All posts by James W. Breckenridge

Are they waiting for a corpsesicle?

You may have noticed it is more than a little nippy outside these days. And while the bright moon and stars are a very pretty sight, that clearness of the air means the temperature plummets overnight. Factor in the wind chill and you have conditions threatening to life and limb. The one question on the lips of the homeless these days is “are they going to open extra space for shelter at night”? Rumours run rampant through the homeless community, but at the time this is written there are only the (inadequate) beds at the Salvation Army. With bright sunny days perhaps those with shelter do not realize just how dangerous these clear, freezing nights are to those unwillingly consigned to residing on the mean streets of Abbotsford. I have heard of one of the local churches that has regular contact with the homeless community whose attempts to open their (church) doors to these cold people is tied up in red tape thrown up by the city. If the politicians are hoping that the cold will drive the homeless out of town, where they do they expect the homeless to go? That person snoring sitting there in the Library may well have spent the night walking around to keep warm enough to see the dawn and need to get enough sleep in order that they can have the energy to spend this evening moving about so that they can survive to tomorrows dawn.

One can only hope that it does not require someone to freeze to death to get a warm(er) shelter open.


Several months ago I read an ad for Global Television seeking an assignment manager. The ad was full of all the right buzzwords you would expect but hidden away among all those nice buzzwords was a chilling prospect. Part of the job was coordination of editorial content among various elements of the Global/Can West media empire, seeking to maximize the bottom line. Or is that to toe the party line?

I grew up in an era of newspaper competition and contrasting editorial viewpoints. It is disturbing to think about how we have lost all these differing views to media conglomeration, to consider the stifling effect that media conglomeration has on the debate and reporting of issues both large and small. While coordinating editorial content may be advantageous to the bottom line, what is the cost to the public in reporting of stories and presentation of diverse and opposing viewpoints? Where once we were presented with opposing views, ideas and thoughts on important issues we now get one (‘the company’) point of view. Important issues often are no longer examined from many angles and we are no longer exposed to all views, thoughts of considerations needed to make important choices/decisions. Making decisions may appear easier since we are given far less to think about. But, is it a good idea to be seeking or more accurately to be accepting this easy way out? Is it reasonable to be seeking easy, simple answers in an increasingly complex world? Does/has not this approach just lead/resulted in making BAD decisions?

How much does the corporate drive for bottom line results affect what appears in the paper/magazine/television news? I grew up with our ‘local’ paper being owned and published by a resident of the town. I knew the family who were members of the local community. On occasion things got a little lean when the paper took a position on important local issues that some advertisers disagreed with. As a citizen the owner/publisher took these positions and accepted the (temporary) revenue downturns because some important issues need to be addressed and someone will disagree with the papers position. Now the Herald is part of a chain, as are the Abbotsford papers, and focused on the bottom line. To avoid offending advertisers and decreasing revenue, the public ends up with sanitized, do not offend anybody stories.

Another major effect is that of the drive to reduce costs. To address a complex issue such as homelessness is going to require time for research, investigation and thought – perhaps a series of articles. This approach represents a far higher cost than just banging out simple stories. This addressing of complex events carries a significant chance of offending some vested interest, with the potential for a negative effect on the bottom-line.

Doubt this? Think back a few months to the picture of the woman in the hat with the large flower and her dog in her arms. Nice easy story about the closing of the Fraser Inn. The harder part, the most costly part would be a story about: where is she now? What effect did the closing of the Fraser Inn have on her? On other displaced residents? What has the welfare system done for – or to – her? Does she need help now? Do the other ex-residents? What actions did the city take (not take) in accepting (denying) responsibility for the effect of its actions on the innocent bystanders (the residents) of its feud with the owners of the Fraser Inn? Not very likely to be written since it could discomfort readers and advertisers, it would take time and effort and it would/could have a negative effect on bottom line maximization.

The problem with having to rely on media providing the information to make decisions on complex issues, in this current age of media conglomerates, lies in the old computer programmers’ adage:


Laundry – part deux

Recently I have found another little problem I had never considered before in keeping clean. That is getting your towels and such to dry. When it was warmer I could find somewhere to hang them and they would dry. On a real hot day they would be toast warm and dry. Now, even hanging them up for 24 hours does not get them dry. They range from damp to semi-wet. And in that condition tend to hold onto the cold they absorb. Hot shower, cold towel. Brrrr. Nothing to do but accept. Well, I do not thing the other option, waiting to bath until the towel is dry, is very considerate of others.

I am Thinking Therefore I Exist

René Descartes aside, lately I have taken to looking into mirrors and other reflective surfaces to make sure I have a reflection, as a check that I actually exist. The mayor, city council and city bureaucracy deny my existence ‘Abbotsford does not have a homeless problem it needs to address’ their attitudes, words and actions proclaim. As someone in need of assistance who works hard at the struggle to find employment, the BC Liberals deny my existence ‘They are all bums who do not want to work’. So some days I need to see my reflection to assure myself that yes, I am, no matter how hard the politicians attempt to deny my existence … and the help that would get me back on my feet.


I read an article once that postulated that one reason so many think society is deteriorating is that to many people either lack or fail to use basic civility. Now citing such simple things as “Excuse Me”, “Thank You”, “Please” for some of society’s ills may sound trite, but the use of these words reflects an attitude of consideration for others. You bump into someone and say “excuse me” and the incident can end there. How often have you seen people bump and their reaction is to start screaming and things go downhill from there. The use of “please and thank you” seems to be a dying art-form.

I was/am appalled at the discourtesy some, no scratch some, most of my fellow homeless have been displaying on Saturdays. There are several Korean bible students (Jacob, Stephen et al) who have reached the point in their studies that they need to do a little practice preaching with real people. Now these brave folks could undoubtedly have found a nice safe and easy place/group for this practice, but have chosen instead to go where there is a real need. I admire their bravery and faith, but I have serious reservations about their sanity. They use the Street Hope premises for their ministry, serving a delicious and healthy meal. Then they ask for our attention for a few minutes so that they can have a chance to work with a live audience. They keep the message short and simple (as befits the audience they have) and choose appropriate (to the audiences situation) passages.

The homeless know that these brave folks just want the opportunity to share a short message and gain experience in the real (very real) world. Many homeless rush in, gobble the food and rush out before they ‘have to listen’. Worse still are those who sit around and talk or in other ways disrupt the reading and ideas they wish to share. Now I could get technical here and cite ‘implied contracts’ feed us/we listen but I won’t. What I will cite is the lack of manners and consideration this behaviour shows. They take the time to prepare and serve a meal. More importantly they take the time to choose and prepare a bible passage and their thoughts on this passage, choosing messages that we all could benefit from keeping in mind. And then many of my fellow homeless cannot find it in their hearts to do them the courtesy of listening. Yet, if these people decided to stop coming down to Street Hope, the homeless would be bitching about how inconsiderate they were to stop coming. The homeless have also have missed the positive thoughts and ideas that the last two passages and sharings have contained. Myself, I could use all the positive mental images and ideas I could get. So I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to these brave folk and their friends and spouses who help out. THANK YOU.

Of course these are not the only people that many fail to extent basic courtesy to. There are those who cannot be bothered to take their trays over to stack dishes and trays for easier washing or to put their garbage in the garbage. They leave it for the volunteers to do, these people who have done us the kindness to come down, prepare the meal, serve the meal, wash the dishes and clean up after we leave. And those slobs cannot even bother to help out to the extent of a simple task of putting ones tray and dishes in a place that makes the volunteers’ job easier. I once saw someone turn up after lunch was finished. One of the volunteers went out of her way to get him some buttered buns (all that was left) so that he would not have nothing. He screamed at her, through the buns at her and kept swearing at the top of his lungs. She had gone out of her way to help and because it was not what he wanted, when he wanted he felt free to heap abuse on her. To often many homeless forget that these people do not have to be there, that they are there out of the goodness of their hearts. Then there are those who feel hard done by because the bag lunches only contain a cheese sandwich, a peanut butter sandwich, apiece of fruit and some cookies. They also have no hesitation in complaining to the people who have provided that it should be better. They have provided the food out of their own pockets, made up the bags and brought them to the hungry. They do this every week it is needed without fail and choose to err on the side of providing us with a lunch to have as supper rather than chance us not getting anything to eat at all. And these ungrateful wretches complain, when they should be thanking their lucky stars that people with this kindness in them exist.

I have seen all too many examples of this lack of appreciation for all the hard work and effort that some caring people go to helping out the homeless and the poor. Failing to give thanks or worse giving abuse where thanks are due. They feel hard done by when they cannot even say a simple thank you. I apologize for those ignoramuses and assure you that I certainly appreciate your hard work and efforts.