figuratively). Get a group together, talk to Dave about what is needed (604-832-8884) and spend time on Tuesdays helping out. That way you get the opportunity to get to know them as people, not labels. Those with closed minds can find those who fit their labels. But those willing to approach with patience and open minds may find themselves surprised at who they will meet. They may also find that even those who their labels fit (i.e. drunk) are still real people, people with problems, who need help and support if ever they are to overcome their problems.
Are you someone who knows everyone? Knows who is looking for workers and what they are looking for in employees? Can hook anyone up with a job? Drop by Street Hope some Friday evening. Someone there will be able to get together with you to see about helping those who, for whatever reason, have trouble finding work. Perhaps, should I be there you will even be able to help me.
Volunteer. You may just find out, as I did, what you get back is so much more than you give.
We take so many things for granted and often make judgements based on what we have taken for granted. Have you ever found yourself beside someone and thinking to yourself “stinking bum … take a bath, wash your clothes!”? I had. We take for granted the ability to bath ourselves and wash our clothes. Because of this we assume that those who need wash themselves are in that condition by choice. It is not until you find yourself homeless (or without money for luxuries such as laundry) that you appreciate just what a luxury access to laundry and the ability to shower/bath is.
The true surprise is not that many of the people in these circumstances are grubby, but how many of them are clean, neat, tidy and the great efforts they must make to be presentable. Think about it! If you are homeless were do you wash your clothes? Laundromat, I hear you say. You need cash for the washers, dryers and for laundry soap. Even for those who receive money from welfare, spending money on laundry means doing without something else.
On of the ironies of living homeless (or in poverty) is that it is easier to find clean donated clothing than it is for you to wash your clothes. When first I fell into this state I did not understand this fact of life as I watched people scramble for clean used clothing. I thought it was about building up their wardrobes (still had the attitude of one spoiled by the luxury of laundry). I have come to see that it is about having clean clothes – and developed an appreciation for the Luxury of Laundry.
And if you think that throwing dirty clothes away and using donations to obtain clean clothing is wasteful – it is. But for the homeless there is no choice. They cannot do laundry. Those on welfare are reduced to this level as well. Clean donated clothing means you have saved money that you can spend on luxuries such as shelter, personal hygiene products or even the ultimate luxury – your job search. When you are forced to deal with the system you quickly learn it is about rules and political ideology and not about assistance.
Washing yourself is another luxury to be treasured. Have you ever seen someone go into the washroom at a grocery store or gas station and when they spent a long time in the washroom, assumed they were in there doing drugs? Did you even consider an alternative explanation? Next time pay attention to whether their clothes had changed or if their hands and faces were cleaner when they emerged. For many of the homeless a long stay in a washroom has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with bathing. Those spoiled by easy access to personal cleanliness then to forget about the wash in public washroom. The homeless learn the art of taking a bath in the sink of a public washroom. Washing anything at this time of year presents extra difficulties. For the cold you need more layers and heavier clothing but wet clothes in these climate conditions and temperatures are an invitation to illnesses such as colds, fevers and pneumonia. Having your person wet presents even more of a danger of becoming ill.
So the next time you find yourself thinking ‘dirty bum’ stop and think about just how hard it is for the homeless and the poor to be clean. And for those who firmly believe that cleanliness is important, you can choose to take action to assist these in need to have access to the luxury of cleanliness.
Ah, yes. Dave and his merry band of volunteers. A ministry to the streets, preaching without words. A growing ministry because there are so in need and their ranks are being added to by the government and its’ ministry all the time.
It is a place to go on a cold night for a hot coffee and a chance to warm up. For those who hunger a place to get a bite to eat to ease the hunger pains. A place for blankets, gloves, hats and coats to survive the cold. A place just to sit and relax with people who are not judgmental, who listen and who lend support and assistance.
When someone come in less than sober, they get their coffee not lectures. They are accepted for who they are and given a place, knowing that they must be permitted to work out their own fate. But also knowing that while you have to let them find their own way, this does not mean you need to turn your back on them and abandon them to the elements and the streets. You can ( and to a certain extent must) help and support them until they reach the point at which they can begin to change themselves. And when people reach the point where they come to accept their powerlessness, are ready and comfortable enough to ask for help. They are there with help and to help.
There is only one glaring problem with Street Hope. Far, far to much need on the Street for the limited resources they have available. There are so many mores that this refuge needs. More space, more food for the cold and hungry, more volunteers, more people willing to take on the challenges of helping or offering employment, more, more, more …
So many mores and only one Dave. I have heard the worry expressed that Dave may burn himself out striving to fill so many mores, of seeking to help all those in need, of caring for those society has abandoned.
If you, your friends, church, company, or organization would care to join and
HELP SAVE DAVE!!
You may have noticed my use of the term welfare. Partly this is because I always found the trend to rename things just to make them sound better annoying, very annoying. A Sanitary Engineer is still a garbage man (woman). And ‘social assistance’ is still welfare. I concede the point that welfare as a label has its own baggage. Still any baggage would, over time, be transferred to the label ‘social assistance’. My real objection is that this term is truly misleading. Using ‘assistance’ implies that the system seeks to and does provide assistance (v. & n. 1. Help 2. NAmer: the act of helping). Based on my experiences and observations, applying the word assistance to the way the system currently functions is akin to saying that a guillotine is of assistance in curing a headache. Using the term assistance is of useful value to the ideologues of the current government since the word assistance carries with it the impression of helping. Applying the term assistance to the program suggests that the program is about helping people. Laughable. I question that even a group of ideologues , such as comprise the current government, could set out to design a system to assist people and end up with a system that hinders and raises obstacles as well as the current system. Or maybe I am hasty in ruling out incompetence.
The Liberal party has consistently excelled at the use of misleading labeling. When they first took office they enacted ‘tax reform’ and ‘lower taxes’, this being the labels they applied to their fiscal programs. Of course as part of lowering the tax rates fees and service charges rose or came into being. As a result of these ‘tax reforms’ and ‘lower taxes’ the working poor and middle class were out of pocket additional $$$, which flowed into the pockets of the wealthy. But labeling the changes what they truly were ‘Assistance to the Rich and Powerful’ (the rich got assistance by transferring their burden onto the poorest taxpayers) would have made it impossible to sell to the public. And politics and ideology is about selling and has nothing to do with truth.
So the public has to decide what it wants the system to Be or Do. If the purpose is merely to salve the publics conscience by convincing themselves they are rendering assistance to those in need, it can be left alone. The current government has demonstrated its ability to say things that sound good and apply misleading labels to soothe the public into inaction. It could be renamed “Guilty Feeling Relief System”, shortened to Relief System so as to sound like it is to provide relief to those in need – almost as good as the current use of assistance to suggest the system provides help.
In the event that the public decides that the system should in fact be of help and not full of hindrances, changes are needed. No just to the system but to other programs that can an impact in providing help. Mental health, education, training, transportation, treatment centers – and numerous other programs that impact on helping those in need. The system itself needs to be overhaul so as to provide less hindrance more assistance. Posting the definition of assist/assistance in plain view of those in charge and the workers would serve as a reminder of what the Purpose is. Perhaps the biggest change of all is in the attitudes of the public. Throw out the derogatory labels. These are people who need our help, we want to help them, NO we will help them.
We Can make the system render ‘Assistance’.