Small steps in the right direction — ending homelessness

I am being interviewed this morning on CBC Radio about Alberta’s changes to the enforcement of minor offenses. Last week, it was passed into law that the government has put an end to the practice of issuing warrants for unpaid fines for minor infractions such as not shoveling a sidewalk or not paying a transit fare. It is a step in the right direction. I am in favour.

Several years ago, while working at a homeless shelter, I gave a talk about homelessness to a group of 4th year University students. “The challenge for many of individuals experiencing homelessness is that depression is pervasive,” I told them. “It settles into your pores like soot from a chimney, clogging your mind to the possibilities beyond where you’re at. It limits your thinking to being homeless and inhibits your actions to a narrow corridor of activity because in many cases you can’t afford to venture far beyond the confines of the shelter, beyond the limitations of the labels you carry when you’re homeless. ”

One of the students asked me about why so many clients remain in the building during the day. “Don’t they want to get out and at least get some fresh air?” she asked.

Sure they do, I replied. However, when they leave our building they are at risk. If they have an addiction they’re trying to keep clear of, they risk running the gauntlet of dealers standing on the other side of the street, eagerly waiting to lure them into ‘feeling no pain’. They risk condemnation from passers-by who feel it is their right to comment on their obvious lack of economic well-being, and, they risk getting ticketed for a host of infractions that end-up making being homeless criminal.

Read the rest of this post HERE — it appears on my blog today.

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