Hi and Welcome to the A & J PEI Treasures E Jean Simpson Author Blog Post and Podcast. I’m your host, Jean coming to you from the beautiful Province of Prince Edward Island, Canada!! The blog post and podcast is an opinion piece and only reflects this author’s opinion and not that of any other entity. Today’s podcast and blog post centers on a serious crisis we have in the world today. It’s especially a good time to start discussing this as there is an election coming. I’m not political and think only of how Politics can be made a tool for social change. If you want to find out more, stay tuned…
I think I learned something with a crisis that became a developing news story in Atlantic Canada. I hope my thoughts get you thinking or tick you off…either way the Homeless will win because you will know they exist and you will give it some thought. The article I have attached a link to will give you some of the details of the situation, though not everything. (https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/halifax-police-pepper-spray-arrest-protesters-while-removing-temporary-homeless-shelters-1.5551455)
The short story for those not in the know and don’t want to read the news story, Halifax police had to tear down a Homeless area set up by some Activists. It was in a downtown location. It was illegally put up, but somehow the police were to blame. I know that the activists intend to do something to help, but bear with me, there are some issues that it creates and doesn’t solve. There are solutions and they can all be part of it. The comments on articles were not helpful…either one side or the other. So, I’m going to just summarize some of the issues that made themselves apparent to me with the whole thing. You may or may not agree, but at least it will make you think about the Homeless as human beings rather than pawns. First of all, the Activists put up these shelters…obviously do not understand the potential for problems. It is not just housing but also lack of supports and sanitation at the very least. The surrounding rhetoric, if anyone dares to say anything against it, you get the tired old statements of…well, are you putting them on your place? Oh, and the terrors…why didn’t they just take them down (tents) and move them. Ok, first, these people are Homeless…they are not landowners, they are not city dwellers, they have NOWHERE literally to put their tents if they are indeed theirs. Someone else provided them. Homeless don’t figure in much of the political rhetoric, so if we don’t speak for them, who will? Apparently Homelessness does not result in time to make podcasts, blog posts or be involved in political activism…or anything else other than try to survive. The people setting up these things feel like they are doing something, but what are they actually doing? Following are some of the main issues.
- It is illegal to put up these shelters as there is no sanitation, nothing to occupy the time of the people. They aren’t getting jobs while in the tents and they cannot have a clean place to sleep and this doesn’t put food in their mouths nor hydrate them.
- When the police get numerous complaints, they have to consider the issues that are being brought to them. At that point, it starts to be about the created issue and public welfare.
- Then there is the money after money that is spent on ‘shelters’ that have to be taken down. There are already existing charities that you can partner with and do things legally that may add some benefit to the Homeless. If nothing else, at least it will provide some food and water for the Homeless. This money spent on making shacks and buying tents has to come from somewhere while the shelters are desperate for help and money in any form and have to watch the train wreck in progress. I can’t believe that there is one shelter out there that didn’t know it would come down to police action.
- Parks and libraries are often thought of as places for children to visit. How safe is a park that may have discarded items that could be dangerous potentially (needles and other biological waste).
I once lived in Edmonton and I watched as a Church tried to put together a Shelter for Men who were Homeless presumably trying to get back into ‘normal’ life. You would have thought there was a proposal to put in a live bomb. Local people freaked out. Finally the Church had to back down. It was sad. It is sad. The “Not in My Neighbourhood” attitudes are out there. Just try to put a shelter together in a middle class neighbourhood and you’ll see what I mean.
So, once again, another Captain Jack Sparrow “the problem is not the problem”. I’ve worked with people who had been Homeless or next to it. They were students in a college that dealt with adults in need of a High School education and also some Trades and skills courses. These are people who had nowhere to go. Some were First Nations people staying with family member after family member, some were kids or adults getting off the streets and some single mothers. Some were adults wanting to improve their situation and some not Homeless, but simply Grandfathers who wanted to be sure their Grandchildren got an education and so were acting as a role model. There were a variety of people and reasons to attend just like there are a variety of people who find themselves Homeless. Despite counselling, Native Elder involvement, learning disability services and community services as well as the drive of some to succeed, some did not. That is a heart breaking story on its own. However, a lot of the students did succeed. They learned some living skills, got some help for issues, dealt with addictions, with being different, with having learning disabilities, with traumas of street life and with self-esteem issues. It was wonderful to see them grow and take flight. So, this just gives a look at the subsection of the Homeless and near Homeless people. As Joe Maddon said, “People don’t realize how many of the Homeless are single moms, and a lot of veterans, and people with mental illness.” In my humble author opinion, they are People like you and me. But people who have been allowed to fall through the cracks in the system. Some get found and go on to get educated and get off the streets. Treating them like cattle you can crate up and then … oh well, the crates aren’t working and the police have to tear them down…is not a kind option.
There are numerous causes of Homelessness. Ten of these are detailed in this article by Human Rights Careers (https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/root-causes-of-homelessness/). With a large number of causes, then how can we think that only one thing is the issue and only one thing will fix it? Housing is only the tip of the ice berg. We need to think of longer term actions and longer term solutions and work together to make this a better world. The activists need to reach out to the charities. The charities that have worked with the Homeless have a wealth of experience and knowledge and know what can work. They need to help the charities provide proper supports. Government needs to partner with the charities and stop just ‘studying the problem’. Just tossing up housing or even shacks isn’t going to solve the problem. It doesn’t matter whether they are qualified to put up shacks…they need to make sure they are doing something that will give more responsible help. So, what happens when the young activists get frustrated with the ever torn down shacks. They walk and we’re back where we began anyway. Don’t they all deserve the ability to obtain some degree of success? We need to look at having some kind of lasting method of helping the Homeless. Not Band-Aid measures that frustrate the area, the charities, the activists and the police. I’m sure they don’t enjoy tearing down the projects, but they have no choice. The police resources to tear these down also cost money. So everyone loses. Money after money being wasted because people take action upon themselves without simply partnering with the charities and shelters.
Another thing which concerns me about the Activist method is that we have to determine the difference between enabling and helping. If people know that the activists will build a shack if they aren’t interested in getting help or take help offered, then why go to effort. Some people literally have to hit the bottom before they will go for help. So, are we enabling people to die of their issues rather than providing food, support and incentive to improve their lot in life? Are we robbing people of their ability to survive and become who they are meant to be? Are we just letting them continue in a spiral of addictions, or mental illness? Could we show them a better way? Things to think about when someone takes matters into their own hands rather than seeking input from charities. I’m sure, with funds, they could find a way to help more and offer advice that doesn’t end up in a protest and media frenzy. Then after that is over, no one thinks about it again until next time.
I hear the same old sorry saying that some people rather be Homeless than take help because there are strings attached to the help. This is illogical. Who would rather live in the cold and heat and suffer if they could have some place clean to live? Charities work on getting them pointed in the direction of better health. Further, there is NO such thing as NO strings attached housing. There are always strings. You have to either follow the local bylaws, follow what the insurance wants, follow societal rules or you find yourself in trouble. So, there is absolutely no such thing as no strings attached to any way of life. This includes the shacks and tents because when there are enough complaints, the police have to take them down. People scream…then there is choosing sides and no one ends up doing anything to resolve it. No one pushes the Government to do anything about it, because of course there are more ‘important’ things to place money on. What they don’t get is these are human beings. They are not cattle, they are not pawns and they are not ‘less important’. If they dealt with the problems and provided proper housing even rooms, proper help and proper resources, they might be able to end this problem. But again, everyone would have to work together. Government need to partner with charities and activists in order to deal with the whole picture not just one portion. It would be worth seeing what having proper resources in general would do to end Homelessness. I mean up front before the child gets kicked out, before the youth goes into the streets before the addiction takes over. That’s a whole new area of thought and far from the purview of this blog/podcast.
I worked for a place that does some humanitarian work to help the Homeless. The first thing they did was partner with the local shelters. That might have been the most important thing they did. The hospital and clinics in the area were involved. There were a bunch of different things involved. It wasn’t the end to Homelessness, but they made sure that the Homeless got humane treatment. They were treated like people with as much respect as possible. It was an honour to work with them. So, you have a voice, you have knowledge. You have an election coming soon in Canada. Start asking the hard questions of the politicians. We need to deal with Homelessness but we can’t get that done unless people who do have a vote care enough to use it to help those who may or may not get a vote. Oh many say, I already give to charity. I already support a shelter. That’s great. They need your support and that means to support them with your votes and ask the politicians the hard questions. Keep forcing it into the daylight. Everyone deserves a safe, clean place to live. But, the place to live doesn’t address the addictions, learning barriers, mental illnesses or whatever else led to the Homeless status. They aren’t generally born Homeless…something happens along the way and they become Homeless. So go out and ask your local politicians what they are going to do for the actual Homeless. We need to insist on having the Homeless treated with every bit as much respect as anyone else.
I know many will notice that I spell Homeless with a capital ‘H’. I do this on purpose to call attention to the fact that you are dealing with a group of Human Beings and not just a term. They are diverse as are all groups. You can’t cure a diverse problem with a Band-Aid. I know the Activists want to cure the problem, but they can’t do it by themselves and neither can the charities. They need to partner with the existing charities and with Government. If we can get people in places to live and encourage them to be the best they can be, then there is a good chance that many will also become voters, tax payers, and citizens. We all need to do whatever we can. Some donate, some volunteer, some point out the issues and suggest solutions. We all have a part to play. Make your part count for as much as you can!
Thanks for listening to my podcast and/or reading my blog post and thanks for your interest in A & J PEI Treasures!
Just one more thing. I have one of my children’s e-books up for a 2021 TCK award Category is General Non-Fiction. https://www.tckpublishing.com/2021-readers-choice-voting-page/ The Big Kids Magical Path to Colours in Nature (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093K2FN4M/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_GBTXKZW5EVAX2C92PCY1). If you have a moment, we could use some votes.
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