Saturday, December 26, 2009


December 26, 2009

May 2010 bring you Enough
Enough joy to share
Enough love to grow
Enough blessings to care

That is my Holiday wish for all of you. What does it mean to have enough or more importantly to be enough. Friday night was the Lotto Max drawing, everyone at Christmas dinner had a ticket. As I listened to the young people talking about their plans, all any of them wanted was enough. No dreams of mansions or jets... just a home of their own and enough in the bank to provide a secure future for themselves and their children. Wouldn't that be enough for any of us. The Buddhists believe that all suffering is born of avarice (wanting); by wanting we are focused on the future not on enjoying the moment we are experiencing right now. When we focus our energy on having enough, instead of more, we'll create a natural balance in our lives. Any self-help guru will tell you, balance is the key to a healthy mind, body & spirit.

Joy is the root of the word enjoy. Joy is not given to us by the universe, it is a gift we give ourselves. How many moments in your day do you enjoy? By opening our hearts and minds we can find joy in most experiences, a crisp breeze, a child's laugh, a hot shower;-) Make a list for yourself and practice consciously enjoying every moment you can take joy from. There is enough joy in just being is for us to embrace it. Share your joy, your smile and your laughter with those around you. You will quickly become a welcome presence in the lives you touch everyday (you'll be the popular kid LOL).

To have enough love we only need to give love at every opportunity. The Greeks had separate words to express every type of love; family, brotherly, humanity, passionately, and romantically. To truly love is not conditional on being loved in return (we feel what we feel), But loving does grow love into the world & into our own lives. Just as an apple seed grows into an apple tree which over its lifetime will recreate the cycle a million fold... so by loving, freely and openly in every possible way we grow love into the universe. Express your love by word and deed at every possible opportunity. It is really the only way to heal our hearts and our world.

Blessing are all the good things that come our way, be they wealth, health or peace. Apprieciating the blessings we have, warms our heart; knowing we are special enough that God (as you know him to be) has chosen to gift us in such a way. Look at the people around you and open your heart those who have not been blessed enough. Those whose blessing have long faded behind, veils of fear, pain or self-loathing. Don't ever be afraid to share your blessings, for, like love, blessings are infinite and self-propagating. The more you give, the more will be bestowed upon you.

Since 59% of Canadians are one paycheck away from financial crisis, it is important to address how money fits into my concept of enough. Money is a necessay part of life in our and of itself it is neither good nor bad. Once we have our basic needs (rent/mortgage, food, heat, clean water, transportation etc) met, do we need more? For some people yes....but the important thing is not to give up your life to support a lifestyle. Every dollar we own is purchased with a piece of our life. So what pieces of your life are you giving up for your extra dollars? Your nine year old might light up when she sees her new bike, but at 29 all she will remember is that you missed her first dance recital. And all you will remember is how she looks in the video you keep replaying.... with that nagging little ache in your heart that says,"I wish I could have been there". Life is not so kind as to always give us the options we want... but if your priorities are of abundance and NOT wealth, you will have more riches then you could have ever imagined.

As I have said before, time is the only thing we cannot save, grow or reclaim; once it passes it is gone forever. NO DO OVERS. Our only choice is to spend it wisely or poorly. To look back at that moment with gratitude or regret...In Don Miguel Ruiz's book "The Four Agreements" one of the agreements is "Always Do Your Best". Your best will change from moment to moment, but if you do the very best you can at any given point in time; it is all anyone can ask (including yourself). That is the nature of being enough.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

December 22, 2009
Wow, I have been back in Calgary for 10 days now and it has been wonderful. One of the best things about going home, is that at Christmas time so many other people are doing the same. Friends who have moved to other parts of the country are all together in the same place. I was very fortunate to be able to spend a few days hanging out with one of my favourite people. Beyond challenging me intellectually and always making me laugh, he takes the time to tweak my computer anytime he visits. Who could ask for more.
Spent an evening with some of the girls I used to work with and tomorrow I'm seeing more work friends, one of whom is visiting from Vancouver. And I've been able to visit my D.I. friends, most of whom are doing o.k.; thanks for asking ;-)
Today I dropped off gifts for my friend's 4 small children, kids are so much fun. It was wonderful spending the day with them. Although my children and I won't be having Christmas until April (when my youngest will be able to join us)...those of us in Calgary will be getting together for turkey dinner on Friday.
In a city the size of Calgary turkey dinners for the homeless are served several time during the month of December. Agencies and individuals provide gifts, blankets and spend time volunteering. Everyone is so generous this time of year. For all you do, this toast is for you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Altruism vs. Service

December 8, 2009
I have spent the last few days discussing, o.k. debating the nature and value of service with Chris aka Mr. Baggins. These conversations have brought me back to previous thoughts on the subject of altruism and service. When I was at university we were presented with the idea of altruism as a personality trait. This definition of altruism says it is a person who gives and does for others with no regard for self-interest. I reject even the possibility of such a thing. Serving gives everyone something, even if it is just a warm fuzzy feeling. The person being helped really doesn't care what our motivations are as long as we are giving from the heart. It isn't kindness or service if your gifts are conditional upon something from the receiver. Then it ceases to be a service and becomes barter, again there is a place for such things. “Will work for food” was common in the 1930s… these days many clients at soup kitchens and shelters volunteer for clean-up and food prep. It allows us (clients) to give back and reduces the burden on the facilities. Dropping toonies into a busker’s guitar case isn’t charity, but it is kind, you didn’t solicit that particular service at that time but you paid for it anyway.
Returning to our topic of altruism, if we look at the great humanitarians we see that there is always self interest in the decision for their service. Mother Teresa believed she was acting on God's will for her life, Albert Schweitzer was repaying a debt to… you guessed it, God. What can I say among so many other Supremes, God is the supreme motivator. Again God’s love is unconditional, so don’t be motivated by fear, be motivated by the bible’s example of perfect love. If our individual and collective commitment to give ourselves to helping others is service… then what is altruism? Altruism is an event… a moment in time when a perceived need is met a perceived ability to fulfill that need. In that regard so is heroism… the person to races into the burning building does so with the sincere belief they can successfully return with the rescued party. There is no time in that moment to think about self-interest, any resulting reward was unsolicited…and well deserved. An example of altruism was the dress Flora gave to me in the blog Generosity (which posted last summer)… She was not looking for approval, gratitude or anything else, I ran into her several weeks later and she didn’t even recognize me LOL. She saw I had a need which she believed she could fulfill and took action.
A kind heart or an empathetic nature are the personality traits which allow us to see the needs of others. Possessing those traits does make certain people more inclined to service, both as a career and voluntarily as with Chris and I and countless others. There are so many different populations with so much need right here in Canada that every one of us can find a cause to support, with time, money or both. Youth, elderly, sick, poor, disabled, hospitals even neighbours; do something for someone else (maybe just one thing each day) and you will be amazed what it does you. ;-)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bloggin on Baggins again

December 6,2009
First I should update you all on the Bilbo Baggins matter. Mr Baggins and I have exchanged 2 emails since his initial editorial arrived and was posted. He explained that he chose to email me because he did not wish to publicly disrespect me. I explained that I am open to public input...good, bad or whatever... that is why I have a comments option on the the Blogsite. Also the FORUM page was set up specifically so people could talk to each other about poverty, homelessness and related topics. Share your personal stories, news articles or opinions, use a pseudonym like our Mr Baggins if you wish. Since the FORUM is open you will be able to read any comments or feed back on your submission. I will not publish personal or contact information but all comments are open to public view. These 2 option are woefully under used... and if there is no activity over the next few months, on the FORUM I will probably just remove it from the site all together.
Mr Baggins volunteers tirelessly with the homeless and disadvantaged in his community as do so many across the country. It was his deep compassion for the people he works with which prompted is concern and outrage. The perspective he voiced was informed by that experience. I hope our conversations have helped him to see, this issue of poverty and homelessness is a problem which needs to be addressed on several fronts. Although my work is different from his our goals are the same. A just society where everyone can live comfortably, secure and with a measure dignity.
I published Bil's letter for two reasons. First if he has these concerns so do others and they should be able to get answers. I am grateful to Bil for giving me the opportunity to address these concerns...and if anyone else has concerns please do NOT hesitate to contact me. Second I want very much to encourage everyone to openly dialogue on this topic... Every one of us is effected by the homelessness crisis in North America. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Even if you don't care enough about the subject to get involved, we should all care enough to get informed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A conversation with Bilbo Baggins

Mr Baggins wrote an email to Angels of the Road which I would like to respond to and share with you. Mr Baggins' comments are in regular type face and my response will be in bold face type.
Mr Baggins I appreciate your concerns and very much appreciate your comments...I am including them in a blog so others can read them also. I will insert my responses to each comment within the text.
Shall we begin:

I can't believe your arrogance and disrespect to those trying to help.
The homeless people who know (have met) me in Calgary and my other stays know I have nothing but profound love and respect for them. I discussed this potential journey openly with my client friends at the D.I. for months before getting on that first bus. I have their complete support for what I am doing. My co-workers in Calgary and the front-line workers, I have shared with over the past 6 months are glad that someone is out here telling their story and trying to raise awareness of the situation.

I am assuming that you are also being dishonest in obtaining accommodation Actually I use my own name and disclose complete financials when asked. I have lived in my daughter's home since Oct. 2005, so I am in fact homeless . Even with a pretty good salary from the D.I. housing in Calgary would be a struggle as it is for 59% of working and working poor Canadians. But that is not what prompted my journey. For that information read Nov. 3rd blog In the Beginning

and possibly denying a woman who really needs shelter by taking a place reserved for those in real need. I have never stayed in a shelter that was filled to the answer is NO, no one has ever been turned away for me. I carry a small tent just in case.

Perhaps your ethics and morality need a check up certainly you don't adhere to any recognized professional research . Millions of dollars are spent annually on research into poverty and homelessness (Angels of the Road doesn't have any of that money). None of it getting the answers I needed. I have seen the shelter system as a civilian, as a volunteer, and as a worker...the only perspective left was that of the clients. Feel free to go back to the blog beginning and actually get to know what I have learned from all the Angels I have met along this road.
I attended the international conference on homelessness in 2009, when I talk with academics, researcher and delegates about Angels of the Road, All of them expressed their approval for my "observer / participant study". A common protocol used in anthropological research and social sciences. Although no one could remember a study of this scope being done on homelessness before

In many communities facilities are limited and women are turned away daily. Has someone been denied shelter for your research? Shame on you for using resources that should be reserved for those truly in need. I have no income when on the street (I quit my job to do this, no E.I. for me) My saving are all gone and my RRSPs which I use to support my internet, bus tickets and cell service won't last much into the New Year. Selling my dream-catchers gets me a little pocket money. I continue trusting the Creator to provide for the journey He has sent me on. When I am in a strange city my need for food and shelter is as desparate as anyone elses in that moment.

If you had started your journey by actually living on the streets for a week or two so that you could really experience homelessness perhaps the facilities and food you have taken under false pretences would have been more palatable. That is an odd suggestion, Calgary is the one place even on the street where I could NOT truly experience homelessness. I would be surrounded by dear friends within the population who would guarantee I lacked for nothing. By beginning my homeless journey in Regina, where I was completely alone, I effectively removed that advantage.

You speak of mental issues and substance abuse and the prostitution that goes with it and then can't understand why computer access, cell phones and computer time are limited. I DO understand why these things are restricted, when I speak to lack of computer access or time it is simply to inform my readers as to a lack of length or content within the blogs and at that particular time.

Shake your head, street smarts are not taught in school and your education won't help you with this although common sense might. I was street smart long before I went back to university in my 40s and got book smart. Why would you presume the two are mutually exclusive? As for the uncommon gift of common sense I have been truly blessed. Thx for your concern.

Your self professed journey is a total farce, you are not homeless you are simply using facilities provided for the homeless. This is not the way that a professional conducts solid research. Now we are repeating ourselves Yes I am homeless and YES this is an accepted method of study. Assuming you have read the above I need not repeat.

Stop your journey and sarcastic comments of those helping and do some real good by joining the front lines with those who provide concrete resources that you say you once did. OK the Nov 21st blog was sarcasm...I don't really think there is a brainwashing conspiracy going on. You will find (if you read the blogs) I have never been anything but supportive of the agencies and workers in the cities I have visited. I have harsh criticism for Government rehousing policies at all levels. I share my experiences good and bad with my readers. I promised my friends in Calgary that I would be truthful in telling their story and I will do nothing less. There are too many myths, stereotypes and misperceptions about homelessness and the people who are homeless. I just hope that sharing my experience will help bridge some of the knowledge gaps for people who can't learn about homelessness any other way.

Many homeless shelters are run 100% by volunteers who staff facilities overnight, clean up and then go to work. Food is cooked and brought by volunteers, laundry is done by volunteers food is donated by stores. Does it meet Canada recommended nutrition probably not but people try and I have yet to see a homeless person criticize people for giving and doing what they could. Reserve your criticism for 100% funded government facilities not those run by people doing the best they can with what they have. Again not sure where you feel wrongly accused. The diets are hi-carb / low protien. The lines for everything are long. Dis-repair abounds. There are shortages in everything. These are not criticisms, they are facts and if it encourages one person to pitch in and help who may have spent the rest of their life opting out... then it is worth it. Government funding is rationed out to private chartible organizations and like the voluntary organization they are doing the best they can with what they have. NO one working in the shelter industry is over paid even the executives at the D.I. are getting 1/3rd of what they could get with a job in the private sector. My own take home pay after 3 yrs was equal to what the guys were making doing day labour...If you work with the homeless you are in it for the love. And I thank you for that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Money Talks

November 29, 2009
Last night I took the night off from being homeless to have dinner with friends who live in the town I am visiting. Our conversation lead me to a startling revelation. My journey not simply about the 140,000 people living homeless in Canada but it is also about the 20,650,000 Canadians living 3 months away from being homeless. According to a Global Television report 59% of us live paycheck to paycheck.... if our income stopped for some reason we would be out of our home in 3 months. The lack of affordable housing negatively impacts our economy, by drains on poverty support systems, such as food banks, health clinics, emergency shelters, as well as income supports. But imagine what would happen to the economy if suddenly almost 21,000,000 people had disposable income to pour back into the economy, through personal spending. Not to mention the savings by reducing the numbers of people on income support by more than 50%. Short sightedness on the part of governments, corporations, and western culture in general...has us saving pennies by burning dollars. For the sake of easy math, I am going to say give Habitat for Humanity 5 acres of land (I'll assign it a value of $5,000,000) on this land they build 200 condos/townhouses each has an estimated property value of $200,000. Even at a very modest mill rate property taxes per unit $500 per year x 200 = $100,000 per year in 50 years the price of the property has been recouped. Of course, I do know a little something about double entry book keeping and our city may prefer to lease the 5 acres of land for $1 per year on a 100 year lease, thereby keeping the asset on their books. I believe they would still be collecting property tax as a sort of condo fee for providing city services but I admit I am not sure about how that would work.
Let us assume that the average family in this Habitat for Humanity complex has an income of $1500 net per month... Their mortgage has been reduced from 2/3 to 1/3 of that income, so every one of these 200 families has an addition $500 (totalling $10,000) per month to spend in local businesses. On a national level we can divide the 21 million low income people by 3; giving us 7 million families resulting in a staggering $3,500,000,000 per month of disposable income back into the Canadian economy...NOW THAT'S AN ECONOMIC STIMULUS PLAN...
I am not going to suggest reducing resources allocated to shelters and services for the homeless, because these services would experience a natural realignment with a reduction 50% (poor & working poor who live homeless) of client population. Currently shelters are less about actually helping individuals and more about wrangling large numbers of people and what we refer to in the industry as harm reduction. The shelter system was designed for a very specific purpose and affordable housing would allow us to get back to doing our jobs properly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Quick blog before the hoards return

November 26, 2009
The shelter I am staying in is quite full so it becomes awkward trying to blog. You never know who will pass by and be trying to read over your shoulder. Yes, for the most part I still try to keep a low profile. No lies, I just don't share too much about my journey. I have learned a lot (which I didn't know before I left) about the homelessness problem over the past 6 months. The journey is almost 25% completed. I find I'm burning out much more quickly in this province, then in the previous two.
The province I am currently visiting, has a much lower percentage of economic homelessness then the others did. It isn't that there is more affordable housing available. But it seems this government is prepared to spend money on temporary housing, motel rooms by the month etc. I having a meeting this afternoon with the councilor here who specializes in housing options. I will let you know what I find out as soon as I can.
As for the burn out that is likely a function of the very high percentage of dysfunctional people in the shelters here. Most of my 20+ housemates are addicts or mental health clients. The ladies still come to me for guidance, advice or just moral support. I probably still smell like a social-worker LOL but my job is 24/7 so it can be a bit wearing. In a couple for weeks I'll be visiting family and my contact with the homeless populations will go back to days only for a few weeks. Chance to recharge before the biggest challenge yet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A church is a church

November 24, 2009
When asked about my religion I am inclined to respond with "I believe in God ...I don't believe in religion." So you might ask why I attend church when I come into a new community. I do believe that the churches should represent the best cross section of a population. Is a congregation open and inclusionary or elitist and self serving? Is their Christian doctrine Grace based or Shame based? Often the churches who are "reaching out" to street people and the homeless are shame based. All filled with hell fire and retribution. Many good Christians quote scripture but fail to ask (and act on) the telling question "What would Jesus do?". I attended a street ministry run by the Mennonite Brethern last Sunday. It was a grace based service held in what looked like an old night club. Very inclusionary, the pastor asked (in lui of collection plate) for donations to a young family whose welfare had been cut because someone had been kind enough to give them a car. I was welcomed by a sweet lady about my age, she was fine with my homeless status and chatted warmly for several minutes. When she ask why I was living homeless I told her,"because God told me to." She disappeared immediately and didn't speak to me again for the rest of the morning. (Perhaps she couldn't find any Thorazine to slip into my coffee LOL) I find it odd that people who (very likely) spend a lot of time talking to God are so surprise and even skeptical when you say that God talks to you.
That evening I went to another church for a pot-luck celebration. All very lovely people who seem to be genuinely interested in the plight of our homeless and street populations. Still, too many myths abound and much work is needed to educating the population as a whole, that is of coarse what Angels of the Road hopes to change for all our sakes.
P.S Don't forget to order your Dream Catchers early... I can only work so fast and you'll want to give them to everyone on your gift list. Always a good cause, keeping Angels of the Road on the road.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another's Story (really)

November 22, 2009
As promised today I will tell you about Pam. When I arrived at my new location it was late evening, this did not allow for my usual ritual of finding my way around and scouting out a homeless shelter which accommodates women. When I got off the bus I went outside and flagged down the first taxi in the line. I had $15.70 in my pocket (ok actually in my handbag). The driver was a woman about my age; I told her where I was going and asked how close $15 would get me to my destination. She said that would get me to the shelter but she would like me to share her story. So I enthusiastically agreed... every person out here has a story to tell, some are just more interesting then others.
Pam is homeless, since early October she has been living out of her car. She does not go to the shelter because she has a pet cat that she will not give up. Pam says the car is quite cozy between the down filled sleeping bags and a snuggly little kitty. So how does a well educated (university graduate) middle-aged woman end up living in her car. I'm sure this was never part of some master life plan Pam came up with in her youth. Pam is the second oldest of her siblings (as am I) she told me how she was always the caregiver in her family. She finished university after the younger kids were well established and her mom no longer need her help at home. Pam went to Korea and taught English for 7 years. When she returned to Canada, her dad's health was failing so she moved close to her parents and helped her mother to care for him until he passed several years ago. Then for a brief while Pam again had her own life...but due to economics Mother and daughter moved in together. Over time Pam's mother grew more dependent because of her own failing health. Once again Pam's life was defined by the needs of someone else. When mom passed away, Pam slipped into a depression...she lost her job and ultimately her apartment.
There is more going on with Pam then mere economics. Pam is at a cross-roads, and in this moment making no decision seems better then committing to a wrong decision. Pam and I will have coffee one day when I have a better knowledge of the available resources in this area. Hopefully she'll find something that rings true for her and she will start being Pam's caregiver. Everyone needs a little time for them self. That goes for you too... first and foremost be your own best friend.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another's Story

November 21, 2009
Amazing, I don't have access to the date on this computer... There no calenders in this room or any clocks beyond the one in the corner of the computer screen... how strange. My cell phone and personal computer are locked in the office, they do not provide long distance on the phone here essentially cutting off my contact with my family and friends. The 24hr kitchen is stocked with bread products, dairy and some fruit. Dinner was vegetarian nachos, stuffed peppers and a chili with ground meat in it (I don't know the exact daily requirement of meat protein for a healthy female). I'll let you know on that ;-) During the night the bed check is done every hour, for light sleepers (like myself) this is always a slight sleep disruption. If this were a Christian based organization I'd suspect a subtle attempt is being made to brainwash clients into some Jesus Cult.
That's just silly, people don't brainwash that easily. My computer time is up so tomorrow I'll tell you Pam's story. For now I'm just going sign off and add a cross to the symbols on my painted hoodie.
God bless

Friday, November 20, 2009

Long Day

November 19, 2009
Spent 5 hours on a Greyhound today, and I'm just settling into my new digs. Blogs will be short I'm thinking, because the house will not allow me to use my computer. And this computer is on a time limit of 30 minutes. So... no cell, no computer ... will paint a message on the cave wall before I leave LOL. All is good tonight just really tired so I will try to write some final thoughts on my last local tomorrow. Have a good sleep all. Ttyl Bonny

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On the Road Again

November 17, 2009
Tomorrow I change cities again... I have perhaps over-stayed here. But I am very glad I did because yesterday I met another crusader. A woman who is devoted to helping the street people, through friendship, outreach and love. Her "children" range in age from 17 to 70... Just one woman with one dream, changing the world one life at a time. Diana and millions of quiet heroes like her are our hope for a better world.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm a bad...bad...person

November 14, 2009
Well Friday the 13th passed uneventfully... I was hoping for a lottery win...maybe next witching day LOL. Today I found myself thinking very unkind thoughts about one of our street people. The Salvation Army had put on their monthly dinner for the homeless it was very nice (as free food goes) but as I have said before putting on a weekly / monthly meal is easier then trying to do so daily. They started serving at 3 pm and would close the kitchen at 4:30 pm or when the food ran out. This woman came down to the drop-in raging about what a ripoff this was. She had arrived at 4:00 pm and they were out of food. After walking ALL that way (4 short blocks) there was no food for her because EVERYBODY else had taken 2 and 3 plates. She ranted on and on and she had no interest in any she waded through everyone else's snacks and a couple of the work lunches (without actually finishing anything).
I may not have said anything, but I definitely wanted to ask how many blocks she would be willing to walk to score a 20 piece... And if she couldn't get to dinner earlier because she trying to chase down her dealer or some trick.
Why am I sharing this with you? I suppose it is nothing more then an admission that I am not perfect or even as good as I would like to be. That just like everyone else I go from day to day doing the best I can in any given moment...and some moments are definitely better then others.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

jumping through

November 12, 2009
There is a unusual ritual required to stay in the shelter I am currently at and yesterday I missed a step so I had some doubt about where I would be spending the night. If the mission opened their sleep floor (only happens below -5) I could go there after 9pm...if not I would have to look for a all night coffee shop. The bus station closes at 10pm...the other option would be parking my butt in the police station until they either forced someone to take my in...or bought me a coffee LOL.
Hear is the drill, at 10am we must show up at the shelter to state our intention of coming in that night. At 9pm or earlier...we must show up or call in to claim the bed, then we would be free to stay out until 11pm if we so wished. I didn't make the 10am claim time, so I would have to check back and see if anyone missed their 9pm check in. The mission was going to open at 9pm so I would have to kill about 4 hrs before checking either option. After accompanying an elderly resident to try on cheap coats at the liquidation centre I went to A & W for a tea. I sat in the booth next to another resident and her boyfriend, their conversation led me to believe she planned to move out of the shelter that night. I phoned over to the shelter and ask if I could have her bed...I have become so mercenary LOL. But the name of the game is survival...and I'm learning.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Places New Faces

November 11, 2009
I have been in a new town since Saturday, the first night I showed up at the women's shelter and was told that I do not meet the criteria for admission. Turns out the shelter I went to was a crisis (battered women's) shelter. Because I am sooo adorable, they were kind enough to allow me to stay the weekend. That would allow me to access a bank and get a bus ticket to a larger centre, because to quote the worker "you don't belong in a place like that"... Turns out this is exactly the place I belong in. Have to keep this short we are not allowed to stay on site during the day here. Day before yesterday I say a man who looked alot like a guy I new in Calgary, striking resemblance but about 20lbs heavier and 10 yrs younger. So yesterday I ask if he might be related to my friend, he said yes....strung me along for a minute or two before admitting he is in fact Brian. He came here for work back in the summer and is looking so much better, healthier for the time away. There is a mission where I spend the day, there is never more then a dozen people there outside of meal times. Dinner serves about a hundred homeless and poor. What can I say small town (small detour from my plan) but the women's shelter was the subject to much comment. So I wanted to check it out and it was everything they said. I'll tell you more when I have time. gtg.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In the Beginning

November 3, 2009
Just so you all know, my friend and I are in temporary housing. It is as expensive as an apartment, but hotels have more flexibility regarding payment arrangements. This allowed for a lower initial cash outlay. Still the Intent to Rent form was an issue, so I cashed out an RRSP paid the rental rate and security deposit in cash. Social Services refunded the allowable portion on the basis of the receipt. I'll be moving on soon, but she should be able to handle the rest from here. She is a smart, capable young woman and I am really glad I'm able to count her among my friends. That has to be the best part of this journey... all the amazing people I get to meet.
I guess reading my rants, you might get the impression I'm out here simply to expose all the deficiencies in the shelter system. It is actually the opposite, I'm on a quest to find out what works... and make that information available so we can improve services. I suppose it is possible that I have never shared with you how this all began. So today I will go back to July 21 2008.
A young client from SunAlta (a satellite shelter of the Calgary Drop-In) was caught up in an escalating cycle of violence. Although some of the incidents were caught on tape, the police alleged they could not arrest anyone because the injured parties would not prefer charges. Actually they could have made an arrest (perhaps not have succeeded at trial) but putting this boy or one of his attackers in remand for a few days would have provided a cooling off period and averted the continuing blood shed. The D.I. had to life bar the kid to protect others from being caught in the "crossfire". I took the only action I could think of, and in breech of company policy, I bought the boy a one-way ticket back to his Manitoba home. It took all my disposable income but it was the only option that I could see.
Was there something we could have done differently? I look at our agency (The Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre) and it is state of the art. Everything under one roof, life skills, job skills, job banks, clothing, medical, counselors, meals...everything right there. From the perspective of the public and even as a worker, all this SHOULD be making a difference. But still little seemed to be changing. The centre was still full every night, for every person who left two new ones would arrive. Some clients went through C.T.I. (Career Training Initiative) but still couldn't move on. Some clients were in and out and back again...others just settled in for years.
I was writing to my friend (a former client then living in B.C.) venting my frustration and I said, "What do I have to homeless myself to understand this?" The words no sooner hit page when I knew that is exactly what I would have to do. We need to know our clients...the homeless and the street people, two very different populations with very different needs. We can't hope to provide truly relevant solutions without first understanding the people we want to help.
This journey is teaching me (and vicariously, you) alot about the world of the homeless and what they deal with on a day to day basis. We will never eliminate homelessness, the world has always had street people (drunks, druggies & drop-outs), that isn't going to change. Philadelphia has a very successful rehousing model which as reduced the homeless population by 70%, freeing shelters & resources to help the street people they were designed to help. If you have learned only one thing so far from this journey I hope it is that, the face of homelessness has changed this is a new population requiring new attitudes resulting in new solutions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Out in the Cold

November 2, 2009
The Vancouver Sun October 29 2009 reports that B.C. is giving police the power to force street people into shelters in the event of a cold weather alert. There is much controversy around this move for several reasons. There is of coarse the cynical view that this is just a ploy to clear the streets for the Olympic Games. But since the legislation does not include the forced confinement of the person in question I don't see this as a likely tool for improving the urban aesthetic. That very flaw is what makes me skeptical about the efficacy of the new law. People who don't seek the warmth and security of a shelter are doing so for reasons outside of hunger and cold. They have mental health or addiction issues which out weigh, reason and good judgement. The police can bring them against their will to a shelter, but they are free to promptly walk away. Are we going to keep picking the same individuals up all night to give them a little defrost time in the back of various cruisers? That might actually work. I think it is far more likely police will record each drop off, so that if anyone turns up dead in the morning city administration can say. Too bad...So sad...we did our best, NOT OUR FAULT.
Fortunately cold weather alerts are rare on the west coast. There is something in Alberta called a form 10 which allows police to order (I think it is 72 hour) commitment to hospital of a person deemed to be a danger to self or others. Now wanting to stay out in -20c weather could be seen as a danger to oneself. But first the police would have to establish that the choice of nesting place did not offer protection from the elements.
According to the CBC report there are questions about what would be allowed as necessary and reasonable force to get the homeless person to comply. The issue of civil liberties was also raised, don't people have a right to self determination. Let me break out my Ethics (B.A. Philosophy) degree for this one. The principle of universalism states that any right we claim for ourselves we must be willing to extend to everyone else. So we get to sleep any where we want...that means we should let others sleep anywhere they want. Not the answer I was hoping for. Let's look at Utilitarianism...the greatest good for the greatest number. A person choosing not to sleep in a shelter affects us how? For that matter a person freezing to death affects us how? Not much...but that is not the answer I was looking for either.
I believe what I am looking for comes under the Social Contract, by choosing to live with a group of others we choose to relinquish certain rights for the common good. As long as people choose to live in any given community they enter into the social contract. Our governments and police have fiduciary duty to protect the citizens, in return we give up a certain level of self determination. Inequities in the application of the law are a discussion for another time. I guess the principle that applies best to this legislation is DO NO HARM. Letting someone freeze to death or worse is definitely harmful.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

October 31,2009
Wow another month has gone 3 weeks of it spent on the road. I wish I could say it was marvelously productive... it has in fact been the most difficult of all my stays so far. I left my free wheeling ways (temporarily) to find housing. This exercise was intended to help one of my new client friends get re-housed, but it proved to be an invaluable education for me. The housing situation is such that when one is earning $10-$12 an hour or collecting income support (you cannot do both) you will choose between a roof and food. But this is common knowledge to the 59% of the population who are ONE paycheck away from a financial crisis (global T.V. September'09).
First the social-worker connected to the women's shelter, I'll call her Emmy, sent me to social services. I was provided income support as always I found the workers compassionate and helpful. I applied for hardship assistance which is repaid in the future. I don't know if that will come out of RRSPs or disability depends on what the Dr says about fixing my knee. Don't worry I will continue my journey...many people in the homeless population have to live with disability and daily pain. Back to my tale of the housing search.
Without ID they would provide up to three months of assistance (this would give most people the funds and time to order copies)...$235 personal needs funding, when an apartment was found they will add $375 residence allowance and a one time only damage deposit of up to $225. In this city a bachelor apartment rent for $575 minimum. So sharing is almost required... which often results in bad matches and people cycling in and out of the shelters.
Emmy became my social worker and everyday I would walk the 8 or 10 blocks to her office where she provided print-outs of available apartments. Of the 50 or so listed about 6 would be in our price range, after phoning we would have one or two viewings if any in a given day. But as soon as the intent to rent form was produced...the future landlord would back off. Excuses, about other showings or clearing it with partners or just "not our policy". So getting re-housed is a very difficult and demoralizing process for the poor and working poor.
Many property management companies run credit checks and reject people for a bad credit rating. Again we are looking at a policy that punishes people for nothing more then being poor. The only important information should be how long they lived in their last residence and if they were ever evicted for non-payment of rent. It is entirely likely that paying rent first, left these folks without the money to keep up other bills and resulted in the bad credit rating. When 70% of the household income is taken up by rent you end up juggling everything else. We need AFFORDABLE HOUSING everywhere in this country...housing that costs no more then 35% of a person's income.
This may seem like a digression from topic...but when I was waiting at the clinic one day I entered into a discussion with nurse. She suggested that housing prices did not have to come down because a poor person can always go to school, get a better job and not be poor. While this is true on an individual basis I asked her to look at it from the perspective of the whole community. A community needs people to serve coffee at the drive thru...wait tables at lunch time...vacuum the carpet in office buildings and in your your children etc etc. Make your own list of the low-wage earners who impact your life each day. Our communities need these people and these people need affordable housing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

touchy feely

October 22, 2009
Today I was feeling a little blue, it could be a touch of the depression that comes on every now and again when I am immersed in the homeless population. Also the hits have been low on the website this month, which also leaves me feeling a bit abandoned LOL. Today, however my twitter friends jumped in to help spread word about the new fundraiser, such support always restores my faith. This has helped boost my mood considerably. Also, my project here is showing me some frustrating truths of homelessness, which I'll discuss at some point in the future.
One of the staffers notice my mood, she asked if I was ok and put her arm around my shoulder and patted me on the back. I realized, in all the months I have been living in shelters, NO staff has ever touched me. For some staff no contact is a boundary issue,for some it is a litigation issue and for others simply a safety issue. I am not going to criticize any one's choices in this matter. One should ALWAYS do what feels right for you, not just at work but in all things trust your instincts.
But I would like to share my experience that change the way I related to my clients. It was early one morning in spring of 2007... as I stood beside a table before breakfast service on the second floor of the D.I., a client from SunAlta walked by. As he passed I reach out, grab his hand and gave it a little squeeze when I said good morning. Dan seemed totally shocked, he said, "Human contact, I can't remember the last time someone just touched me". With that I threw my arms around him and said..."you never have to long for human contact as long as I'm around." He hugged me back and that was the end of that.
When I returned to work that night, things had changed, as I handed out the bed tickets half a dozen guys ask for a hug and got one. It quickly became known that I was available to dispense hugs as required. Male, female, young or old, one only had to ask. There were only two men I would not have hugged (because they had a crush on me) fortunately they never asked. It became very apparent to me how important human contact is to every human being. There is an abundance of research to support this, most of it done with infants. I still enjoy sharing hugs with my many homeless friends at the D.I. and on the road.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Learning Experience

October 20, 2009
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GEORGE.... my oldest daughter is 29 today (again lol). One of the disadvantages of being on this journey is missing things like birthdays. I won't see my grandbaby's first step or hear his first word, those moments are my loss. Fortunately my children have each other and good friends to share their celebrations. My grandbaby has loving parents to enjoy all those firsts, hopefully taking tons of photos to send to me LOL.
I'm sorry about the lack of blogging, I have been distracted, by a knee injury that is not healing. It has been months since the problem first a rose, and the pain is getting worse over time. I have been hoping it would work itself out eventually. My mobility is being seriously hindered, and I have decided it is time to seek treatment. The homeless life requires much walking and standing...this will be especially true of larger centres, there are many large cities still to be visited. I am currently in a smaller centre so waits and distances are not so bad right now.
Most of my time (and learning) has been spent with the agencies and bureaucracies that service the homeless population. I am moved by the compassion and commitment I have see from the individual workers. I don't know if this is typical or if I will find a different temperament in the big city. But it is definitely a theory I will have to look into at my earliest opportunity.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"what doth it profit..."

October 17, 2009
I believe the quote is, "What doth it profit a man that he gain the world but lose his very soul." I don't know the source of this quote, the bible or Shakespeare or just some Greek philosopher Shakespeare borrowed from. Source isn't as important the result. This is just one of many quotes that leave us with the impression money is BAD, and that rich people are unhappy, unfulfilled and generally miserable. Images through literature of the happy peasants and the Scroogesque miserly , boss / plantation owner / industrial giant, etc etc. reinforce such misconceptions. In spite of these cautionary tales we are inundated with the success = wealth = happiness mythology (mostly in modern times). Recently, I have been receiving a lot of Twitter hits promoting get rich quick schemes, including one from the poster boy for money grubbing, Mr Trump. So permit me to set the record straight, money is only a TOOL, a necessary tool in our culture. Money is not BAD or GOOD it just is. It has no value in itself.
The only thing in this life with intrinsic value is TIME, it cannot be saved. Every moment is spent, you can spend it wisely or poorly, but once it has passed it can never be retrieved or reworked.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nothing New

October 15, 2009
One of those nights with nothing new to talk about, spent the day in round two of bureaucratic relay. Basically picking up and dropping documents to various offices as requested. But for the peace of mind of my beautiful baby girl, I must post something everyday. The shelter I am staying in has a rule against cell phones so I am limited to when I can make calls and often I don't get a call out to the kids.
This facility searches us on our way into the building every time I assume to insure no contraband is smuggled in. They also search us on our way out...possibly fearing we will smuggle meat out to the other street people lol. No perfume, no outside food or drink, every new thing you bring back even if purchased at a department store must be washed or disinfected. No bugs in this place, woohoo.
Can't believe nothing on the news has ticked me off enough to launch a rant. Sorry I'm so boring these days. night all ttyl

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

one day at a time

October 14, 2009
Well today was my first foyer into the world of agency bureaucracy in my new province. Everyone was friendly supportive and open, just like in the last city. That is not to say I would qualify for help, and I wouldn't be able to accept it, if I did qualify. The ready, willing and able to work full-time would be a NO. I doubt I could work any more then part-time any more anyway. My bad knee has gotten increasing worse over the past several months. Walking for just a couple hours puts me in serious pain (like a stabbing that won't quit) anyway I plan to talk to a Doctor next Wednesday. If it is something treatable sooner is better then later. There is a lot of walking and standing in the homeless life and that will only increase when I get into large centres again. Guess I better take care of my health out here... two years from now I'll need to get back to real life (and probably a desk job LOL).
Tomorrow I'm going on a little bus adventure... to the other side of the city. I'll see if there are any soup kitchens over there, give myself a chance to meet some new people from the homeless population. I'll let all ya'll know how that goes. ttyl

Monday, October 12, 2009

back on-line, did you miss me?

October 12, 2009
Really sorry about being away so long...since arriving at my new location I was having a little trouble getting onto the internet. Fortunately a quick call to my servers tech support department and we are back on-line. Can't tell you a whole lot about the services here, or even the homeless population because of the long weekend, I'll know more about that in a week or so.
As usual the YWCA hooked me up with a women's' shelter, small house on a residential street which has 8 beds and a 10 maximum stay. It is open to intoxed which is rare and apparently nothing short of assault with intent will get you barred.
The ladies I am staying with are great, the same mix as everywhere else. We have 2MH, 3 addicts (recovering & current) and 2 economic evictions and me. YWCA runs the battered women's shelter and what was the the women's emergency shelter turned into a rehab centre. So to the best of my knowledge this is the only women's emergency shelter in this town of 85,000+ population.
We eat really well here, just like at home. The rules are tedious to try to follow and I'm sure even more tedious for the staff to have to enforce. Because of the short stay clients are not required to do chores beyond picking up after ones self, our full-time job is to get our shit together. The staff gives you 1 day of down time then they start directing you to services and encouraging clients to explore options. The staff and clients get to know each other very well. The trust from that relationship has allowed the staff to make real inroads with individuals...2 have left the centre this week (3days since my arrival) to go into rehab centres. There seems to be some serious advantages to a smaller centre.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

new day new place

October 10, 2009
So much of this journey is left to the grace of God and the kindness of others. On Thursday I became aware that friends of my daughter's would be spending Thanksgiving weekend with family in one of my destination cities. They were kind enough to give me a ride and I am now settled into a nice shelter here. Thank you so much Chris & Alex. This allowed me to arrive with $40 in my pocket instead of penniless. Which is a huge weight off my shoulders when entering a new environment. This is especially true when arriving later in the day, because agencies are often closed. My strategy has always been to find the YWCA (if there is one) because they are open fairly late and can usually direct me to women's shelters. As usual they came through for me last night, I am now safely housed in a small women's shelter and will begin my foyers into the community today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

post time

October 7, 2009
It was my intention to leave for the next leg of my cross country journey on October 4th. On last Thursday my skin began erupting, much like it had been scalded by hot water. I'll spare you details, but it seemed like a good idea to wait until I had the problem checked out, which I did yesterday. After 4 hrs waiting at the clinic, a doctor spent 5 minutes to tell me I have contact dermatitis and write a prescription for a cortisone ointment. Though the causes for contact dermatitis do not fit my symptoms and circumstances, eczema does. So thanks doc for pointing me at the right diagnosis. The good news is that the treatment for either disorder is cortisone ointment. The bad news is like most homeless people I have no drug benefits and no money to buy I will have to just wait for the eczema to clear up on its own.
Now I will bitch about health care in Canada. When I had a family doctor she would hook me up with what I needed from her sample cabinet. There are not enough doctors to go around and provincial/federal governments are promoting other heath care delivery options. We could increase the number of doctors by removing the caps on earnings for GPs, add tax incentives for each year in practice to reward doctors who stay in the field, also tuition incentives to get more applicants into medical school. Another consideration is to credit landed immigrant doctors with previous knowledge, in much the same way I could challenge credits at a university. I am not suggesting that alternative heath care is a bad thing, but I would prefer to see it as an augmentation to traditional models. Having a regular heath care provider (Doctor or Nurse Practitioner) who knows you as an individual, has a huge impact on getting the right diagnosis and prompt treatment. Also she/he know your family, your history, and your circumstances. So when you are in a financially tight situation she can accommodate with a little something from the sample cabinet.
Again the working poor are the ones to suffer from the fallout of 21st century economic shift. Health benefits are provided through social assistance, also to many full-time employees. But the working poor are often in a series of part-time jobs which do not provide for benefits. So like the other 50% of the homeless who are working poor, I will do without the meds and hope for the problem to clear up on its own eventually.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Changing World

September 28, 2009
Well, my vacation is winding down, by this time next week I will be homeless in a new town finding my way through a new set of services and into a new population. The visit home has been a good one, spending as much time as possible with friends and family. I felt it would be nice if I updated you on some of the wonderful moments I have enjoyed.
First my oldest daughter, George is really enjoying her photography business (, she has another wedding next weekend. My son James is back at college, not as enthusiastic as his sister Margaret is about studying. My adopted boy Ronnie has been able to stay sober and off the street since July 28th... His new baby is here and he is trying to get accepted into a trades program.
Now to seeing my friends, I have been very lucky, both night shift crews have had "parties" since I returned and by attending those I have been able to catch up with many of my former coworkers. I have visited the DI during the morning and afternoon shifts to see staff and remaining client. But many of my client/friends have move out.
I was able to have lunch with my friend Lone Wolf Bunn last week. You will find a page of his work in the poetry section. Also I am very pleased to say he is once again blogging on his website the wolf den . He is an activist, he post some very interesting articles. Take a look when you have a moment.
On the day of the Homeless Connect 6, I ran into two ladies whom I knew from working Ladies 3rd at the DI. They are both recovered, and devoting themselves to lobbing for better services for women in the shelter system. In our brief conversation I gathered they want to see a small version of the DI. Transitional, transient and intox accommodations under one roof, for women only. Likely the model includes the same supportive services for, education, employment and counselling. I'm proud of both these ladies.
On my walk downtown in the middle of the night (coming back from Randy's crew party) a voice called to me from across the street. It was Pat, she was an addict and a client at the DI since long before I started working there. Pat stopped using a few months before I left town... she has been able to sustain for almost 7 months. She currently is out of the shelter system and in transitional housing, she will have her own place again by December. Keeping it will be a matter of economics... and I'll always keep praying for her.
Those are the good news stories but there are still many client/friends who are right where I left them; content to move from day to day, secure in the knowledge they will neither starve nor freeze. This is the paradox of the shelter system are we aiding or enabling... Is there another (better) way to do this?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reposting of August 17, 2009

September 22,2009
Thanks to Indigo Spirit on Twitter I am reposting this blog about legacies and the value we put into our lives. Enjoy ;-)

The ambulance comes to our shelter every other day or so (it is a small shelter 75 women all ages). Attendants (sometimes 2 sometimes 4) ask questions, load the person onto a gurney wheel them outside, load them into the vehicle and drives them to the hospital. Often they return several hours later with a wrist band on and a prescription in their pocket.
When I was walking downtown yesterday morning, I saw an ambulance pull up to one of those big office towers. Attendants went into the building. I'm sure they asked questions, loaded the person onto a gurney wheel them outside, loaded them into the vehicle and drove them to the hospital. He or she will be in the hospital for a day or two, then return home with a wrist band on and a prescription in their pocket.
I was struck by the realization that, each of these people has a equal opportunity of being DOA (dead on arrival). Whether a tramp or a Trump we all end up dead.
This musing does not concern our after-life, it is about life after we are gone. It is about legacies and the value of one person to an entire future. The homeless are often given little value and sadly we often give little value to ourselves. Donald Trump has impacted thousands, some good, some bad. He has built monuments to himself which will stand after his death, until they are sold and renamed or meet a wrecking ball to build someone else's new great monument.
Alice died of pneumonia a couple of years ago, no family that I ever knew of. No newspaper headlines heralded her passing. No buildings carry her name into the next generation. To the casual viewer it would seem she was anonymous, but knowing Alice taught me about schizophrenics. A skill that helps me recognize and assess the potential of interacting with some of my new friends from the street culture. A skill which helps keep me safe out here. I am grateful to Alice for her legacy.
No monument I can build is a greater legacy then the children I have raised, who will raise their children, to be the same wonderful caring people that they are. No newspaper headline heralding my passing, can replace the tribute of a warm memory, of a moment shared whether on the street or with family and old friends. The Buddhists say "When you drop a small pebble into a mighty river, the coarse of that river is changed for ever." I suppose it is my legacy to be a pebble. What is your legacy?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kash & Karma

September 21, 2009
When I was in Edmonton I confided in one of the Bissell Centre employees about Angels of the Road. He told me that he had tremendous respect for me because, "you put your money where your mouth is". I thought that was a figurative reference, another way of saying I walk the talk.
I didn't give the financial cost of under taking this mission any serious thought. I just knew that learning about homelessness in real terms (not just as statistics) is the first step to real change for our communities. Setting aside lost earnings of $38,688 per year plus 3% ($1,160) for the 2 years Angels of the Road will be gathering research... I have spent every cent I left work with, and donations which totalled $280...and I have accumulated $810 in debt. So my friend in Edmonton was right, I have put my money where my mouth is.
Now I have to ask you to PLEASE do the same, I need your help, at this moment I have only the $100 necessary to get a Greyhound ticket to the next stop in our journey. Yes this is our journey, everything I learn on the road I share with you. You learn what I learn about homelessness without having to sleep on dorm matts, stand in line for food, or get off a bus with no idea where you'll end up; while carrying everything you need to survive on your back.
A donation as small as $5 from each of you would provide enough funding to carry Angels of the Road through the first year.
I have checked with my expert and research projects such as this do not qualify for charitable status. So, sorry there are still no tax receipts. This is still a Kash for Karma rewards program. Thanks for your help. ;-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Calgary Homeless Connect 9/19/09

September 20,2009
I set the alarm clock for 7:30 a.m. but my internal clock woke me at 5:30 a.m. (a carryover from the shelter life) and there was no arguing with it. I still waited until 8:30 before heading out to catch a bus to the Suncor Building. I expected to arrive downtown around 9:15, by then the doors would be open and the line would have been considerably reduced. The line was down to about 75 people and the wait time was around 20 minutes. Which by homeless standards is quite good. Volunteers came by serving coffee and flat muffins to us. Upon entering, each client was asked to participate in a survey... so much of this world (shelter services) relies on statistics which are used to justify funding for almost everything. Instead of increasing funding for the increasing numbers of homeless; I'd so love to see us redirecting the funds into affordable housing initiatives and reducing those numbers. But until attitudes change we must continue to gather our statistics.
One of the joys of events like Homeless Connect 6 is that everyone is so nice, friendly and open. Last time I was at Homeless Connect as a volunteer on the intake desk, this time I am a client. Most of the volunteers seem to be from the industry (social services) which gives them a higher comfort level when dealing with the homeless population. I've noticed at the soup kitchens I have gone to, that many volunteers won't look you in the eyes when you pass. A very nice young man introduced himself then gave me a walk through mini tour of the exhibitors. After which we (clients) were encouraged to wander freely through the building.
There were over 50 agencies represented. One booth gave photo I.D. (4x6 cards to hang around one's neck like something a 5 year old would be issued for a school field trip) not government issue but better then nothing. I have often wondered why the D.I. doesn't use the technology we have for staff I.D. cards to create pocket sized photo cards for the clients. Is there perhaps some government regulation against producing I.D. that looks like I.D.?
The most immediately useful areas were the free hair cuts, hygiene products (rationed to 4 items each), clothing tables and dental screening (that was a long wait list). The agencies represented addiction services, job services, abuse prevention, family services, health services and housing resources, brochures were available and kind, knowledgeable staff were on hand to answer any questions. Much of this comes under good to know... but it is unlikely people would be signing up for treatment programs during the event. So I guess the single most important piece of paper we came away from this event with, was the 2 page "Project Homeless Connect 6" agency directory & map. Saved in the side pocket of a backpack or the bottom of one's locker it is an at a glance list of services that can be referred to as the need arises. Thank-you Calgary Homeless Foundation... for this and all your other hard work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

59% ...Solution?

September 15, 2009
Global news carried a story today (news at noon) which stated that 59% of Canadians would be in serious financial trouble if their pay was delayed by even 1 week . This is a statistic that shocks even me... One man said if he missed 2 days pay he would have trouble recovering. The money management experts say everyone should have 3 months expenses set aside in case of emergency (like unemployment). There was a time when we had 10% of our income to put in the bank. But today when working class people are spending 60% of their income just to cover rent/mortgage there is NOTHING left for extras (like a savings account). Our quality of life has been reduced to mere survival. The fact that this applies to almost 60% of Canadians is truly sad and even scary. Another time, another place and this would be the foundations for a revolution.
Modern humans tend to isolate, we believe no one has loved like we love, no one knows our pain, no one can understand what we are going through. Once we open ourselves up to the possibility, we find we are not alone. That is what support groups are made of. There is not only comfort, but strength in joining with others who share our experience of a situation. Perhaps you have blamed yourself for your financial struggles...If I managed my money better ...If I could just get a better job...earn more...get more hours. Stop blaming yourself, your situation has transcended into NORMAL...59% of the population knows exactly what you are going through. The only solution to restoring the quality of life in this country is AFFORDABLE HOUSING, shelter that cost no more then 35% of one's income. With 59% of the population on the verge of losing everything the other 41% might want to get on board with promoting affordable housing initiatives (my favourite is Habitat for Humanity). To understand how we got to this position I suggest reading my essay "A Brief History of Economics" under the WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR tab at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calgary vs. Edmonton

September 11 2009
First a moment to acknowledge the sad anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre and all the innocent people who lost their lives.

Yesterday I reposted the blog from my first day in Edmonton. Everyone knows that Alberta enjoys and ongoing rivalry between Edmonton and Calgary. I have to say when it comes to managing the homeless population Calgary should be taking lessons from Edmonton. For those of you who want to say that Calgary's homeless population is so much larger then Edmonton's, I will suggest that is because Edmonton is employing realistic solutions to homelessness. To begin with an agency called E4C manages several small apartment blocks 12 - 20 units each in the Boyle/MacCauly area. These apartments provide supported housing (each building has a nurses office) for elderly and handicapped (pretty much anyone who qualifies for AISH). The housing appears to be subsidized at about 30% of income, this leaves sufficient funds for people to buy groceries, clothing , etc, which reduces the strain on shelter services. This reduces the homeless population by approximately 15-20%.
Boyle Street is what we used to call skid-row. It is home to cheap hotels, street missions, bars, churches and oddly enough a big new police station and fire station. On Boyle Street if you see the police talking to a homeless guy they are probably asking how he is doing, or how he likes the hot weather. One afternoon I saw two young girls from the street population sitting on the steps of the cop shop having a smoke. No one told them to move along, the officers just walked around them. Basically the attitude of the Edmonton Police services is live and let live with regard to the homeless and street population. The Police intercede only when "laws" are broken, assaults, disorderly (disruptive) conduct etc. This approach to handling the homeless has garnered the respect of the population. I suspect that in a serious situation the Edmonton police would enjoy a higher level of cooperation then Calgary police. The Calgary police services devote much energy rousting, hassling and harassing the homeless which has resulted in an Us vs. Them mentality. In Edmonton I observed homeless people relaxing in the park, even lounging at a table in the city hall lobby. Bylaw officers patrol the park and city hall and the downtown core. They ticket anyone for overt breeches... open containers, skate boarding; I have witnessed tickets being handed out to both homeless and the general public. I have spent many happy hours in that park, just watching people and making my dream catchers. Bylaw officers in Calgary seem to be mandated to ticket homeless or anyone who appears to be homeless. There is no safe zone like Boyle street in Calgary. Before I left on this campaign to educate myself and the general pubic on the realities of homelessness in Canada, I witnessed Calgary Police in action. I have seen them come onto D.I. property, threatening, cursing and trying to intimidate clients. There were no arrests, just veiled threats like "I'll be watching you asshole". In my blog August 21st responding to accusations by Dermit Baldwin that police are harassing homeless in Calgary, I suggested that Mr Ritchie from CPS produce statistical proof to support his contention that the accussation is untrue. This is the age of computers, should be easy enough to call up that info.
I also noticed less of a tendency to discriminate by the general public in Edmonton. The park I hung out at was frequented by all demographics, there seems to be less fear and resentment toward the homeless in Edmonton. I believe this comes from the city administration and ripples through the media into the general population.
Both cities get a failing grade in providing affordable housing for the working class and working poor. Remember affordable housing is not simply below market value... it is housing that costs no more then 35% of one's income. Again I will say the most efficient way to accomplish this, is for politicians to set aside their self interest and put as much land as possible into the hands of Habitat for Humanity.
As for the facilities (shelter, food etc) both cities do fairly well. In Calgary we have the D.I. one really huge facility and several smaller ones picking up the slack. In Edmonton I found Hope Mission handles the largest segment of the homeless population but houses them in several different shelters. Each one seems to cater to a different segment of the homeless and street populations. I see many advantages to this particular option. Perhaps as I continue my journey I will find something even better out there. But this blog is about Calgary vs Edmonton and between the two... Edmonton seems to be doing the better job of dealing with their homeless population.

My first day in Edmonton (repost)

Arrived at my destination in the wee small hours of the morning. Had breakfast in a fast food joint and took a walk about. I know... boring but here's the interesting part. When on my walk I found the provincial employment office, that office gave me a list of shelters and soup kitchens. The women's shelter told me to check in at 9pm.
The day was interesting at times, it turns out the bus station is a very lively place. I met an amiable young man, who kept popping up through-out the day. I walked around where the men's shelters and services are, letting people know I was looking for one of my DI boys who had moved out here. Then I met a lovely woman waiting for her transfer to a bus going east and we chatted about the Angels of the Road project.
In the morning I went down town and found out the federal employees were having a fundraiser, hotdog, pop and candy cotton for $2. Funny thing, the woman behind me in line and I were engaged in conversation, until I mentioned staying at the shelter. Then she quite abruptly turned to start a conversation with her co-workers and eased herslf back about 6 feet from where she was previously located. It was a very visual demonstration of the discomfort many civilians feel around homeless people. Perhaps it is unsettling to find out homeless people can be sober, articulate and other words it could be you.
Then at 8pm I left for my new temporary home, reached the corner I was supposed to go to, then took a wrong turn. So I ask a group of young people for directions. The young man offered to walk me over to the shelter because this is a really "dangerous" neighbourhood. He and one of his friends a banger with Red Alert kept me company while I waited til 9pm. We were talking about gangs and I mentioned Hannibal a young man who served some time with my boy Ron. Turns out the young man is a cousin to Hannibal who is also a Red Alert member. Small world. Don't worry, I plan to remain unaffiliated.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My big news

Welcomed my new grand-baby into the world September 6th. Rayden James (RJ to me) was 8lb 6oz. excellent health and is now at home with Mom, Dad, big brother Zalanon and sisters Saige and Irish.

Imagine every one of us starts life as a baby, innocent, uncomplicated, absolutely perfect.

Monday, September 7, 2009

the Whole Truth

September 7, 2009
and nothing but the truth...

Today was a milestone day for Angels of the Road. Our first TV interview. The entire taping process took over an hour and to the credit of the talented people at Global TV, was edited to a three minute segment. Unfortunately, because Angels of the Road isn't a registered charity yet (will be this month) they were unable to put the contact information at the end of the clip. But it heralds the beginning of awareness within the general public for the project. Yay!

My hour with Gill Tucker...

The reporter doing the story wanted me to go out in my street clothes carrying my back pack. As I explained in the blog "Paris Hilton of the Homeless" anonymity is very important for my ability to do my work. So I left the hoodie at home in favour of a blazer and a hat. After we arrived on location, across from the Mustard Seed, I was fitted with a microphone and asked to talk to the area locals. Gil wanted me to quiz people on their opinion of the services in Calgary. I would never do such a thing on the road. One of the reasons I stay so long in each community is to learn about the services... both first hand and from my fellow clients (through conversation not interrogation). But I did strike up a conversation with a couple Ruth and Will, they are brother and sister from Camrose. They were unable to find affordable housing there and decided to move to Calgary for the winter. Ruth said the biggest stumbling block to finding housing is the fact that she is on government assistance. Landlords labour under the illusion that people, in the system are deadbeats, druggies or drunks. The truth is after working 20 years with the same company Ruth cannot afford an apartment on the pension. So she and her brother will share space. Then I spoke with my friends Leslie and Debbie who appeared in the interview. They talked about the struggle to get covered by AISH, for Debbie the process took three years. Leslie has bad knees and can no longer work his application has been in the works for several months. Then we spoke with a very nice young man who filled me in on the street culture in Toronto, which is on my agenda for late next year. Just before wrapping up the interview we met a young family who stay at Inn from the Cold. Leland and his family have lived in the shelter since January. He is looking for work in the city because there is little work on his reserve. Their 15 month old son was fascinated by the camera ;-) I advised Leland to look into a HRDC program called Trade Winds. A native gentleman named Victor appeared on camera for a moment, he had tipped a few LOL. So we are reminded that among the homeless are the street people, the 30% of the homeless that will always be with us. The people for whom the shelter system was created.

Generosity (repost from July 2nd)

September 7, 2009
Today I want to talk about generousity... While I am living homeless, can only carry 1 each; tank, short-sleeve, long sleeved t-shirts, 1 each jeans, shorts, Capri's. Four underwear 2 bras 4 pair of socks. 1 hoodie, 1 top coat and 1 windbreaker. Last week my daughter phoned to say her friend will be visiting in this city and wants to take me out to a nice dinner. Awk, nothing to wear...LITERALLY. I've been checking the clothing depots all week. Money is tight, so even the thrift shop is out. But one keeps checking back, because donations come in every day. This afternoon I was chatting with a young worker at the drop-in and mentioned that I was killing time til the clothing depot opened across the street, because I was still trying to find a dress. Several minutes later I came out of the washroom and this lovely middle-aged Native woman stopped me. She asked, "Do you wear dresses?". I told her yes that I just happen to be looking for a dress. She said,"I don't wear this any more I hope it fits you." We introduced ourselves, and I thanked my sister Flora for her generousity. I am quite sure Flora does wear that dress, when everything you own must fit into a 2' x 2' locker you don't have anything you don't need or use.
Altruism is by definition giving without self interest in any form, by that definition even Mother Theresa wasn't altruistic. The two years that I am giving up of my life for Angels of the Road, isn't altruistic, I expect to learn enough out here to make me a better and more credible advocate for my homeless clients. I'm in it for the education. Mother Theresa was in it to please God. Altruism or true generousity is not a personality trait, it is an event. A moment in time and space when a perceived need is met by a perceive ability to satisfy that need. Flora saw my need, and she believed that in that moment she had the power to fulfill my need. I gratefully accepted the gift because there is a joy of the heart that comes from being able to give. And that moment of joy should not be denied to anyone, no matter how poor. My altruism comes not in the fact that I am making this journey but in all the moments in which I can reach out to those around me, with a kind word, a hug, or a smoke. Spreading the "sunshine that is Bonny" as we jokingly referred to it at the D.I.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Things to do on vacation.

September 6, 2009
Well less then 1 week into my vacation; I have closed out one item of business, visited my D.I. friends twice, and welcomed a new baby boy into our family. The incorporation will have to wait until I get some donations to cover the costs. Spent some time with old friends and enjoyed hanging out with the family. Just wanted to update all you all.
While I'm home, this would be a good opportunity for you to catch up on earlier blogs which you may have missed. Or I can repost some of my favourite rants ;-) Let me know. Also I expect to do the interview early this week for Global Calgary. I will try to get a copy of the raw footage so I can post it to the website for you. I'll Tweet and Face Book with updates if you want to catch it on Global, it airs on the evening news. ttyl

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Around

September 3, 2009
Greyhound Bus Lines has announced service cuts affecting Manitoba, northern Ontario and small communities in other provinces. Apparently Greyhound approached the federal government about subsidizing the remote routes that were draining company resources. You may be surprised to find out that I don't resent people or businesses looking out for their bottom line. Greyhound is NOT a public service, if a route does not at least break even, they are under NO obligation to continue. Then a government representative, vilified Greyhound's decision on national television.
So why did the government, who so generously offered to bail out GM so their $56hr employees would not lose their jobs or have to endure a pay cut; the same government who repeatedly (and stupidly) keeps bailing out Air Canada and Nortel... FAIL to step up to save remote Greyhound services. Because the people most effected are poor... Oil executives and politicians don't take bus trips, they fly & rent cars at the airport, so why would Mr Harper trouble himself with such matters.
Well one good reason is because hitch-hiking is dangerous, especially for women. And more importantly I really suck at it LOL. I tried hitch-hiking on my trip to Grande Cache back in July. On my way there I was able to scoop a ride from Hinton, but hitch-hiking back it took more then an hour to get a ride. Then only because the nice truck driver was South Asian and felt he owed some karmic debt from the day before.
So what can be done to remedy the problem with providing bus service to remote area. One option is to license small regional carriers to pick up the slack. Or start giving Greyhound the same financial support the government has be giving Air Canada all these years. My vote is for the former. Yeh... surprise again in believe in free enterprise. But if the government is going to stay out...stay all the way out.
I have made Greyhound my transportation of choice for several reasons. The bus drops me in the centre of town, which is handy for finding the shelters and mostly it is cheap.
P.S. The interview is now tentatively scheduled for Labour Day. Hope it is soon the project is dead broke, and I'm hoping maybe this will stimulate some new donations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Granny Harrison

Sept 1, 2009
Today I had a wonderful visit with one of my favourite people on the planet. I love visiting with him...he always makes me laugh. The rest of the day was boring. We will be doing the news clip with Gil Tucker Global Calgary either tomorrow or on Friday of this week. I will tweet, FaceBook & blog with the details.
I have to spend a few days just hanging around the house this week. So unless somebody does or says something stupid to set me off, the blogs will be a bit mundane for the next few days LOL.

The Quiet Life

August 31,2009
Had a terrible time falling asleep last night... only slept about 3 hours. My bedroom is absolutely dark and totally quiet. Consciously I consider that as a good thing. Apparently my subconscious is missing the sounds of city centre. Cursing hookers, screaming drunks & the sirens of police and ambulance.
Went by the D.I. today, it was like old home week. Lots of people I knew. Even one of the boys I had been expecting to find in Edmonton was back in Calgary for a one day visit and we ran into each other. Then as I was leaving the area to go for coffee with my friend, I ran into a young man I haven't seen since February 2008. My business will be wrapped up tomorrow. And I will seek some advice on applying for our NFP status.
Have to pace myself on the visiting. So many people so little time LOL. Can't wait to spend some time with everyone.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Home at Last / for now

August 30, 2009
Arrived home today, the first thing my daughter did was to take me to Phil's where I had eggs cooked over easy. At the shelters eggs are always cooked hard boiled. Also had 2 strips of bacon, 2 sausage, ham & 3 potatoe pancakes. Oh, there are some things I truly miss about civilian life. Really good food and 400 thread count sheets. Had a nice visit with my kids... went through some mail and will wrap up some of my business tomorrow morning. Then I will pop over to the D.I. and see if any of the boys are around I miss them all so much. It will give me a chance to see first hand what has changed since SunAlta shut down. Also I will be contacting the reporter I spoke of a couple of weeks ago. I'll keep you posted with the details. Blogs will probably be short while I'm on holidays. None the less it should be an interesting month... new baby coming, Ronnie's legal problems, Angels of the Road applying for charitable status... and just fun stuff in the real world. When your job is 24 hours a day 7 days a week, everything ordinary is a little exciting.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

look homeward angels

August 29,2009
It was my last day in this city. I spent it as I have so many others. Hanging out at the park down town. Today I brought my camera along and took a photo of each of the places I go in a day. I'll add some of them to the gallery tomorrow night. Said goodbye to many new friends, but I will have to get accustomed to such things. There are many more cities before this journey ends and I am bound to form attachments in each of them.
It was very hot here today, the Popsicle we had for snack has given me a canchar sore on my tongue. I continued to eat it anyway... I'm gonna regret that decision lol. But the heat did give me a chance to do something I have wanted to do all summer. I went wading in the city hall fountain. I have a photo of that, which I will also post.
Tomorrow morning I am on a Greyhound back to Calgary to visit my family for a month. And yes, homeless people do visit family. Whenever one of my boys left the Calgary D.I. to go home for a visit, I always secretly hoped they would stay there. Calgary may have been a boom town but the cost of living ate up any gains from the higher wages.
And while I am on the subject of things homeless people do, most have cellphones; usually pay-as-you go, it is hard to get a contract with no fixed address. A lot have laptops and just as many have dvd players. Now remember I differentiate between street people and homeless. Street people use what money they have to feed their addictions (druggies & drunks) and the drop-outs stopped caring about material shit long ago, which is why they dropped out. The Homeless may not have much money but they can afford a few of the niceties we all enjoy. In a way I guess it reminds them that they will have a home again and keeps them anchored in the concept of belonging to civilized society.
So yes, I will be home for a month... I will wrap up some business. Hangout with my kids and several friends. Welcome a new baby. Prepare for the next leg of my journey. Most importantly, see about registering Angels of the Road as a charity; for the benefit of those 950 people following my journey who don't actually know me. Those who do know me, do not need legal assurance that every penny donated would be used for the project and anything left will be passed on to an appropriate charity. That is just who I am. It's a Buddhist thing, karma and all that. LOL

Still learning

August28, 2009
This blog should have been entered last night. I haven't quite figured out all the new health dangers of living homeless. As you may remember I missed a blog before due to heat stoke, back in Regina. I knew that one was coming on because it starts, for me at least with a headache. But due to a series of event and the daytime lock-out where I was staying it was unavoidable. Yesterday however the was no warning headache. I had been taking extra strength Tylenol for my knees, which give me a lot of trouble (time to stop getting old LOL)... When I finally came back to the shelter at 8 p.m. I just laid down and was out like a light. So my apologies to all for missing our blog.
There are many health risk in shelter living I have been able to avoid but I am still learning. My skin is turning to crepe paper, some nice man told me he would not have thought I was a day over 50 awk before I left I was passing for mid to late 40s. That was only 3 months ago LOL. Also the high carb diet has me putting on weight so I am going to have to rethink some of the dietary stuff.
With the next leg of this journey taking me into the winter months I will need to be careful hypothermia, frostbite etc...Must watch closely to see how the street people (with all their appendages) handle the elements.
Anyway got to go find a glass of milk...then off to my last weekend brunch at the mission. I will blog tonight. ttyl

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lovely Day

August 27,2009
For a refreshing change I won't be veering off into a tangent, about matters, social, political or philosophical. Today was just a lovely day...I went to the drop-in this morning where I had a chance to run into the young man I spoke of in Warm Fuzzy Blog. This gave us a chance to say our goodbyes before I leave the city on Sunday. From there I went to the mission for lunch...not a bad lunch. The cream of potato soup had no potatoes but was chocked full of cauliflower... personally I would have called it cream of cauliflower soup. But that's just me;-). One of the staff there wanted to buy a dream catcher but she doesn't get paid until Monday. So after I finished lunch I went over to where she was sitting and gave her the dream catcher she had chosen, she just lit up. I told her if she felt compelled to pay for it, she could give the money to my friend Sam, he is in their recovery program and will not be allowed to take employment for several months.
Then I went to the park where I ran into an elderly man, never knew his name but he had stopped by last weekend and said he wanted to buy a dream catcher , would I be there next Sunday. I mis-spoke, and said yes. I would have felt so badly if he had not had the chance to buy his dream catcher before I left.
Later, I saw a man who lives at the mission with his girlfriend of 10 years. Last week we had the only conversation we have had since my arrival in this city. Though we often passed each other and occasionally nodded hello, we had never actually spoken. Our conversation last only 10 minutes or so but he told me that he had been with this woman for 10 years and she is his soulmate. I thought that was just such a sweet thing to be able to say after so many years with someone. Anyway I made them a nice little dream catcher with the word "LOVE" hanging from the top of the tails. All this week I looked for him so I could give it to them before I left and today I had that chance. We spoke for a few minute then he gave me a big hug and told me he would never forget me. Little things can mean so much in the homeless community.
Then I did a tarot reading for a couple of the workers from the drop in centre. Which seems to put the one girl's mind at ease. After dinner at the shelter where I stay. I walked down to the Mustard Seed where I was finally able to meet Mike's daughter, I know that was very important to him. On my walk back to the shelter, I gave my sandwich to some old guy who was too drunk to walk down the 3 blocks to get his own. I kept the yogurt bar in case our snack tonight was icky. But it was fruit salad with canned peaches again, which is o.k. with me I love that stuff. Then I took a dream catcher and gave it to Momma L as a thank you gift. She is only a few years older then me but she looks and acts like she's 70. In her own way she is a social worker and care giver to many of the ladies who come and go from this place.
By morning we will have our first 1,000 hits on the daughter wants 10,000,000 before the journey ends lol. What can I say the girl is ambitious...All in all it has been a perfectly lovely day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

just BE and do it in comfortable shoes.

August 26, 2009
Wow only 36 hits and we will make our 1,000 mark probably be there by Friday. That is 1,000 different computers logging on in 83 days since George put the counter on. It blows me away that so many people are curious about my journey into homelessness.
I really believe it is humankind's natural state to care about and for each other... So why is there so much violence, pain, and separation among people? Damned if I know. I am reminded of a particular line from the bible where Jesus said (which many religious people forget) "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbour as thyself". And he said it just like that, in Jamesian English... Many people can't open their hearts to others because they haven't yet learned to love themself. Which is really sad because the Creator brings each new life into the world complete unto itself. Unfortunately, we teach children to judge and doubt themselves. We set them up to see life as a competition, you're a winner or a loser. Since very few of us win all the time most of us grow up with some level of doubt and self loathing. So by the time we are adults we find a standard of success, that allows us to be better than_________
Our success or self worth is based on our ability to judge others unworthy. If we have lots of money, we choose to believe those who have less are less successful ergo less worthy. Money is not the only barometer of success, there is religion, family, athletic achievement, intellect, even compassion. My point is that when we are insecure, we find something good in our lives and use it as a barometer by which to judge others lacking. What if you didn't have to be a winner or a loser...what if all you had to do was just be yourself. And that was perfect. You being perfectly you for this moment (there I go with the moment thing again) just loved and accepted without judgement. Now hold that feeling into the next moment, and every moment there after. Once we stop judging ourselves, we will have no need to judge others. We will be able to carry out the commandment to "love thy neighbour as thy self."