An Unsightly Sight?

I agree, probably for different reasons, but I do find the sight objectionable. I considered seeing how far into this blog I could get before I needed to reveal just what I was talking about. I thought of different ways to play back and forth between the public-at-large and my point of view without defining exactly what we were speaking of, since that is what happens so often in the area of homelessness. But as noted, I (we) get enough of that in our day-to-day existence, so what we are discussing is the homeless sleeping in public at night.

This came to mind as I was speaking to several of my fellow homeless last night. It seems that the brick producer by the welfare office has decided to clean out those homeless that were camping in the bush by their facility. At least they were semi-reasonable in the way they went about this. They trotted out a front-end loader, ran it around the edge of the bush to attract attention and issued a warning that they would return in 24 hours to level everything. The reason for saying ‘semi-reasonable’ is that they apparently could not do this without running over and destroying at least a few things. On the other hand all too often others who want to move the homeless along have given no warning, no chance to retrieve their property, just destroyed it. And at this time of year losing what little shelter and bedding is a big deal. As I said at least they were semi-reasonable.

One regularly hears of camps and campsites around the city being destroyed to move the homeless along. The question is why does any rational person think this is going to accomplish anything? As noted, I was speaking to one of the people who had retrieved his stuff (now in a cart). Now I grant you he was not going to be spending his night camping out in the bush near the brick producers – he was now going to be spending the night on the street wherever he could find cover from the rain. At least until he can find another patch of bush to pitch his tent in – until he is rousted from the new location…… and so on, and so on, and so on. He was in the company of one of those the city chose to displace in their argument with the owners of the Fraser Valley Inn. As a result of the city being happy to throw the residents onto the streets but not to stand up and accept their responsibility for helping the people relocate, he has been sleeping on the streets since that time. Now he finds some sheltered spot to try to get some sleep, until the police come along and wake him up to move. After all it is an unsightly and thus not to be allowed. So he moves to the nearest sheltered place and goes to sleep, until the police come along…… and so on, and so on, and so on. Last night he was joined by the fellow rendered camp-less.

**Shake my head** The question is where else do they go? They are homeless with no other choices. One of the other people I know from the Fraser Inn displacement has been desperately seeking shelter since then. When I talked to her yesterday she was ‘distraught’, although that does not really convey how close she is to the end of her rope. I have encouraged her – both to keep plugging away and to get her story down so I can post it. Where do you expect them to go? She was displaced from the Fraser Inn by the city months ago, displaced from a campsite in the bush by the city, currently has a shelter that I would live on the street before I used and is struggling to find a place, but in Abbotsford a $325 shelter allowance makes that a long, difficult task –if you are lucky.

Of course there is the question of what else is going on when the police have to spend their time chasing the homeless from spot to spot instead of other duties. The question of, as all the camping spots in the bush are leveled, having more and more people wandering the streets at night and sleeping where they can – until woken to move on … and so on, and so on, and so on. Of course there are laws against this, so they can be arrested and jailed if you want to pay all the costs associated with this choice. But these costs are hidden as part of something the public likes, increased police spending and more people in jail. It appears the public would rather fool itself and pay these much higher hidden costs rather than examining the question in a rational way. Only by looking at the underlying reality of the situation (as opposed to what people think the situation is) and at the actual real costs of dealing with the situation (as opposed to only seeing the plainly visible costs and ignoring the ‘hidden’ costs) can we begin to make rational choices.

Reality is that the homeless do not just cease to exist when displaced they just have to find another spot, then another … and so on, and so on, and so on. You can displace and move them along all you want, but until you begin to deal with the underlying causes and they have housing of some form they are going to be an Unsightly Sight.

The Paradox of the Screw-up

If I had only known: I could have embraced screwing up

I have observed that in having a screw-up enter your life it is preferable to have it happen early, the earlier the better. This makes sense to me. The younger you are the more options you have in getting back on your feet. You can take 8 hours of physical labour or stand on your feet for an 8 hour shift, both of which I have done when I was so much younger. I have found, through my recent experiences, that employers are not willing to hire you full time one you are a ‘mature’ worker. I can certainly understand and except this behaviour, even if I do not like it. Although to be honest, I have serious doubts about my ability to be on my feet for 8 hours straight at this point of my life, a fact that tends to make me much more understanding. I suspect that the WCB also contributes to their caution, they see a walking claim caused by a lifetime of wear and tear on my body. So if you life tanks at an earlier age you have more options in the job market, which makes sense.

A small paradox I found was that I was and am surprised at how much of a liability experience can have. You would think that experience would be an asset in ones job search. My experience has been that it in fact works against you in the job market. There are numerous jobs out there that I have applied for that had I just been starting or only had a few years of experience I would have gotten. I have heard the statement “you’re overqualified for the position” so often I have fond thoughts of throttling the next person you issues that statement. When I tell this to people they say “Oh, they just do not want to pay you”. I certainly hope this is not true, since it does suggest some negative things about employer – employee relations. I also hope it is not true as I certainly would not expect to be paid at the level of my experience but at the level of the position – OK maybe at the higher end of the range but still in relation to the job I was doing. Still, reality is that I would have been better to be in my current state of unemployment and homelessness earlier in my career.

Sue? It just occurred to me that maybe I should sue the federal government for age discrimination. There are many programs for training or schooling those under 30, but once you are over thirty you are out of luck. That’s ageism! I should sue! Actually, this is an area that needs a little though and review. In the old economy, older workers were usually situated in a job or company and finished out their working career with that company. In our current economy, more and more older workers are finding themselves out of work late in their working lives and finding they cannot get a position in their old career/job. Unfortunately for them finding retraining or education programs is difficult. This is another argument for messing up early in life.

But the BIG paradox is that you are far better off to be a royal screw-up than you are to run into one problem later in your working life. There are programs out there that will help you is you have been on and off UI or in and out of work. For these programs it does not matter if you were laid off or fired, just that you cannot hold a job. They will pay to send you back to school for up to two years – at their expense. Now it is not easy to access these programs, not in the sense that they are trying to turn you down, but in the sense that they want to make sure you are serious and willing to do the work. Which is a good idea and a legitimate screening tool. However, there are no similar programs for people who have been good workers throughout their working life, until they ran into whatever difficulty it was that rendered them in their current circumstances. This is aggravated by the fact that as noted above, experience can be a significant barrier to finding a job. There are courses of study that I would love to pursue that, together with my background and experience, would allow me to find employment in an interesting, challenging and creative position. But sadly, as I have found ou,t there are not programs for those of us who were good workers. Sadly I failed to realize, before reaching this point in my career, that it would be far more advantageous to regularly screw-up than to do a good job.

So, as I reflect upon the Paradox of the Screw-up I can only regret that I didn’t appreciate the advantages of being a poor employee vs. the disadvantages of being a good employee. At least for purposes of getting help for schooling and career change for the purpose of becoming a sought after employee.

par·a·dox n. :

  1. One exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects
  2. That which is apparently, though not actually, inconsistent with or opposed to the known facts in any case
  3. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true
  4. An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises

Government Whitewash

I read about the politicians’ hasty reconsideration of their bellying up to gorge at the public trough. They just were not sneaky enough in this case to pull the wool over the publics eyes. There were no labels or somebody else they could point at to distract the public attention from the real issues, nobody to blame or absolve them of responsibility. So they had to stand naked before the public with their actions and the consequences of those actions in plain view. In pondering the question of how to force the effects of the government’s actions on the poor, homeless and those needing help I realized the bizarre fact that one of the side effects of charity is to aid in whitewashing these actions and effects.

So why do I say that a side effect of charity is aiding in a government whitewash?

Whitewash: n. Concealment or palliation of flaws or failures; tr.v. To conceal
or gloss over (wrongdoing, for example).

Palliate: tr.v. 1. To make (an
offense or crime) seem less serious; extenuate. 2. To make less severe or
intense; mitigate:

In taking on the feeding of the poor, those on social assistance and the homeless charities have allowed the government to conceal the flaws in and the failure of its social policies AND its fiscal policies. It is those fiscal policies that have given rise to a large class of working poor who struggle to keep a roof over their heads and rely on the food bank and other charities for food, clothing and luxuries such as shampoo. These same fiscal policies result in those struggling to get off welfare and onto their own two feet facing an uphill struggle in finding employment in their search for independence. This is not the place to list all the failures of its social policies, since such a listing would distract from the topic under discussion – although the government itself employs many forms of distraction in concealing its actions and the consequences for those in need of a helping hand.

I had to look up the word palliate when I decided to use the definition for the term whitewash. It seems very, very appropriate here. ‘To make less severe or intense; mitigate’. Imagine if you will (OK I stole that from Rod Serling, but I often feel I have entered the Twilight Zone) a world in which no charities undertook to feed the hungry. People would start dying from starvation. The pictures of children suffering from hunger and starvation would no long be from Africa but from the streets of BC. It would certainly strip away the concealment of just what the true effect of the governments policies are, pushing them before the public eye in the same way that the pay raises were.

I am glad there are people out there with generous hearts since I am currently one of those who (I had to go back to put in the word currently, if you let the system beat you down to the point where you become ‘one of’ this mindset can turn you into a permanent inhabitant of the system) depends upon their humanity for survival. I have now truly come to understand why those who work and strive so hard to help feed, shelter and clothe the needy are driven to do this. Still I am forced to acknowledge that their acts of basic human decency and kindness help sanitize the policies and actions of the government.

Sanitize: tr.v. To make more acceptable by removing unpleasant or offensive
features from

I do mean sanitize. Or I certainly hope I do. I fervently hope that hungry, starving people would be viewed as an offensive feature of current policies. I shudder to think what kind of society we have if we find it acceptable to have those in need of help, suffering and dying for lack of help. I mentioned this theory about the ‘whitewash effect of charity’ to a friend at lunch and he agreed with the logic. He just was not as sure that society would require action even if people started dying of starvation – “You hope” he said repeatedly. Frighteningly, I could understand his skepticism and had no way to refute it, which probably speaks volumes about the type of society we have allowed to grow. Where people drive by or step over those in need of assistance and when it hits the news (being a BIG story) we all shake our heads and say how terrible those bystanders were – but I wonder just how many of those head-shakers would have been driving by or stepping over the needy if they had been there themselves? Maybe, instead of pointing fingers at television, movies, magazines etc and bemoaning them as the cause for the direction society is headed, we should step up to the mirror and point at ourselves.

A society is a reflection of all its’ citizens behaviour. If you think society is corroding away, reflect upon your own actions – or inactions.

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.
James Baldwin

The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.
Noam Chomsky

When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.
Anthony D’Angelo

GIME!! GIME!! GIME!! Screams Gord! In Sneak Attack on Public Purse

Bad for other public servants BUT GOOD for us! Behind closed doors, in hiding from public scrutiny, the Liberal Party and Leader Gordon Campbell (with the NDP aiding and abetting) in effect told his fellow British Columbians that the rules are for everybody else, NOT them. Claiming no money is available for those in need or other badly needed program expenditures and beating up and contracting out jobs of those seeking raises, the government gave itself a 31% raise. Apparently the idea of holding the line on monies paid from the public purse is good only until it affects his pocketbook. With more and more citizens homeless, on welfare, living below the poverty line or struggling to make ends meet the government decided that exorbitant raises were the best use of the taxes taken from hard-press, hard-working taxpayers.

I am truly disappointed in Carole James deciding to sell out. Anyone who cared for their fellow citizens who have, and continue to, sufferer at the hands of this government would not have gone along with this heist from the public purse. Principle is a concept that obviously the politicians in this province are totally lacking any understanding of, much less having any principles. Despite their claims, the current Ideologues in government have no sense of fiscal responsibility.

If leadership is creating a state of mind in others, what kind of state of mind are Gordon Campbell and his cronies creating in BC? Do we really want to be living in a province where ‘Greed is Good – at least for ME’ and ‘Special Classes/Cases’ exist? Can we afford these overpriced, overpaid, under-working, underperforming and morally bankrupt politicos?

With their inability so clearly demonstrated these politicians should be paying us!

For Gord and his posse: A challenge

So you think the $510 is adequate?

Then demonstrate this to me …… please! For just six months you live on that amount – and only that amount. Then we will talk. I am sure you all can, and will find reasons not to accept this challenge. A variety of reasons that sound good and hide the truth: you cannot. No one can without help from food banks and others of good will.

Either demonstrate how it is done to live on $510 a month, for just six short months (I expect the press, the opposition and advocates for all your and Liberal party’s victims will be willing/happy to act as observers/judges/referees in this matter) or admit that $510 in not adequate and do something about it (not to mention all the other reforms required).

I had to delete any references to leadership after the sneaky money grab Gord and his posse made. However I think that so he can get a real feel for the people of the province that:

Gordon Campbell should get his chance to live on $510 per month

I will live on his salary, but in a demonstration of leadership I will only accept the pre 31% raise salary.

Crime Wave coming to your neighbourhood!

-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.