Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Whatever..."Joy to the World"


Yesterday I saw a Facebook post that said, “Mery CHRISTmas”.  A young, man whose writings I often find quiet insightful posted a blog titled. “Who needs Santa when you have Jesus?”  If these people and millions like them knew anything of history and the evolution of Christianity they would not be claiming exclusivity over the Holiday Season.
But it does remind me that I should say something about this time of year. I am not going to tell anyone what to believe or how to celebrate. My pagan friend is having Christmas dinner with her Mormon family; my Wiccan friend will have ceremony on the solstice and attend chapel on Christmas day. My reformist /protestant Christian friends will celebrate with family and not see a church. More orthodox friends will be at mass and my Asatru (ancient religion of northern Europe) friend will have 12 days of celebrations.  Even diehard atheists will have a celebratory dinner and gift exchange.

Whether a person chooses to celebrate Jesus or Santa or the flying spaghetti monster really isn’t the important thing from the standpoint of spiritualism/ energetics.  At this time of year the vast majority of the world’s population finds some reason to come together in love and gratitude. There is more kindness pouring into our communities then at any other time. My friend Brenda volunteers as a driver for food distribution and she has been run ragged for the past month. That increased vibration (good vibes) makes the whole planet better then it was.

This morning someone pointed out that not everyone is happy; that holiday season has a very high suicide rate. If a person chooses not be grateful for the gifts of this life, of this world; that is not something we can fix for someone else. There are so many reasons to be grateful for this Holiday.  I am grateful to have people who love me and know that I love them, without the need for “proof”’ (i.e. gifts). I woke up to snow today, wet but still fun to see. And today I discovered that the 7-10 (soup kitchen) will be having a Holiday breakfast on the 25th.  My kids won’t be here for Christmas but I will spend a beautiful day listening to music, maybe writing and relaxing between phone calls from family and friends. My big Holiday plans are fasting and meditation over the solstice this weekend. I am saying choose to be happy! This may not be the best Christmas/ Holiday you have ever had or ever will have; but it is the only 2013 Christmas you will ever have.  It is hard to not be happy when you are feeling grateful.

Now about the Santa (lie) thingy. If your kid is old enough to ask, “Is Santa real?” then he/she is old enough to handle the truth. Until then let the kid enjoy the fantasy or folktale, either way the old guy is a vibrant part of cultural (albeit recent) tradition. When I was 5 my Grandmother told me that, Santa is the spirit of giving that we all feel at Christmas time. So in reality we all get to be Santa. That spirit of generosity is shared across the board this time of year; from atheists to the most devoutly religious… we have a shared sense of gratitude and that is what I am celebrating this and every Christmas.  

Have a joyous holiday season.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Again heads up on the new web address being www.angels-of-the-road.com

These days I'm volunteering at the Nanaimo Men's Resource Center and a few weeks ago I was able to attend my first annual general meeting.  After the business portion of the meeting was finished each person was asked to introduce themselves and share how they became involved with the centre. My final thought and bottom line was men need to catch up… the feminism bus pulled out of the driveway and men were left standing there looking like Macaulay Calkin in the “Home Alone” movie.  And like Macaulay they stood their ground assuming the family would return.  
Feminism spent the past 50 years evolving women into whole beings… we left behind oppressive stereotypes and kept the things that were working for us.  Were mistakes made? Hellz ya! First we wasted way too much time in a gender war, before recognizing that patriarchy was the enemy. The women who came into political power in the early days focused on insignificant crap like semantics instead of important issues.   Getting women into good jobs like the post office is far more important then whether you were called a mailman or mail-woman. After women started taking those job the titles change to gender neutral words like letter carriers.  One of our biggest mistakes was not bringing men along for the ride. We could have found the best from their world and shown them the best from ours as we all moved forward into breaking free from the shackles of patriarchal social convention and into living as whole beings.
Now guys… you can’t entirely blame feminism for not letting you on the bus, some (enlightened) guys drove themselves to the party.  Even without the feminist movement gender roles were changing as we moved from an industrial society into a technological society; the employment landscape was leveling. So let us not waste anymore time in a new gender war as we address the need for a Masculinity Movement.  For those of you who want to say the whole world has always been about men, it is NOT about today’s men.  The patriarchal privilege we fought against in NO way serves or represents the 21st century male.  It is for us who have fought this battle before (and did well) to share what we have learned and help men to vanquish the patriarchal dragon once and for all.
Before patriarchy and the self-serving empire building models grew; humankind lived as tribes with all its members (male and female) living in service to the community. Women never really lost that; even as we moved into the breadwinner / powerbroker roles, we remain skilled at connecting with each other and building support networks.  Men need to re-establish that skill. Men’s Centres (there aren’t nearly enough of them) provide a safe place for men to get together in supportive groups. Usually there is a purpose in the agenda (anger management or parenting etc) but the most important thing being learned is (I hope) how to get support and be supportive.      
The biggest hurdle for men is redefining their roles. “Man-Up”… WTF does that even mean any more.  It is just another example of patriarchal oppression squeezing the human-ness out of men. The true purpose of a place like The Men’s Centre is to help men become happier healthier people; who will then be better husbands, fathers and members of our community (tribe).
I’ll probably talk about this and related issues again but for now have a joyous day my friends.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear Friends

I just wanted you all to know that the website which supports this blog has re-opened
as www.angels-of-the-road.com The banner is the Vancouver skyline which I thought was fitting since the DTES (Down Town East Side) provided some of the most indepth and enlightening experiences during my journey.

Thank you all so much for your support over the years and for doing your part in the fight for equality and social justice.

Have a joyous day.
Bonny

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In a Just Society

As you know this (Angels of the Road) blog site has shifted focus to anti-poverty and social justice issues. Nowhere in Canadian society is social injustice more prevalent then when it involves our Native citizens. Last night one of my Tweeties (Twitter People) posted the link to a very articulate article titled, First Nations won’t “get over” your ignorance by Chelsea Vowel a M├ętis woman from Alberta. The salient points for our discussion are held in the following excerpt. You can link to the full article through the title.
Canadians who do recognize historical injustice seem to understand it in this way:
1.    Bad things happened.
2.    Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved. (Though I've yet to see someone identify exactly when this happened.)
3.    The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.
In this view, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of indigenous peoples, because that problem was solved at some point in the past. The real racism is in conflating legitimate dislike for indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity but rather on the bad choices we make) with historic colonialism/racism which is over. In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as a present-day concern, we are engaging in reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers.
Let me begin by saying racism is alive and flourishing in Canada. I visited my home town last year… and the racism was palpable. The Whites believing all Natives are lazy drunks and the Natives believing all Whites are arrogant bullies. I have encountered similar beliefs everywhere I have travelled but more so on an individual basis. In my experience racism (or any other ism for that matter) is far more likely to come from a place of ignorance than from a place of hate. Ignorance can only be eradicated with information / education. When someone makes a statement in front of me that is wrongheaded, I take the time to provide them with the truth related to that misperception. The usual response is, “I didn’t know that”, or “I never thought of it that way”. Maybe I have only influenced that one belief but it is possible that their mind is now a little more open to examining their other beliefs.

The best way to change this is by dialoguing, informally and formally with each other. When my nephew was in grade 4 or 5 his school partnered with the local band to have a Native Awareness program offered after school.  The biggest problem was the program was open only to First Nations students. We can’t legitimately blame people for being ignorant if we refuse to educate them.
The general public thinks equality has been achieved because Apples (fully assimilated Natives) do have equality. I mean no disrespect by that term. An Apple can play golf at any country club in the nation; skin colour is not an issue. If he parks his Lexus in front of the cop-shop to report his 15 year old daughter missing from private school, I am pretty sure the police will be all over that.  The prejudice has less to do with skin and more to do with ignorance about Native culture and the effect the Indian Act has on development for indigenous nations.
Ms Vowel is correct that media carries a large responsibility for the problem. I would suggest that they could be a large part of the solution. When I had television I watched 2 news broadcasts CTV and APTN seldom did significant stories running on APTN get so much as a mention on mainstream media.
Feminism did not make any real strides until we made patriarchy the enemy not men. And in the past 40 years (I know firsthand) much has changed for women. To make those kinds of strides for Native rights we need to stop making the rhetoric Us Against Them. We need to discuss how the Canadian establishments (courts, social agencies, business models etc) were designed from a European perspective and do not fit with Native cultural norms. Many successful, sustainable, environmentally sensitive businesses are built around Native cultural models. And we will be seeing more and more integration of that business model into the Canadian economy over the next generation.   
This blog has gone a little long and the discussion is far from over; so one last thought. Colonialism was bad (not just here, everywhere), we cannot waste our time feeling guilty or angry about a past over which we have no control… we must take responsibility and action to change the future. Learning from and respecting each other, is where we start.
Have a joyous day.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Just a short break.


Just a quick update to let everyone know that the Angels of the Road . com website will be going offline as of the end of this month.  It will be down for about 3 months (or permanently) depending on the status of the domain name 3 months from now. It is the only way for me to sever ties with my old domain provider and that is what I wish to do. Around December 2013 we will have a newly formatted (possibly renamed) Angels of the Road website to support this blog.  

The blog will still be here with all the old journey stories and even new ones appearing from time to time. I would not wish to disappoint any of the wonderfully caring / curious people from all over the world who visit the Angels of the Road blog. Russia visits a couple of times each month with double digit hits.

To summarize website will be gone blog will remain. Anyone wishing a copy of the research report can email me through my other website bonny@spiritofthe8thfire.com

Have a joyous day everyone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Partnerships for Prosperity


Thanks to my lovely friend, Brenda, I am able to watch video on my computer againJ . So I watched installment 3 of the 8th FIRE series by CBC, not as uplifting as the previous episode but it was still very informative and positive about the future of Canada. It is titled, “Whose Land is It Anyway”.  It shows us models of good and bad faith economic development as it impacts our Native Brothers and Sisters. I used to be smug about Canada’s diamond industry (no blood diamonds here) but DeBeers is an example of old school bottom-line business practices which no longer fit contemporary models of corporate citizenship. These kinds of businesses will evolve eventually or die out… just as the auto industry is changing and pulp & papermakers moved into recycled products; so too other industries will need to become civically responsible members of the global /local community.

The Native model of custodial responsibility fits very nicely with the emerging corporate consciousness. The documentary shows us very clear examples of how incredibly successful collaborations between established industries and Native bands have actually been. NO GOVERNMENT INTEREFERENCE REQUIRED.  When Natives are taken into the process as a fully participating partner amazing things can happen. The old model of worry only about this quarter’s stock report (or this 4 year term in political office) is being rejected by the current and coming generations. We want to know, “What is your legacy?” By focusing our business activities (as Natives do) on the next 7 generations we can create long-term sustainable prosperity for all.  

This is one of those times when spiritualism meets advocacy, so this post will appear on both of my blog sites today. If you haven’t done so I urge you to watch the whole 8th FIRE series (don’t let the 1st one put you off) they are well worth the time.

Have a joyous day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Flow of Abundance


          This short note is simply an apology to all my Brothers and Sisters for being away from my blog site for so long; and I hope you will be patient a little longer. My world has been opening up so rapidly over the past few weeks I am having trouble keeping up LOL. Just sorting through this explosion of opportunity with so many options has been a fulltime job. The more we open to the energetic flow the more abundance comes to us. God/ Universe/ Source/ Quantum can be very generous when we are willing to receive.  
          Two weeks ago I release the Report of Finding from Angels of the Road and last week it was a feature in the CanadianSocialResearch.net weekly newsletter thank you Gilles Sequin ;-). The paper has been well received with about 30% response (most academic papers get 3% response. This opens me up to write two books; a human services industry handbook, “OUT  REACHING: A Streetwise Guide to Social Work”. All the things I learned on the street that never made it into the textbooks. Then of course there is the autobiographical account of my experiences during the Angels of the Road journey.
          I decided to moved to a smaller town; found a perfect little apartment and made an appointment to go up island to view it. Then out of the blue (I had applied but thought I had been passed over again) I get a phone call from Our Place to interview for a residential support worker. These people do amazing work and I would be so fortunate to be a part of such a caring team of professionals. This position is so perfect for me because, it would leave time for other pursuits (writing, building my consulting practice and establishing the Spirit of the 8th Fire Centre) everybody send energy for me on this one. As if that isn’t enough don’t I find just the most darling little bachelor apartment 3 blocks from Our Place.  How great is that… I love this life.

           So my friends please indulge me for just a couple of more weeks… I’m sure things will get back to normal by then. Migwetch 


Have a joyous day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

After the Apocalypse


Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone whose property and lives have been impacted by the Alberta flooding this week… especially those who lost loved ones in the High River flood. A man was on Facebook yesterday seeking word on his father an elderly man in a wheelchair who had refuse to evacuate his home. This presents me with something of a quandary; I support the individual’s right of self determinations up to and including the right to assisted suicide. I suppose that reasonably would include making stupid decisions which put your life at risk (all plummeting sports come to mind). Here comes the, “but” an evacuation is much easier to do then a rescue operation which could actually jeopardize the lives of rescue workers and would unnecessarily divert resources. Also the person refusing evacuation is not acting from a full understanding of the risks, in as much as the Flood of the Century could only be experienced twice by someone well over 100. Guess I’m just saying at times like this it should be illegal to refuse evacuation and anyone who won’t go willingly should be charged with interference and removed by force. Sorry ACLU but they can come home and die on their own time.
The devastation in Calgary effected the city’s richest and the city’s poorest without prejudice.  With everything in downtown Calgary hit by the flood 3000 or more homeless people have been displaced from shelters. Calgary had a unique situation which evolve from the rapid boom and bust economic cycles. The shelter providers operate independently and in competition with each other; a friend from the CHF (Calgary Homeless Foundation) referred to them as empire builders. Perhaps with all the rebuilding which needs to be done we will also see some rethinking on the part of the 3 major providers of shelter services. Perhaps it is time for a merging of the kingdoms. Working in collaboration could provide a much better and more productive system for all the stakeholders in Calgary’s shelter industry.
Working with the downtown homeless for so many years leaves one the impression that Calgarians hated the homeless. This is clearly a misperception as witnessed by my friends who were moved to the DI’s as yet unfinished location on motel row. It seemed like everyone one with means to travel, rushed over to aid our homeless friends; bring food, water, blankets, clothes and man power. Hundreds maybe even thousands of people caring and sharing in this time of crisis.
Bless you all and thank you.
 
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Get your very own copy of the report of findings for Angels of the Road.

Good morning,

Special thx to Gilles Sequin, you can link onto the summary of my report through here http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/summary.pdf

As you all know, few years ago I set out to observe the Canadian shelter system from the perspective of our clients. I am not going to say the system was failing, but there was missing information. Information that may make our job easier…as I see it our job is to help people move forward with their lives and get out of the shelters. The project was 16 months long, covered all regions of Canada except the far north and Quebec. I lived every minute of every day as a homeless person; ate what they ate, slept where they slept, spent my days with them hanging out and being a part of their world.  Now I share what I have learned with you.
There are two PDF documents which I will be happy to email to you. Just send your request to blcameron51@gmail.com. One is a 28 page report of my findings, a quasi academic style paper with observations, conclusions and recommendations for 8 different parameters of the shelter experience. The other is a 3 page summary of those findings.
Please feel free to forward this information when you get it to anyone in the human services field who has an interest in homelessness or contact with marginalized populations; or anyone studying or teaching in human services. Perhaps one day I will write about the actual experience of being “out there” but, this report is more important to the industry and my client friends; then is regaling the world with personal anecdotes. Thank you for your interest and your help in sharing this knowledge with the world.
Have a joyous day
Bonny

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Statistics; Truth and Dare.


Recently I have noticed people misusing and misrepresenting statistical information. This is nothing new and I guess my current awareness is just god’s way of telling me it is time to offer a brief course in statistics for the everyman (or woman). The numbers in and of themselves have very little meaning…it is like a quote taken out of context. So what do you as a reader, need to consider before making an assessment of a given situation from statistics?
a. Who’s interests are being served. The people paying for the study (data collection) have an agenda try to figure out what that is and look at the results with consideration to that. This does not affect the numbers themselves it affects the way the numbers are presented. ex: Agency X offers and addiction recovery program. If the actual numbers are for every 100 people who enter the program… 50 complete the program… 40 stay clean for 1 year, eventually 20 of those relapse. What is their success rate?  They will tell you they have an 80% success rate. How can that be, they started with 100 and only 20 stayed clean isn’t that an 80% failure rate? First they don’t count anyone who doesn’t complete (graduate) the full program.  Then they include anyone who lasts a specified follow-up period, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year. Actually from these numbers our Agency X is having a good deal of success with their recovery program. The dropout rate is lower than average and they are using a longer recovery baseline then most. I would support this program. Unless you are informed about industry standards it is hard to judge what these numbers mean. This is true of any study you are reading for any industry or project. If a study produces results that cannot be spun to favour the desired outcome for the funding parties then it would simply be scrapped and you would never see it. An example of spin is… Labrador’s seal hunt culls 20% of seal population, or Labrador sanctions the slaughter of 1000 baby seals. The statistic may have been provided by an impartial 3rd party (like the department of fisheries) but the report you are reading carries an agenda. The truth usually falls somewhere in the middle, if you care about the issue, get informed before blindly repeating a statistic like it is written in stone.  
b. The illusory correlation is one of my favourite analytical problems.  The example my professor used was. Babies have no teeth, and babies cannot talk, this is true 100% of the time; therefore we can conclude that without teeth one cannot talk. This is an obvious and easily refuted example but let’s look at a real world statistic.  In my work it shows up as things like, 80% of homeless suffer from mental health disorders. The statistic is not a lie but it is misleading. The illusion is that MH issues cause homelessness. The true statistic is that homelessness will almost certainly cause (situational) depression; a mental health issue.Another good example of the illusory correlation, long ago dispelled by science and statisticians was; Black Americans consistently scored more than 10% below Whites on standardized IQ tests… this statistic was held for a long time as proof that, Blacks were genetically inferior to Whites. But one day someone looked at the actually test questions; a test written by white people for white cultural norms. The test was rewritten from Black cultural references and white people failed miserably. This crosses into the next problem with statistical information.
c. The size and nature of the sample being used for the study. Whether it is people or micro-organisms, a small or narrow sample leads to less reliable results. For example a survey on the desirability of a particular city funded project should reflect the ethnic diversity of that city’s population. A broad sample of 10,000 white people in Thunder Bay is not going to lead to an accurate result of public opinion when 30% of that city’s population is Native. And a small sample of 7 White people and 3 Natives will not truly reflect the community’s position. The larger the sample and the more closely it reflects the population demographic the more accurate the result.
d. Once you have examined the above three factors then, you may still have to question why you want this to be true/false. Using the 80% of homeless are mentally ill stat as an example… it is comforting it makes us feel like homelessness can never happen to us. Statistics can give us scapegoats and absolve us of responsibility…often for our own lives and our own happiness.
e. Lastly we need to consider the issue of falling data or the inability to follow-up with subjects leading to misperceptions. You will find sources that say the vast majority of child abusers were abused themselves as children. This is not saying that the majority of abused children grow-up to be abusers. Just as most Muslims are not terrorists, most middle-aged white males are not pedophiles, most young people are not gang bangers, nor are most abuse survivors, abusers. We as a culture do not collect statistics on what is right, good and working well. So maybe we have to in our own minds ask,“What about the rest?” What went right (but that is another blog)?
The only thing I can do is to urge you to be cautious when reading (or embracing) a statistical fact… and if the issue really matters to you learn more. Find different sources on both sides of the argument. Try looking objectively from outside of the issue and be honest with yourself. Does this feel right to you?…REALLY.

Have a joyous day.   

Monday, April 22, 2013

Report of Finding: Summary

          Anyone who tells you that they can eradicate homelessness is deluding themselves. There will always be street people; those among us whose addictions outweigh any other consideration in their lives; a perfect society will build communities with room for everyone, even street people. It is however possible to reduce homelessness by 70% through affordable home ownership initiatives and supportive housing programs. Priority needs to be given to keeping medicals and working poor in the homes they have.
          As for the shelter industry …the single most important step is the diversification of shelters and services. Within 24 hours of checking into a shelter the person should be assessed as medical (needs) or poverty (financially unstable) or addict. Then the subject should be immediately channeled into a separate facility with protocols and staffing specific to their needs.
          For large organization like the Calgary Drop-In, or Shepherds of Good Hope, it would involve repurposing of the facilities which are already owned by them, much like Victoria Cool Aid has done with their housing model. Smaller organizations need a co-operative series of programs with each agency providing service to different groups. To achieve this kind of collaboration funding models would have to change to remove competition between agencies. I recommend funding by the BED not by the head which is our current practice. This new found financial stability would allow agencies to focus on outcomes (appropriate to their mandate).
          Diversification must exist in all parts of the shelter’s mandate and staffing. A transitional shelter should focus on skills training and reintegration services, psychological supports, guidance and encouragement in a structured environment. Autonomy and self-care (personal responsibility) must be re-enforced in all areas of the clients functioning. Staffing these Transitional shelters with specialists during daytime (program hours) would be optimal and night staff would be simply custodial to deal with any situations which may arise.
          Facilities functioning as Refuge Shelters would require a high level of vigilance and control over client behaviours. All medications must be dispensed by staff… searches done entering or leaving the building… zero tolerance for drugs & alcohol; anything necessary to prevent harm coming to any client. These are people trying to take a break from addiction or prostitution or just hiding from a threat real or imagined. There should be no requirement that they intend to move forward from this place.
Refuge Shelters provide clients with a safe place to recoup and hopefully rethink. Staffing here should be done by generalists… staff who can be teachers, counselors, nurses, referees and bouncers, whatever the situation requires.
          With recovering addicts in either Refuge or Transitional shelters depending on their progress, Harm Reduction shelters can be less structured. No alcohol/drugs on site is a necessary only because clients will fight over such things when it is are there. It might be a good policy (in winter at least) to bag and tag anything seized and return to the client in the morning.  Again these facilities need to be staffed by generalists with priority given to skilled referees, nurses, bouncers and counselors in that order. When a street person wants to share or seek guidance they cannot wait to see the counselor (tomorrow or next week when an appointment is available) they live in this moment. If in this moment they want to make a connection; we have to provide staff that can make that connection. Trust is hard won in this population and limiting the ability of staff to build on trust relationships, means opportunity lost.  True we will always have street people but it doesn’t have to be a lifelong condition due to neglect. I know many recovered addicts and most of them recovered because they connected with someone (usually an adult care worker or volunteer) who could see past the addictions to the person.
            The diversified housing model also would allow for better nutritional options specific to each groups needs. Transitional clients should be taking responsibility for all functions; shopping, preparing meals, building cleaning and maintenance in accordance with their ability and under staff supervision.  Refuge shelters would need to provide well balanced highly nutritious meals and snacks. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and meat protein are in limited supply at soup kitchens. So for the short time we have someone in a refuge shelter we need to do what we can to restore their health. The current soup kitchen fare is actual nutritionally acceptable for street people. The high carb diet provide the energy store necessary to go days without eating while binge drinking or on a crack run.
          Needless to say Drop-in programs are not affected by the need for diversification. Job search, literacy and life skills training are important but it won’t change anything until that person believes they deserve a better life. It is important to provide esteem building and self awareness programming. 
          I hear what you are thinking…BUT HOW DO WE FUND ALL THIS?  Short answer by making better use of the money you have. Working backwards through this summery. Drop-Ins  make better use of your volunteers. Staff supervision is not required for volunteers beyond once to train and one more time to view them in action. Allow volunteers to do more then fold sheets and hand out shampoo. I can’t begin to list the number of different programs I could provide. Allow a volunteer, who has raised her children into happy healthy adulthood to teach parenting or infant care. Let people who have lived come into your agencies to teach life skills.  
           Under the diversified model transitional and refuge client would receive at least 2 meals in-house. Because the need is finite it will be easier to solicit donations of food from local grocers, farmers and businesses. Start a recognition campaign… issue bumper sticker and window tags to the businesses that support you (the effect of this is they will want to live up to their new reputation for generosity); ongoing support gets you an annual certificate as a gold or platinum supporter. Brain storm your own campaign.
           Under the diversified model staffing levels would be reduced.  Transitional shelters would require less client supervision and administration. Clients are responsible for cooking, cleaning and maintenance. Staff only needs to supervise and handle minor emergencies. In refuge shelters slightly higher staff client ratio is required because the potential for medical emergency is slightly with this group and they are not invested enough to participate in cooking, cleaning etc. The harm reduction facilities need the highest level of staffing because of the unpredictable nature of client reactions and behaviour. Optimum numbers would be 1/6 but no less than 2 staff to any position (building location) at any time. I have found most shelters juggling staff and unable to provide adequate coverage for the areas with the greatest need.
          Reintegration from the current shelter system is not easy. It took me 1 year of medical care and 2 1/2 years of reintegration before I recovered to the point where I could write this report.  The changes I have proposed here would minimize physical and emotional damage for the 70% of non addicted clients and free up resources to help our street people with their recovery and reintegration.    

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reflection


          As I began to write the Summary for my Report of Findings yesterday, I found myself reflecting on, why it took me so very long to do this. The physical research was finished in October 2010, I haven’t spent the night in a shelter since and any time I have spent at soup kitchens and drop-in was about outreach, there was no information gathering. So why did it take to 2½ years to report on 16 months of research? Each section probably took a day to write and it will probably only take a week of rewrites to get to the final draft. So why not do this 1½ years ago? In a nutshell, I wasn’t ready.
           After spending so much time living an impermanent life, I could not really settle into living normal routines. Even in Hamilton from Dec 2010 – Aug 2012, when I was working as a childcare provider… my hours fluctuated sometimes from day to day. Until recently I had no sense of what was supposed to come next, so no particular need to close off the past. There were of course times when I didn’t think anyone would care about what I had learned… that the only value of this project was in what it has taught me as a social worker and a person.  
          The Angels of the Road study into homelessness is unique in several ways, which is why I felt the need to do it. The most significant difference is in the scope of the study, a broad sampling of shelters and services from all across Canada were assessed by the researcher (me). The few observer/participant studies into homelessness have been limited to one city, sometimes one facility and usually lasted only for a few weeks time.  There have been journalist reporting of staying several months within the homeless population; these reports while truthful are skewed by the writers need to produce saleable material. This makes the finished product a selection of dramatic high points taken out of context to the whole shelter experience. Many other authors have recorded the shelter experience through biographical accounts from the lives of street people; one of the best of these being, “Radical Compassion” by Father Gary Smith.
         Every city does reporting (many have censes data) on homelessness and often share information to create a national picture. This kind quantitative information is essential for projecting costs, allocating funding and planning service needs.        
          Surveys are taken of homeless population with a myriad of focuses; but data from these can be tainted by several factors. Clients will often try to give you the answers they think you want; this kind of compliance is a survival instinct which is prevalent in institutional environments. Assuring them they are free to speak without consequence is of little use because this is an unconscious response. Also client observations of services and shelters is coloured by their personal drama and limited exposure (usually 1 or 2 facilities) objective assessment is not really possible from client surveys without an extremely broad (100-1000s) sampling.  
            I felt there was a real need for an objective assessment of programs and services by someone with both knowledge and experience of the shelter system. Angels of the Road was a qualitative analysis of the shelter system and services to the homeless in Canada. With no outside funding I was free to be entirely truthful about my findings. Where we have succeeded, where we have failed and how to create better outcomes for our clients in the future.
          As always the most important thing we can do is to create affordable home ownership initiatives and develop supportive housing systems to get the poor and the medicals out of the shelters entirely. Regardless of the cost… housing is infinitely less expensive to taxpayers then shelters, prisons and all their support systems. Until that perfect future, I hope that my Report of Findings for Angels of the Road will guide the shelter industry, policy makers, politician and social planners into the most productive models for client care.
         Back to me! and why am I finally wrapping up Angels of the Road. It is because I am feeling settled again. A few months ago I moved permanently to the west coast and a new chapter of my life is opening up. It is time to end Angels of the Road as a project and a website (which expires in Aug 2013) ; the blog will continue as an op/ed vehicle for me to address social justice and anti-poverty issues. I will always be involved with serving street people in their journey to their best life; I imagine from here forward that will come through volunteer work.  My new role is to serve all of humankind through spiritual teaching and healing. The Spirit of the 8th Fire website is the beginning of that journey and I hope some of you will choose to join me there.

Have a joyous day.

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two Posts in One


From Russia, With Love
That was Ian Fleming’s line this blog is to Russia with love. Yesterday Angels of the Road had 70 hits from our friends in Russia; that is 50% more than Canada had in the past month. Once in a while strange things like that happen which remind me the issues around homelessness and poverty are still relevant, not just in North America but globally. So thank you, to everyone who has taken an interest in Angels of the Road for the past 4 years (June)… and for all your personal efforts to make our communities, our countries and this world a better place.
OMG that was amazing…
I laughed… I cried… (this from me , who hates seeing reality coming out of my television) LOL.
Today is an exception which may become a rule; or at least happen more often as time goes on. Angels of the Road has evolved into what is essentially a social justice site focusing on anti-poverty and housing issues. Spirit of the 8th Fire is about our spiritual ascension into abundance, brotherhood and peace.  Sometimes, like right now, these two things intersect. So this blog will post to both sites. I just had the most awesome (I don’t use that term loosely) experience, I was awe-struck and joyous watching this episode of CBC’s 8TH FIRE documentary, “Its Time”.   Unlike the first episode Indigenous in the City: which carried a lot of bias, this was so full of promise I really... REALLY believe every Canadian needs to watch this. Truth without guilt, real people of both races pushing forward building a new Canadian reality. “It’s Time”, offers a view of the future created from our pastt…our future as one country with respect, opportunity and hope for everyone. As I have said before we cannot and should not take responsibility for the past, but every one of us is responsible for what happens next. Whichever side of Native/Non-Native divide you are on educate yourself, then educate others, lets close the gap. There is value and beauty in each of us, open your eyes, see it, embrace it and rejoice.
Have a joyous day.

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire//2011/11/its-time.html

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Twists & Turns


Hi Everyone
I guess I should start by apologizing to all my online friends. Every time I edit so much as a comma on the Spirit of the 8th Fire website, Weebly sends a notice to Facebook and Twitter. So often 4 or 5 of those things will pop up in quick succession, I’m not nagging it is just an auto feature LOL. For the past couple of weeks I have been suffering from what I thought was writer’s block, no matter how many times I started the blog on Bravery for Spirit of the 8th Fire I couldn’t seem to make any progress.  This morning I finally finished it and now I am sharing this blog with you.
What was really happening was that I was distracted (not in a good way) by my life circumstances.  As most of you know I have not had a job in the shelter industry since leaving for Angels of the Road in 2009. Now that I am applying to return to work I have discovered the industry is moving into specialization and even; very talented generalists like myself are challenged to find a place to fit into this new paradigm.  Do I go back to school and acquire a certification in one of the counseling streams? Or do I keep knocking on doors hoping there is still one agency who still values loving service to our clients. If I was 40 this would not be a question, definitely adapt to the new model and get certified.  There is also the option of taking my considerable gifts for communication, empathy and negotiation into others fields… maybe get back into divorce counseling/mediation.  Twenty years ago when I started my practice no one (too few people) saw the value of providing psychological counseling with the settlement process for property &/or custody; but that seems to be changing.  
Now that I am in my 60s there are other options. Early retirement would not provide well, but it would be a consistent income and keep a roof over my head.  I would then be free to write my books &/or build The Spirit of the 8th Fire Healing Centre.  I can always serve in the shelter industry through volunteering… for me that has never been about the money.
This is my time for bravery (as discussed in the other blog)… to trust that the universe is unfolding in a way which serves my highest and best good. To keep faith and enjoy the lessons which come to me, from each new experience.  I have said it before happiness is a choice. Was I disappointed by the news that I did not get the job? Yes; but I was grateful that Kevin (HR guy) took the time to call and explain, why. So after taking a little time to acknowledge my disappointment and confusion (remember I felt “called” to move to Victoria) I have now opened my heart and mind to possibility. I choose to be happy, and watch in awesome wonder as my future unfolds.   

Have a joyous day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good News Week


When I started travelling with Angels of the Road back in 2009… I would never have imagined I would be able to say what I am about to say, “we have come a long way baby.” For me as a worker in the shelter industry, all I ever wanted was to see progress in getting the homeless housed; so that industry resources and workers could be focused on helping the street people (drunks, druggies & drop-outs). We are unlikely to eradicate homelessness 100% unless we rethink what it means to be housed. But with affordable housing initiatives and supportive housing, we can reasonable expect a 70% reduction in homelessness.

The good news out of Homeless Hub this week is that Edmonton Alberta has reduced their homeless population by 30% and that Alberta’s 10 year plan to end homelessness is on track. Apparently 6,600 people have been re-housed, 1600 have been taken into a Housing First program for hard to house... and of those people a whopping 80% are able to maintain housing. For those of you who don’t know, the Housing First Model targets people with disabilities, mental health issue, addictions and concurrent disorders. Once this population has housing it is easier to provide consistent and ongoing supports for their health and well being. This Housing First model actually reduces costs of providing services by around 60%. Currently the cost for shelter services per homeless person is $100 a day or $3000 per month. The income support system allows $600 -$700 per month per person; which does not allow any “wiggle room” what people used to call rainy day (emergency) funds to hold people over in a minor crisis. In fact at the current rate of payout one cannot hope to meet day to day necessities. An income support system which offered a base of funds at $1200 per month would ultimately save taxpayers $1800 per month per person and give people enough income to live without additional services.

Whatever myth you are labouring under; NO this will NOT make people lazy… it is our nature to want to be productive and to contribute to society. People you are seeing caught up in this system who appear to you as lazy, are beaten down by that system and have given up on ever being more or having more. We invented this system in the 1950s and whatever small modifications we have made over the decades it still remains judgmental and punitive. We need a new way of dealing with poverty one which reflects the realities of the 21st century and the global economy. Enough said, today is about celebrating our successes. When the journey is long, knowing how far you have come always makes the road ahead a little brighter and easier to walk. Never be afraid to look back, but never stop moving forward... it is the only direction we have ;-) Have a joyous day my friends.
 





 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Deaf No More


What is most important in this time of Idle No More is dialogue. Much of what we think we know about each other was born out of a culture of colonialism. Non-Natives and Natives alike, have deep rooted and for the most part wrongheaded views about the current situation and each other.  We must seek to learn more about each other; listen and hear what the other party (group or individual) is telling us. It is reasonable, even necessary in a dialogue to express your perspective, but be prepared to be educated on points which may be wrong. Looking at a situation from another’s point of view can open whole new worlds of possibility for you.
Last year I spent a month in a town where racism is rampant and self-imposed segregation is the norm.  I came back to Hamilton exhausted…I said I could not live there because it was a constant struggle to enlighten people about each other’s cultures. Someone suggested I should “just ignore it” …with knowledge comes responsibility and it was my responsibility to speak up. I have been blessed, to be close to both the Native and non-Native cultures, so I found myself uniquely qualified to share in that situation.
It is funny but (with the exception of government) everybody with an opinion, seems to think it is time to get rid of the Indian Act. Societies grew and evolved, slaves were freed, then woman were freed now is the time for our Native brothers and sisters to be freed. The first step is to abolish any legislation that prevents equal opportunity and access based on lineage. Both African-Americans and women will tell you, what follows will be decades of growing pains. Struggles to invoke, enforce and enjoy, their new found freedoms.
Will the Natives spring full-blown into a perfect system of self-government and self-reliance?  Most unlikely, since we’ve been working on our system for thousands of years and still have not got a functioning model. But the greatest hope of all is that we can learn from each other. We (individuals, agencies, businesses, institutions and governments) need to share what we know with each other. On many levels Native culture has much to teach us especially around spiritualism, resilience and family. Dialogue is the way in which we share ideas; listening, hearing, and speaking. Keeping our hearts and minds open to learning from each other will make us better people and better neighbours.
I cannot speak to the Black experience but as a woman I can say we made more than a few mistakes when asserting our independence… I guess the biggest, was thinking that to be equal we had to be the same as men. Thankfully we now celebrate the differences. I bring this up because releasing our Native brothers/sisters from the paternalistic constraints of the Indian Act is not going to make them White. Hopefully what will evolve is a strong, proud 21st century Native culture.
 
I look forward to participating in the Canada which will emerge from the shake-up that Idle No More is bringing our way. I will speak more on the individual issues again soon but for now, have a joyous day my friends.

 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Silent no more...


          When I was staying in Edmonton (during my research) I was standing in a lunch line one afternoon and the Native gentleman in front of me turned around, looked me in the eye and said, “ I hate White people… you diddle our children”. My response was, “Yeh, sorry ‘bout that, but nobody invited me in on that decision”.  Like most people, I resent be held accountable for things I had no control over… so we will not spend much (if any) time discussing, residential schools, small-pox conspiracies and all the past atrocities, both accidental and intentional  to colonization. I will affirm that all of these things need to be remembered because they stand as monuments to the strength, beauty and power of the Native people. Every Canadian regardless of race (or arrival date) is responsible for what comes next. This is our country, my country, a country that should stand proudly for social justice, environmental protection and equality for everyone; in an all too often unjust world. That is the Canada I want to live in and that is the future I want to help create. We can all create the Canada we want to be, by the actions we take now. As always ignorance is the enemy… so we each have a responsibility to learn, educate and share.
          The Idle No More movement has created a wonderful opportunity to dialogue on “Native” issues, because the more we learn, the more we come to realize these are HUMAN issues. We all need clean water, we all need a safe place to sleep, we all need food to eat, we all need peace, love and purpose (meaningful work). The Buddha said, "We are all alike in our desire to avoid suffering and embrace happiness," So let's stop making ill informed judgements and try to understand this situation... put ourselves in the other guys shoes/moccasins for a minute.
         When I was staying in Thunder Bay my friend and I, were discussing the land claims issue (Caledonia in particular) and I presented my argument as follows. If you left me to house-sit while you went out of town for the winter (something I actually did for many winters) and I sold the house. How would you feel about that? You come home and find strangers living there and doing extensive (possibly expensive renovations).  Do they get to stay… are you forced to move? After all they bought it in good faith… It’s not like you were actually using the house, you were in Florida. Ponder that for a moment.           Another issue is the validity of the treaties themselves. These were “bad faith” contracts by most legal standards. A contract is more than just a piece of paper signed by two parties. Contracts require a meeting of the minds; both parties must have the same understanding of what is being agreed to… the party initiating the contract has a fiduciary duty to ensure that such is the case. At the time that Canada was being settled there was no such a thing as land ownership in Native culture. Natives believe(d) that we are merely custodians of the earth. I am not saying that either party was deliberately deceitful,  just that neither knew the other’s culture well enough to create a meeting of the minds.
          For anyone whining about the “tax” dollars being handed over to support the Natives, that may be entirely not true. I use tentative language here because although this rings true to me I would require a forensic accountant to verify exactly what is going on. Apparently the monies being paid out to Native Bands is from interest earned on the agreed sums from various treaty settlements.  In White-man’s terms, it would be something like this… Your grandma died and left you $5 million dollars and your parents are in charge of your trust fund. Grandma forgot to put an end date on that. So here you are 40 years old, every time you want anything you have to ask mom, she can approve or withhold the funds. It is your money, it is your life but someone else is dictating every choice you make.  You want to be a balloon vendor, but mom doesn’t understand your priorities, so no… you must live in this city and work at dad’s office or she will cut off your funds.  I bet you would be fighting in court to break the terms of the trust, but if the courts were biased in favour of your parents (friends of the family and all that)… you would have to seek a change of venue. Think of Idle No More as a change of venue, a petition to the court of public opinion.
          I guess this is going become a series of discussions since I try to keep my blogs under a 600 words (I am well in excess of 700 today) and this is a complex subject with many issues that need to be examined  so I will continue this again later. Have a joyous day my friends.