Today one of my new housemates took me to a small drop-in resource centre just a couple of blocks from where we are staying. There, over coffee four of us engaged in a very lively discussion about what could be improved in this province’s system of supports for the homeless community. One of the women who, has multiple barriers to employment, sees the system and the social workers as adversaries to her attaining housing. She is very active in the community, volunteering and attending council meetings etc. She reminds me of the people I met in Vancouver’s Down Town East Side. Unfortunately, when it comes to battling The Man, she feels like a voice in the wilderness. If she were more articulate and diplomatic she might get more community support from her fellow homeless. Her causes are far reaching and could impact positively on the entire community… sadly, she only knows how to reference things as they affect her personally. That is the reason; even the longest veteran of street life has trouble getting heard by anyone with the power to make change. Hopefully as a third party observer; I will be in a position to offer broader insights (untainted by personal drama) with consideration to all stakeholders (because I have knowledge of all stakeholders positions).
The older woman at the table was more articulate and lucid in her perceptions, but she is long past wanting to be an activist. Like many women in their 50s she is too young for pension and too old to re-enter the work force with anything more than “job prospects”. Embarking on a new career is something very few of us are up to doing in mid-life (I am an exception in that way LOL). She explained how her biggest problems revolved around landlords (sudden rent hikes) and a bad credit rating. Like many low income Canadians getting through a month involves paying rent then juggling all the other bills… every late hydro or cable bill negatively impacts your credit rating. The reason one ends up with a bad credit rating is because you pay your RENT FIRST. A smart landlord would be scooping these people up and holding onto them as long as possible, since their priorities certainly fall in line with his/her own.
The young man at our table is a former addict (4 years recovered) with a GED and a criminal record. He has several very good ideas but he really needs a mentor to help direct him. He mentioned a local business man who is very open and generous with the homeless. I suggested making an effort to acquaint himself, maybe the two of them can get something happening.
Well I have to get back to the shelter I’m on lunch duty today… Have a joyous day.