Thursday, February 25, 2010

Punishing the Poor

February 24, 2010

Back in postwar (WW2) North America, the economy was booming...there were more then enough jobs for people, so anyone who wasn't working was lazy and simply did not want to work. Remember at that time, the developmentally challenged or mentally ill were cared for by families or institutionalized. The handicapped and infirmed (including the very old) were kept in nursing homes and convalescent hospitals. In those days we did not recognize addiction as a disease, alcoholics and drug addicts were choosing this lifestyle. I am NOT wistfully reminiscing about the good ol' days here... I am sharing this information by way of an explanation for why our society finds it necessary to punish people for being poor. Poverty is possibly the last apartide... philosophically inherent within the general population and systemically practiced by government at all levels. As a society we have spent thousands of years developing a system where merit is judged by wealth. But looking closely at the lives of both rich and poor (with the exception of self-esteem issues) you will find little difference in the capacity to feel or be.... I am not going spend time listing every emotional, physical or spiritual affect. I think you can grasp the reality that money is nothing more than a necessary tool within our society. It does not insulate anyone from suffering or sadness, it does not limit anyone's capacity for joy or empathy. We should never judge or be judged by virtue of our wealth or lack there of.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Friends and Dead Fish

February 23, 2010

On Friday I will be having lunch with Wayne and Jesus Jamie … apparently Jesus Jamie has a very special recipe for salmon that is to die for. They have been living at tent city, which until recently has enjoyed very nice weather, hope it returns by Friday. Wayne is a middle-aged gentleman who was staying in the same shelter with me earlier this month. A bit short tempered with staff but generally pleasant with the rest of us. He did not appreciate their efforts to help him with a plan of action (accessing resources to income support and housing). It is a delicate balance, presenting the right help at the right time. It is not enough to have the resources; you have to have a willing recipient… In social work we are always struggling with the question of where aide ends and enabling begins. Wayne is an interesting guy (old for his years) very in the know about the city and the streets. He was so happy to run into me because he was certain Jesus and I were, meant to meet.
A couple of years ago I would have thought anyone introducing themselves as Jesus was in serious need of an adjustment to their medication. Now I reserve judgment on such matters. Jesus Jamie actually has a very clear grasp of spiritualism and interprets it through Christian symbolism. Jamie has a clearer understanding of Jesus’ teachings (the truth of the prophet) then most clergy I’ve met. I look forward to our continuing philosophical discussions ;-) I’m so looking forward to visiting these guys again on Friday.
This morning I met a young artist (videographer) named Alan. He volunteers with a grassroots art centre and is a social activist. We were in the line waiting for laundry services; he is also living at the tent city. He has asked me to participate in one of his projects … I will definitely check it out and see if I can be of some service.
Tonight as one of the other ladies and I were eating dinner an older gentleman stopped by our table. He said, “Can I get you ladies anything?” my response was “A yacht in the Caribbean would be nice.” So he wrote down his email and told me next time I’m in St Kitts I am welcome to stay on the Sea Breeze. How can you not just totally love these people ;-) My friend Candice is right… I do meet great people everywhere I go.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Slight Change of Plans

February 19, 2010

There is so very much to tell you all...I will try to focus on one thing at a time and over the next several days I shall bring you up to date. I left Calgary last month with the intention of spending 4-6 weeks visiting various shelters in the big city. That plan has taken a radical turn and I will explain why. Last summer I re-damaged my knee, the original injury had healed up over a couple of months, so I ignored it hoping it would go away again this time. That did not happen, since last spring the condition has continued to worsen, until I was in varying degrees of pain 90% of the time. Once situated in my new city, I went to a clinic hoping to have the matter checked out... this is where things get weird (in a good kinda way). The clinic was not taking new patients (except in one event emergencies) so they gave me a list of 5 doctors who might take me on. I found one I liked (Educated in Canada, no language barrier and young enough to be interested in sports medicine), I called the receptionist at his office and she said,"Yes he could take me.". I went to the appointment only to discover that the receptionist was a temp... and he is NOT taking new patients. After a brief conversation with the Doctor, out of the blue, he said he would treat me for the knee problem only. woohoo! So for the next few months I will be in treatment to repair my damaged knee.
How does this affect Angels of the Road? I am NOT stopping Angels, I am just exploring another aspect of homelessness called SRO. Single Resident Occupancy hotels (cheap, old hotels turned rooming houses) this city still has about 70 or 80 of these type of buildings. Calgary like most of the cities I have visited has torn down such buildings to revitalize the downtown core. The building I'm living in is pretty average for an SRO, there are a couple of nicer places, many places are far worse. This building has a shared stove and toaster on the first floor, each unit has a mini-fridge and we are allowed to add a microwave. There is a shared bathtub (no shower) and 2 shared toilets on each floor... I'm the only woman here so I try very hard to remember to leave the seat up LOL. Our rooms also have a (bathroom style) sink, a bed, one large shelving unit and 2 small hanging shelves. On a positive note my neighbours are friendly and I have not seen any bugs in my room as yet ;-)
This is what Roger Miller meant by "an 8 x 12 four bit room". However now, they are $425 a month. These units are considered housing and for the purposes of statistics, reduces the number of (economic) homeless considerably. This may be housing but I am not sure if it can ever be a home. I am going to make a serious effort to achieve that end, the standard I have set is as follows... 1. I should be happy to return here at the end of the day... 2. I should be comfortable inviting a friend over for tea...3. The Gordon Lightfoot song "Home From The Forest" must stop popping into my head every time I leave or enter the building, LOL.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hell No, We Won't GO!

February 7, 2010
I have just retuned from a ralley calling to task the governments of B.C. and Canada for Olympic spending... or more importantly the lack of spending for affordable housing. They recited the statistics on poverty region by region..I don't think there was anything less then 18%. What is surprising to me... is that 1500 units of existing low cost housing was uprooted over the past several years and replaced with 1600 upscale condos. What makes this puzzling is the reputation of the neighbourhood has homeless people avoiding it... cannot imagine the conversation, when you talk to the Mrs about moving Down Town. One of the biggest contributors to homelessness is the "gentrifying" of old core neighbourhoods. This neighbourhood is not going down without a fight. It maybe the poorest area in the country but there is a community spirit , support and level of organization I have not seen anywhere else. Gtg my battery is tapped out ...again.