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.