Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moral ... Outrage

January 31, 2010
Today I wish to express my outrage at the Order of Canada for stripping Steve Fonyo of his membership. Many years ago a young Steve, (who is a cancer amputee like his hero Terry Fox) took it upon himself to complete Terry Fox’s dream of running across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. For this feat of courage, respect and stamina, Steve Fonyo was awarded the Order of Canada, our highest civilian honour. It was stated in the article that the decision to revoke the award was due to Steve’s troubles with drugs and the law over the past several years. How does the man’s current personal problems in anyway diminish his earlier accomplishment for which the honour was bestowed? If the Order of Canada is to be awarded only to people who have led a good life… then the Order of Canada should only be awarded posthumously. It was Aristotle, who said,” A man cannot be said to have had a good life until his life is ended”. I don’t know what troubles may have brought the boy to drugs and crime, I don’t know if one day he will be able to turn his life around, I do know it is not for me or anyone else to judge his failures. In the words of Jesus of Nazareth, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I won’t even ask the committee who voted Steve Fonyo out of the Order of Canada to measure up to my standards of integrity. I will however put this question to each one… if you have broken any commandments, should you not step down and relinquish your own membership in O of C. For you to have broken moral (Judeo-Christian) law, as a sober responsible citizen, is far worse than the inadvertent transgressions committed by someone in the grip of a drug addiction. Shame on you all!
You might ask what this has to do with homelessness. Well, I may very well have crossed paths with Steve Fonyo in some of the places I frequent these days. As I have said before 30% of homeless are street people, (drunks, drug addicts, drop-outs) and very often criminals. Depending on the re-housing strategies of a particular province the percentage can go up to over 50%. I may have chatted in a soup line with Steve Fonyo… I have definitely met many young men like Steve. Starting out adulthood with so much promise and making a wrong turn, which leads them on a path of self destructive behaviours. Fortunately, it is a path and one can always change direction. Some of the best people I have met are recovered addicts now working with street people. Every human life is made up of moments, some are glorious and some ignoble. All any of us can do is live each moment the best we can. We must share our light and hope with those we touch. For one shining moment Steve Fonyo was a Canadian hero…. his spirit and courage touched a nation, and we are better for his having passed among us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pieces and Places

January 27, 2010
Well the mystery has been solved... which side of the street people congregate on is determined by the position of the sun. I have been here a week and we have had 3 sunny / cool days and only 1 really rainy day. Yet another myth about this place (that it always rains) has been dashed against the rock of personal experience. Of coarse just saying as much, could be tempting fate LOL. As for the perception of how tough this place is, I am finding that also to be a myth. The population is pretty much the same as any where else I have been, just in much higher numbers.
Today I accompanied one of the senior ladies from the shelter when she went to her doctor and ran some errands. She is recovering from a stroke and still has some weakness in her hands, which makes it difficult to carry her own packages. When one of the counselors found out about our plans I was asked not to do that any more. Apparently, they have people to do such things and I must work on my own plans for the future. As I said before the staff is very focused on directing people to resources and getting them out of the shelters. This is a good thing... but proves more difficult with medical clients (those in need of nursing or mental health supported facilities) because there is still a shortage of such places.
Anyway my adventure today took me out of skid row and into other parts of the city. Tomorrow I have an appointment at the university regarding the problems I am having with my knee. Hopefully the doctor there can diagnose, and develop a treatment schedule
which will allow me to start putting 100% of my focus back on the job. I don't know about anyone else but I'm finding living with chronic pain very distracting. Got to go, I will try to blog most days...even if it is just a short note.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Now That's H'art

January 23, 2010
I'm in a new city, the largest homeless population I have seen to date. I have acquired a bed at one of the dozens of shelters, The staff are just the dearest people, they are very proactive about getting clients organized and into the right programs. I am fortunate again to be in a place that has beds... I was expecting a mat program. Mats would be very difficult to get up and down from because of my bad knee; I'm sure the day will come but, that is not one I'll be looking forward to.
Today I went out people watching... easily a couple of hundred (I'd guess) people, all shapes, sizes, colours and ages lining one side of about six blocks on the what amounts to skid row. As I proceeded along the street I met a young woman who ask for a cigarette... we chatted as I retrieved one from my purse. When I handed it to the poor child she almost started crying... I don't know if she was so very moved by the free smoke or by the fact that someone stopped to chat rather than walking by like she was invisible. Acknowledging someone's existence with a smile or a greeting seems like such a small thing; but it is in fact a rareity, coming from strangers, for people who are living on the streets. When I arrived late yesterday afternoon, the people were on the other side of the street. It will be interesting to find out if the shift is a daily occurrence and whether it is prompted by the position of the sun or the disposition of the merchants LOL.
On the return journey from my walk-about I stopped for lunch at a church soup kitchen. The company was very enjoyable and the small portions were certainly adequate for mid-day. Like other larger centers there are many venues offering meals so one need never go hungry. After lunch as I was walking back, I encounter a young girl (4-5 yrs) walking with her dad, he was carrying a box filled with art work the little one had made. She was walking down the street giving her drawings to the homeless people as they passed by. Everyone smiled and thanked her, carefully folding it and safely putting it in their pocket. I took my little drawing back the the shelter and taped on the wall beside my bed. I now have an original work of h'art.