December 12, 2009
Someone commented that it felt like it had been some time since I was in a shelter. It has been 2 weeks since I last directly referenced shelter experience in my blog...sorry guys got kind of caught up with the Bilbo Baggins thing. Actually, I was in the shelter until about a week ago...then I visited my sister and now I am back in Calgary until mid-January. Too much op/ed, I'll try to balance the input a little better, next time out.
Before I began this journey, one of my co-workers at the D.I. (a veteran front-line worker) told me to be sure to take a few days off every month to spend time with family and friends. He said, "it is too easy to become caught up in the street culture and forget who you are and why you are there. If you burnout, you won't be any good to anyone". Because of the travel distances involved I have not been able to follow his advice, I have only been able to reconnect once every few months. Although this is supposed to be downtime, I spend much of it with the Calgary homeless, both current friends and former clients. Also spend much time updating my notes and spreadsheets. I have discovered that extended periods of time living with this population does not diminish my sense of self. My work among the homeless is a big part of who I am, so living with them just saves me the daily commute LOL.
Even when I spend time with family I have the chance to educate them about the current situation. They will make statements in keeping with the stereotypical perceptions of the homeless and that affords me an opportunity to share what I have learned through my work and travels.
The biggest mis-perception people have is that all homeless are Drunks, Druggies and Drop-outs. Which, as I have mentioned before is only 30% of the shelter population. Today I'd like to address this population, the 30% who (not as individuals but as a demographic) will likely always need the shelter system and it supportive networks. When asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I can guarantee no one, answered "a homeless junkie". Bad things happen to every one of us, no one's life is perfect or easy, But some of us are bless with good coping skills or the supports from family or friends that we need. Addiction is rarely a lifestyle choice...the drunk, the junkie you pass on the street was once somebody's baby... innocent and perfect in every way. Just like every other child born into this world. It is not our place to be judgmental or smug about another person's misfortunes or mistakes. I have found such behaviours seem to always result in God giving us an opportunity to learn a little humility, through first-hand experience.