I spent my teen years on the Semiahmoo Peninsula. Twenty years later, I live in Vancouver and, as of recently, I work in smack central Downtown Vancouver two days a week. This means I see lots of homeless people, much more than in my Cambie Village home neighbourhood.
Lately, I’ve been trying to ‘see’ homeless people more, in a way I never have in my life.
This morning, I gave change and crouched down to speak to three of them; just to check in and ask them how they’re doing and where they’re sleeping in this cold snap. All of them were sitting on the sidewalk bundled up in blankets and warm – sort of – clothes.
One of them opened up to me about losing his job in Fort Mac, his daughter being sick; he started crying.
After this, I was walking down Granville Street, asking myself how humanity got to the point that we don’t do everything we can for each other.
I imagined, as I have many times before, about inviting a homeless person to spend a night at my place; but, of course, my judgmental fear is they might steal from me or, more likely, my building would freak out.
I fantasized about demanding a meeting with some provincial minister, telling them how angry I am as a taxpayer that we aren’t doing more. If they need to raise my taxes, do it; I want to do more. Then I started crying as I walked down Granville. I’d never cried walking down a busy street just by thinking of the suffering of others.
It is absolutely heartbreaking – for all of us – but we stuff our feelings down and walk by without even looking.
Don’t applaud me for donating pocket change and talking to homeless people. That’s not why I’m writing this. I’m doing what a normal human’s true feelings tell them to do. Just try to do something to make it better.
The guy who cried told me that just the act of me stopping and talking to him – ‘seeing’ him, as he put it – warmed his heart. I cried again while writing this tonight.
For the love of whatever, let’s try to vote for politicians who don’t entice us with piddly tax cuts and then cut funding or freeze welfare rates for years and years so they fall way behind inflation and the cost of living. Let’s all try to donate monthly to a local organization that focuses on poverty. Let’s give some more change.
Let’s stop and talk to people. Myself included.
Rob Brownridge, Vancouver
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A few hours ago I saw something that both angered and saddened me. I saw a young fellow standing on 32 Avenue under the freeway. His back was to me. I was in the bright sun, so I tooted my horn and got him to approach me…
Many decades ago I was a member of a United Church youth group. We would go out to Riverview to ‘socialize’ with the patients. I did this for two years, so I got to look at the many varied faces of insanity that, back then, was still backward in the treatments that were inflicted on the ‘inmates’. I learned a lot about mental-health issues.
When the young man approached my car, I looked at him with a smile, something I’m not noted for. He was in his early 20s, I think. Looking at him made me think about the total failure of our governments to redress the horrors of drug addiction and mental-health issues.
It is as if we are living in some sort of Dickensian story – poverty, addiction and madness!
No one wants this; no one. Not the cops who deal with this on a daily basis, nor the taxpayers who are footing the bill and suffering through crime. This circle has to be broken, because if we don’t, it is only going to get worse, with more crime, more violence and more heartbreak.
Perhaps the time has come for a new political party to evolve, because the current bunch have all failed miserably in their collective shoulder shrug and the lame excuses – along with plain evasion and the lesser evil, deflection. This is not leadership. This is indifference.
Mark Tyson, Surrey