Blogs by Patrick Joesph Schnerch
5/11/2009 3:22:08 AM
Homelessness is not a public choice. Much of those conditions and situations that a child is exposed to as a todler perpetuated into a life of dispair as they reach adulthood.
The seeds were planted in the family home. Our neglect allowed this to flourish into social deterioration. It starts early in their lives usually caused by some sort of trauma that was never dealt with properly. Family breakups, substance abuse or violence is very damaging to a child.
Without a proper start in life, chances are that other problems will develop and follow them to their grave unless there is an intervention. This could be from an observant neighbour, teacher or coach. We all share the responsibility for the welfare of our children.
Right from the very begging, our neglect, ignorance and failure to get involved perpetuates into larger problem as the child grows older. Then we have adult problems like substance abuse, crime and homelessness.
We blame our street people for their situation and we believe that it was a personal choice to be traumatized, abused and outcaste into the cruel lonely reality of the streets. We donít like their appearance, behaviour or attitude towards life. These hardened souls had no choice but to turn to stone.
We believe that they are lazy, ungrateful and disrespectful of others and property. The outer shell may display some of these characteristics, but they were never given the opportunity to grow. Many had their childhoods taken away from them at a very young age left to defend themselves alone and scared. We were not there for them when they needed us the most, now they are adults and we despise them.
Where were social services, counseling, or psychologists? Now they need detox, policing and a home. We did not grow as a society. How can we expect for them to do the same?
What goes around comes around. Emergency room waits, crime, high taxes and homelessness are inevitable. Look who is calling the kettle black? We call them lazy and we fail to recognize that we spend most of our spare time in front of the television or computer. We think they are disrespectful, check your attitude at the door before you open your big mouth. As for being non-caring, we are the ones that allow them to die on our streets.
They never stood a chance; many had the deck stacked against them since their conception. We are disgusted with the views in front of soup kitchens, emergency shelters or homeless drop-in centres, but are not willing to do anything to change it. You would have been more humane to have shot the next you saw child in the head than to push them into the cracks of society only to die a horrible death anyway. Those may be harsh words, but they do not even come close to the reality on the streets.
We see only what we want to see. Mayor and Council canít be as blunt as I can. Then again, you donít listen to them anyway. If you donít like what I say, prove me wrong. From what I see in Downtown Victoria, you have one mean task ahead of you. The funny thing is that it is not impossible to do if you only want to. If it means that my books will be used as fuel for a bonfire on Douglas Street provoking you to take action against homelessness, I would be a very happy man.
Public announcements, newspaper articles and news broadcasts have never provoked a society to put out a helping hand to our most vulnerable ever before. The sad thing about this is that what I am saying is the honest truth and that really hurts.
I would much rather have you hate me than at a homeless person. I am only one person. Hatred against a whole community is unforgiving. We have the power turn this situation around if we want to. By joining forces and acting a unit, homelessness would be a thing of the past. Governments, institutions and the general public must cooperate and work diligently to make the cityís plan work.
There are no heroes, personal gratification or monetary value in doing this; it is for the sake of your own city and of its people, including the most vulnerable. This is what we were always supposed to do. We have to tear down wall, mend bridges and compromise. Being greedy and selfish such as we have always been in the past must change.
It will take a lot of time, effort and money to accomplish our goal, but what we need the most is will. If you care about your city, you must become part of it. The Coalition, mayor and system are doing their part. It is time for us to do ours and support them. There is no magic bullet; it will take a lot of work.
We donít need expensive studies to tell us what to do. We already know what has to be done. All we have to do is do it. The solution is simple. If it means for me to become public enemy number one, so be it. If the financial investment of one person can stir the pot, maybe we can all eat the stew.
Itís time to bury the hatchet. We must put aside our differences and fears and help each other out. Our homeless and needy are people too. They all need hope, respect and love just like we do. They are not expendable and it is time that we realize this.
Some of them may be more difficult to reach than others and some will refuse the olive branch. We must ensure that when they are ready to accept our help that we will always be there. This is the best we can do.
Donít fall victim to negative media. This is what sells stories and makes money. It is a fact of life that many city streets in the world are very ugly and even dangerous to enter. Poverty is the number one cause of social deterioration. People steal to get money, some use drugs and alcohol to forget the day before and there are even those who kill each other for various reasons.
A poor neighbourhood will definitely be a breeding ground for such activities. Ghettos, low-income neighbourhoods, and racially segregated areas of the city are the outcome of a capitalist system that does not work. Again, we ignore these areas and people and move to Beverly Hills. It is difficult to say what system works or not. Some are dictatorship, communist or martial law.
All of these systems including capitalism have their flaws. In some places the agony is short and abrupt while in others, you rot in a life of despair. You could die by the sword or die from exposure, disease and hunger. Victoria is the latter, but certainly isnít much better of the two.
Victoria is forming similar patterns to other cities and countries with larger populations than us. We still have a little time to change it all around, but the warning signs are already here. Victoria still has a chance, but we must act quickly before it all spins out of control.
If you donít like what you see in Downtown Victoria, imagine another Eastside in the neighbourhood. Look at Rock Bay or even Esquimalt. The ingredients are there for trouble because of our segregation mentality. Low-income causes social despair. People try any means possible to get fast money either through prostitution or crime. Want-to-be-gangs organize and claim territory to maintain their drug habits.
I would not bet my bottom dollar on someone that came out of the foster care system to become a scholar. It is not to say that it could not happen, but the likelihood is next to nil. We had our own tragedy with the murder of teenager Rena Virk back ten or more years ago.
The problem starts with us and perpetuates throughout the city and congregates in the downtown core. We donít like dirty clothes, drunken behaviour or rude comments and that is enough to scare us away. There are a lot of great people under those harsh exteriors; those are the ones we need to help. Donít wait until they die. Do something now. Give Reverend Al ten dollars and he will make a soup and sandwich up with a bottomless cup of coffee for some forgotten soul.
There are long range goals, but you could do something for the now like support the Open Door or Salvation Army and many more just like the Mustard Seed. We can work for today as well. The people that we judge, label and are repulsed by need your help now. We have to look under the rough exterior to see its beauty.
We have to look past the dirt, ill behaviour and sometimes challenging attitudes to help these people. This is just superficial. There are the damaged hearts of little boys and girls under those hardened shells.
From diverse backgrounds and experiences that these people endured in their lives, it took a heavy toll on their hearts and souls. It is our responsibly to spark hope in their lives and give them a reason for being. Everyone has a purpose in life, sometimes we have to work a little harder to find it.
Victoria has to find its heart again. This situation may be economic, political or socially challenging, but nothing will ever happen without a caring heart. This book series covers a wide range of situations, reasons and solutions to our problems, but we must not forget our spiritual duties to our fellow human being. It starts with a welcoming smile. Donít forget to smile.
We cannot paint a picture with a broad brush. Our needy are diverse and special in their own way. They all have different wants and needs. Some are more challenging than others and some are not ready to move on to the future. We all have to be patient and respect their individual choices. It all boils down to respect. No two people are the same, no matter where they came from, what they do or who they are. We have all earned our place to live here. Unfortunately, many donít have the basics needs or rights to do so.
As a whole society, we have to learn get along with each other for one person is not any better than another. We all breathe, feel and bleed red. If you do not respect a particular person, then you must at least respect basic life itself. Everyone deserves to be.
When you are asked for spare change, you do not have to oblige at all. A kind smile and a few gentle words are more than sufficient. If you see garbage strewn about in front of the emergency shelter and are disgusted by the sight. Pick up that trash and dispose of it properly. Donít judge people by their actions or behaviours, show by example. This is much more effective.
If confronted in a challenging manner, concede to their wishes and walk away with your life. The world is much more different that it was half a century ago. We must adapt to these changes and learn more about them for the betterment of all. We must educate ourselves about the powers of addiction, mental illness and poverty even if we are not personally affected.
These conditions are infiltrating our streets and it is only a matter of time before you experience the effects of these conditions on a personal level. In todayís society we must become literate in sociology, politics and psychological sciences to survive. Human behaviour is being dictated by the time and circumstance. We must be ready to face some of these challenges in this ever changing world. To keep peace, we have to make peace.
The logical way to do this is to observe, learn and adjust. No flared tempers, violent confrontations or discriminatory remarks, only an open mind and heart will grant you another day on this earth.
This is not to say that there are no dangers on Victoria streets, they are there. We can however educate our selves of these dangers and work together in eliminating them in a civil manner. This is where addiction recovery, affordable housing and poverty must be aggressively addressed and acted upon. The violence will subside if we act towards easing these other elements.
This is not at time to lash out from fear, ignorance or discrimination. We are a very intelligent society and have the resources available to make Victoria a safe, welcoming a prosperous tourist city as it once was before.
We cannot look at what is happening downtown and throw our hands up in the air and walk away anymore or avoid the area totally. As a society, we must work together and take back our streets and improve the lives of everyone on them including you. Would you not enjoy taking your family to your favorite play downtown in the evening with the guaranteed insurance that you will be safe and have a wonderful night?
This is not an impossible dream. We can make this happen. We can take back the nights if we so desire. Are you going to continue to let a downtown community of 1,500 people control and dictate your lives? You can stop this with reverse psychology. If we help them to live independent and productive lives again, we can all enjoy the great City of Victoria.
The next time you see a drunken person pushing their way through the crowd and swearing obscenities, donít become defensive. Use youíre your mind and compassion as your shield.
You may not like what you see on Victoria streets, but the answer is not to avoid them but to embrace them. This is the only way to fight ignorance, discrimination and fear of our most vulnerable.
If you donít like the way things are going, change it. We have the power to do it. We are much too smart not to know any better. The streets may be on the touch of the ugly side now, but without our participation and cooperation it will only get worse and will quickly get out of control. This is why it is so critical to buck up now and act.
By next year, there will be 450 more homeless people on the street and will multiply that number every year after that until we take aggressive action to stop it. If you donít like the way things are now, you certainly will not like it later. The ball is in motion, what are we going to do?
You donít like dirty clothes or aggressive attitudes, what are you willing to do to change it. It is only us who have the power to change; we have no control over any one individual. We have the power to change a situation which may influence others to follow suit. It does not matter who you are, you do not have the power over another individualís personal will. You can change the environment and situation that will influence a personís will and actions, but you canít change them personally.
Instead of playing catch with a time bomb, you can substitute the item with a football. Automatically, the game changes from life threatening to be enjoyable. Donít poke the eye of a rabid dog with a stick; you are only looking for trouble. Donít tempt the situation; work with it in a positive and productive manner. Many successes start in our own backyard. Start at the grassroots where the problem actually dwells. Only then do we have the chance of ending homelessness in Victoria or any other city in the world.
We donít have to personally like a person to offer a helping hand. The love for mankind will see you through your differences. The man on the other side of the knife is only a man, even after death, love will see you through. You live like a man and die like a man. That is a gift that we were all given, now can you love like a man?
There is ugliness in every walk of life and can be as close as in the family home. In fact, this is be it always starts, no exceptions. We donít know what happens behind closed doors and drawn drapes, but we can imagine the terror felt in a childís heart. This will follow them to their grave. It may be suicide, exposure, disease or drug overdose, the methods are many, but the reason is always the same. Their hope was taken away from them.
How in our right minds can we discriminate, neglect and fear lost hope? Where is our compassion? Inside every man and woman is a heart. How can we ignore that fact? We do and that is one of the saddest parts about our society. My anger towards society is very deep and I have shared some of my feelings with you. Some of you may sympathize with my anger and even understand it. My love for human life is sincere, no matter whom you are. I might show my anger, but it doesnít stop me from loving you.
Anger is a normal emotion and if used in a positive and productive method is actually quite admirable and respected. The world has no more room for negativity or violence. When I am angry, I write and publish a book. You have the choice to read it or not. Sometimes, I seem volatile and unpredictable. I believe that I have earned my right to feel that way.
I love beggars, prostitutes and criminals. I see no difference between them and you. I may not appreciate their actions, but I still respect them as human beings. This is an art to learn to see beyond the rough exteriors, but we must do this if we are to survive and live among each other.
I believe that this is a major hurdle for Victoria or any other city in the world. We have to look past the shell and see the heart. It is one thing to want to help our most vulnerable; it is a completely different thing actually doing it. We are very judgmental by what we see and are too overwhelmed to see the truth.
Our problem on the streets will never ease without dropping these assumptions and quick judgments. The homeless problem goes much deeper than the political, economical or social elements. This is a critical part of actually gaining some ground in helping our neighbours on the street. By helping them, we are actually helping ourselves as well.
This is something that the cityís five year plan to house and support 1,550 people in five years did not fully incorporate into the project. They did include Faith in Action as a partner to incorporate a spiritual element to the plan, but must be become much more involved to get to the heart of the matter. It starts with each individual, one person at a time. This does not have to be characterized by any one organized religion; it deals directly on a moral issue. Life emanates from the heart and the soul of an individual.
To help a person, it has to be on a personal level. It has to be free from barriers and have the power of flexibility. We have to do this 1,550 times for the plan to become a true success. This is a critical component that has not been readily exercised in the past. As you see from this book series that homelessness and social deterioration is a very complex situation. We have to replace their pain for a bed and a hot meal. It all starts with being fulfilled with the basic needs of life. First and utmost, homelessness is a moral issue long before it is political, economic or social.
Most homeless initiatives do not include this vital component. It is much more than just providing affordable housing. As a society we must learn this. This is quite simple actually; it all starts with a gentle smile not a cheque book. We spent billions of dollars towards trying to ease the effects of homelessness with little to no success at all. It is obvious that money alone will not work.
Victoriaís plan does include a much better personal interaction and intervention with our needy and it works. We are on the right track; more attention on a one to one basis is the first step to success. We canít all be like Reverend Al Tysick or Rose Henry, but we can all support them and the Coalition.
The City of Victoria has a great plan and there are a lot of pleasant victories along the way. Unfortunately these victories are overshadowed by crisis and are not visibly seen in Downtown Victoria.
We look at the streets of Victoria; there is a lot of greatness. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. There are many hidden treasures under those dirty clothes and the desperate behaviours of a few.
Unfortunately throughout the years, Victoriaís heart has turned to stone. Morals are replaced with judgments and assumptions. Homelessness is the result of a damaged spirit, both being of our most vulnerable and us. Love has been taken over by discrimination, ignorance and unwarranted fear. This is very obvious for we still allow homeless people to die on the street.
We let our personal feelings get in the way of progress. A man is man, any way you look at it. He is nothing more and nothing less. Let him be the premier of the province or the panhandler on Douglas Street, they are both human beings who deserve the same rights and freedoms as of any other Canadian.
To be housed and fed is a basic Canadian right. In Victoria we have to learn and accept that fact. Until we relieve of ourselves of the stigma, we will always live in a world of fear. With this fear, discrimination surely follows.
Before the city and Coalition can move forward with the plan, they need the support and participation of the people. There is no viable reason why this is not happening. Public awareness about these conditions and up-to-date information of the cityís progress implementing the plan should be common knowledge.
Lack of media support conveying this information to the public is disheartening. Jody Paterson is doing all she can in which always had fantastic results. Unfortunately, the coverage from day-to-day is non-existent. There still are a lot of things going on in relation to homelessness in Victoria, but the stories are not money makers. The city and Coalition is short on finances ad resources to provide this awareness and information to the public thus being stymied by this fact.
It does seem that the public is not interested to know more about this situation. The system is well aware of the repercussions of this neglect when addressing homelessness in Greater Victoria, but the people do not feel the sense of urgency of this issue.
Communication through normal channels is watered down so that it is politically correct and will not offend anyone. This method of delivering information does not work on our society. We have to drop the bar a few notches before we can expect the people to comprehend and act. No one listens to politicians or bureaucrats anymore.
The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness Society has a lot on their plate right now and do not have much time or money to provide this information to the public. Not only does this book series provide important information, it also is inclined to stir the pot and push a few buttons. To get people to listen, we must induce high blood pressure and emotions. Whether in offense or defense, the issue must reach the heart and soul of the public.
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