Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A realist in the sunshine.

Thankfully I have a very diverse group of friends. Some are very similar in temperament, or philosophy, others are so very different you would wonder how we ever got together much less stayed together. I cherish my friends, even the most contrary ones… they make me think about the world in different ways. What attracts me to people most is authenticity… a person who is unapologetically themselves, like ME. So the people who may on the surface seem different, share core values of honour, honesty and responsibility. Best of all we make each other laugh… a lot ;-).
This is especially true of the friends I visited last week, we have been friends for 35 years. They believe Angels of the Road is a huge waste of my time and resources. But our discussions have brought some issues to mind which I will likely tackle in blogs over the next bit.
My friend feels, and stated very emphatically, “Nothing changes… Nothing ever changes!” This could be a very discouraging thing to hear, given I’ve spent the last year of my life trying to find ways to change Canada’s shelter system for the better. But after considering the matter for a few moments I was struck by the thought that, if nothing ever changed… we, as a species would still be clubbing small animals and ripping their flesh off with our teeth. Not only do things change, but they have changed more in the last decade than in the previous century, and more in the last century than in the previous millennium. So things can and do change… we just need someone to point things in the right direction and start the ball rolling.
My daughter referred to me as a “silver lining kind of girl”… I like this. I’m not a Pollyanna delusional optimist; I am very much a realist. I see the clouds, I know what they indicate, but I choose to focus on that glint of sunlight peaking through from behind. Clouds come and go but the sun is always there, in the sky rising and setting.
Not going to talk too long tonight… I am back on the road in a city which appears to have no homeless people. I’ll check into that and give you the real scoop over the next day or so. If you haven’t guessed, all is good with the computer once again. The problem was with the power cord and my daughter has been able to hook me up with a replacement. So I'll talk to you all again soon. Have a joyous week.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Hi all sorry to say I am having a problem with my computer...power won't connect. I am using the last of my battery power to let you know I'll be off line. If the problem is in the cord I should be able to replace it and everything will be back to normal soon If the computer needs to be replaced then we could move to crisis mode. I'll figure something but I apologized in advance for being away. TTYL

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Late Reply

Just a quick note that, I have posted a reply to the anonymous comment on the blog from June 13th, I will be off line for the next few days... unless something really outrageous happens. Then I will run out and borrow a computer, so I can share with all ya'all. Have a joyous week..ttyl

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guilty or Not Guilty?

Due to the upcoming G8/G20 summit… and the various OCAP (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty) demonstrations which are being planned; an OCAP representative was invited as a guest on a local radio show yesterday. Apparently the host duo did not allow the guest to speak freely and fully on the issues, which I have always thought was bad form…. but that is not the subject of today’s blog. I did not hear the show myself; my youngest daughter was telling me about it after the fact. During the show a man called in and said that, he worked hard for his money and now we (advocates for the poor) are trying to make him feel guilty. My girl’s response was, if you feel guilty then, take action… give or do something so you will feel less guilty. This is a very reasonable response.
First, let me assure you that very few of the people I have met on this journey, resent people enjoying the fruits of their labour. Envy yes… resent no. When I ask a street person how they are today they will usually smile and say “still breathing”. Many sad tales of frustration and systemic inadequacies… The poor don’t want to “make the rich to pay” they want a system that more effectively uses the tax dollars you are already shelling out. Believe me if you truly understood the system (as I do now) you would be outraged by the stupidity of it all. Oops… ADD strikes again.
Back to the subject at hand, our conversation has given me pause for thought regarding guilt. The only person with the power to make you feel guilty is you. It is an easy emotion to avoid…simply “Never do or say anything you can’t own with pride”. If you think about this before you take any action, you will never have to live with guilt or regret.
To the man who felt that anti-poverty activists are trying to make people feel guilty (and to any activists who are deluded enough to think that will work) let me inform you of something. People do NOT give because they feel guilty… they give because they feel BLESSED. For all of our hard work, expertise and dedication, there is always an element of fortune which factors into our life paths. If you are arrogant enough to think this isn’t true, reflect on how life (the universe / God) has given to you. Did you walk into a room 10 feet behind someone who slipped and fell on a small patch of water? Were you standing in an elevator when someone complained about their boss’ plans to merge with a multi-national…? Did you miss or meet your perfect partner when you took a wrong turn or went to a party you had really hoped to skip? Come on be honest. When Oprah was in high school their class field trip took them to a radio station (or was it a t.v. station) where the station manager comment on her voice and said to come back after graduation. How much longer would we have waited for Ms Winfrey to grace our living rooms if her class had gone to a box factory that afternoon?
My adult life has been / is blessed in so very many ways and none of them have to do with money. That part of my life has always been a struggle. I have loving family and friends. I was blessed with wisdom, health, intelligence and uncommon good sense. With these gifts I have learned to be a good parent, a good friend and a good social worker. I live each day in a manner which has earned for me, a deep and abiding peace of heart and mind... Angels of the Road is my way of giving back to life (the universe/God).
At those times, when we feel blessed we want to share, in one way or another with those in need. Never make yourself feel guilty… act with as little or as much as you are moved to. Follow your heart and share your blessings in the way that is best for you… no one is judging your choices. Even the smallest kindness is needed and welcomed in a society seeking social justice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Into the future

My profound apologies for being away from blogging, for so very long. It has been over a week since my last rant. It has however been a busy week. What started out as a single article for the examiner.com turned into a 5 part series… who knew that Luminato 2010 would have soooo many free events. The festival started this weekend and will continue until next Sunday. If you are in Toronto you should totally check it out. http://tinyurl.com/2f434rd this link will take you to my articles listing all the free events. I took on the examiner.com column because it was another avenue to raise awareness about homelessness and poverty in Canada. But I only have half a dozen readers, and if it is going to keep me away from talking to you guys it really isn’t going to be worth the time.
The past week has been mostly about… looking at Angels of the Road pragmatically. How can we make the most effective use of the information I have gained from this experience. Even at this point I know more about homelessness and the shelter system than anyone else in Canada…. to say other otherwise would be disingenuous (an insincere lie to make me appear modest). Having said that… there is still much for me to learn from Angels of the Road. Another year to year and half of my life, thousands more miles, 7 provinces (in fairness 4 are Maritime Provinces which are quite small) and a couple stops up north should turn up a few surprises yet. But none of us puts two years into getting an education without the intention for using what we have learned to make the world somehow better. So I had a very encouraging meeting last week with Dr Hayden who has volunteered to help me prep my findings for submission to “the powers that be” (policy makers and those who influence them). I think Dr Graham is still on board for that end of the project, and Lord knows, if we are going to make any substantial changes we will require all the help we can get.
Another subject of this week’s pursuits is funding the remainder of the project. One option up for consideration is to begin selling advertising on the website and/or on the blog-site. The big issue for me is control… I would only want products, services or companies which I can personally endorse. I endorse TELUS my carrier and Shaw who went above and beyond to help me retrieve my old emails. Another option is to shut down the project and go back to work until I can save enough money to continue. Let’s face reality, homelessness is not going to magically cure itself in the six months or so I would need. If it did I would happily go back to working with the street people and or maybe take my free-style brand of social work and move into the Correctional system. All good options in their own way.
Now you know where my head has been over the past several days. I hope to be back to blogging at you very soon …til then have a joyous day.
p.s. we are closing in on 5,000 hits woo hoo

Friday, June 4, 2010

put down the pens & pick up the hammers

It has been a really good visit home here in Calgary, but I will be leaving on Sunday to continue my cross-Canada journey of homelessness. I don’t expect to be back in Alberta for a year, which made last night’s visit with my girlfriends especially special ;-) I have had a chance to spend time with my kids and my friends making a point of seeking out some people I have a little trouble catching up with on most short visits home.
I was able to get together with some industry (shelter workers) friends and give them what amounts to an in-term report of my findings. I have learned so much in just a year it is hard to imagine there is anything new out there. Since I have found an answer to the prevailing question which sent me on this journey, it seems harder to leave again. But I have to finish what I have started if only for the sake of credibility…. Homelessness is a national issue and if I haven’t witnessed firsthand the shelter system in every province how can a come back to you and say, “This is the state of homelessness in Canada.”
In my examiner.com article Wednesday Teen Mom deserves an award. I told you about a young woman in Toronto who is fronting a Charter Challenge demanding the federal government create an affordable housing initiative. (By the way thx for reading, pay is a penny a read and all goes to Angels of the Road)
My fear is, we will see tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars wasted on “studying the issue”, money which should be going into building homes. There is no need for further study, we know from the failures and success of the past what is needed to create a working strategy for affordable housing. We can also borrow from the successes of other cities and countries. Australia has made some serious gains and Philadelphia has reduced their homeless population by 70%.... Look at these models find out what is working use that and disregard the rest.
At the National Homelessness Conference of 2009 in Calgary, several of the luminaries made a call for action.

I hope the Canadian public makes that our battle cry.