I recently made this post, which started me thinking about what could be done to solve the homelessness and poverty a great number of people live in, and here I am talking about in developed countries, not the third world, that is a completely different problem.
I think there is a difference between poverty and homelessness, though often the two are very connected.
I can only speak to what I know, and as I live in the Vancouver area, that is what I will consider.
In the early eighties our government in all its wisdom, decided to close the main psychiatric hospital, and initiate a ”Back To The Community” policy. The idea being that those released from the facility would be given housing, with support to manage their lives, especially the taking of their medication. Good in theory, disastrous in practice. This has been tried in many cities around the world and rarely works. It takes a high number of support people to do so. Very quickly it started to fall apart, and a homeless population started.
Recently our government have said it has identified a number of people who they admit, really need to live in a supervised setting! Not a surprise.
The second group who have been identified as homeless, are those who are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. Drug use is a major problem now, and I am not going to attempt to say how that can be addressed, I don’t have the knowledge or the skills to do that.
There are also a number of people who are homeless because they have lost their jobs, or have jobs, but where they don’t earn enough to pay the exceptionally high rents of Vancouver. One thing we do desperately need here, is more social or affordable housing. This is a known issue, but though some inroads have been made, it is still woefully lacking.
Poverty obviously, is a major component in the above mentioned groups, but it also a component of a number of families who though they have housing, can barely, if even that, meet other needs, such as food and clothing
I worked within the school system as a nurse for four years, mostly on the North Shore, but also in Vancouver itself. Poverty exists in every postal code, in many instances, to a level hard to believe if you haven’t seen it yourself. I also worked as a volunteer in the school system as a tutor. There I learned that poverty comes in many forms. It is not just food and clothing, but the poverty of the mind, of the very spirit in some children, that in some ways I found harder to witness.
So the question raised in my previous post was, are we all responsible on a personal level to help those who are homeless or living in poverty? I believe we are. I believe we can choose not to do so, but that doesn’t mean the responsibility isn’t ours. In a comment in that post, I mentioned the “It Take A Village To Raise A Child” mindset, I think it does. We rarely raise our children in isolation. They have coaches for different activities, teachers at school, priests, pastors etc. the list goes on. If we who can, provide our children with others to help them in their growth to adulthood, why should that help be denied to children of those who are homeless or who live in poverty?
The ideal would be to be able to help the adults in poverty, and they in turn aid their children, but there is a cycle to poverty, and I think in some cases helping the adults, becomes a cycle of its own. Where that is the case, I believe we need to target the children. They need the aid and support to see that life can be different. In practical terms, they need not to be allowed to fall though those very wide cracks. They need people who will be there to aid them the whole way, until they can function fully on their own.
Homelessness and Poverty are two different things, but are often connected, that being said where is my responsibility? What can I do?
There are numerous organizations begging for money, but even more, they need volunteers, to get involved. If you live in the Vancouver area you know them, it would be impossible not to. The food bank is always short in an area where many of us never have to worry about our grocery bill. Supermarkets have donation tickets at their check-out stands, and the food bank can do more with your $2 ticket than you can give with donations of actual food. Imagine if all of us who could, added that ticket each week we shopped!
There are schools where some children can’t afford schools supplies or don’t have the money for special trips or programs, some of us could support in that area.
There are programs where people are needed to mentor a child in different ways, perhaps with homework. I once worked with a child, who was an ESL student. None of her family spoke English, and culturally they didn’t mix with others, the child only left the house to go to school. My job was to help with spoken English, but I quickly learned she had no experience outside of her home for even simple things, no interactions with other to help her to describe what she saw. We got permission from the family, for me to take her out in the immediate area for the period I spent with her. She was shy to begin with, but in time she started to get the idea. I spent several years with her, and she became the first in her family to go to college, that then opened the door for her younger siblings. Her mind and spirit were being fed, and it changed her view of the world. Now it wasn’t just me, there were others, but just giving her that time helped so much.
We can be more vocal at lobbying our politicians to address the homelessness, why vote for a party when we know that won’t be a priority for them.
When developers, initiate another building project, are we asking if there is a percentage of social housing included, I’ve done that, and was looked at as if it was something never even heard of. More developers are doing it, but it is still rare that the outcome is as promised.
I guess what I am saying is we can all get involved in some way, if everyone did, I think it would make a huge difference.
In my last post I also mentioned the death of Tim Jones. He was a man who saw a need and filled it. He saw where lives were being lost and created a search and rescue unit, many around the world are now modeled on. He wasn’t paid to do this, he was a volunteer. What if he hadn’t done it? What if he decided it wasn’t his job to do that. Tim Jones was huge, a larger than life figure, who did so much above and beyond what he needed to do. There are countless stories, but one that hit me at the time, was the rescue of a man, who while snowshoeing fell off a cliff. NSR were called, but the weather had turned for the worse. They could have lowered supplies to the man, but Tim Jones and another went down on the long line with the supplies. They stayed with the man for two days and nights, until it was safe to get them out. Is it any wonder that on Saturday, there will be a parade with honours, followed by a Celebration of the Life of Tim Jones?
We can’t all be a Tim Jones, but when it comes to those who are homeless or who live in poverty, there is something each of us can do, no matter how small, it will make a difference. If we are to share this planet with others, are we not in some way responsible for there welfare?