OK, explain this to me because I don’t get out much.
Once I did a series of stories for the Citizen on a group of about 11 men and one woman who lived under the Laurier Avenue bridge.
The city solved this homeless problem by fencing in the site so that no one, particularly the homeless, could get back in. Which, of course, in the dead of winter is the best time to do it because they can’t immediately find a warm place to sleep and some will die. No DND building warm-air vent in Confederation Park. See? Everyone wins. The city doesn’t have a homeless problem there, the roads people don’t need to cleaned up and people don’t need to see the sadness anymore. Yes, yes … everyone wins but the homeless people but in city terms, who cares about them? … you know just the Salvation Army and The Mission and other losers like them.
Shelter workers called them The Dirty Dozen and never have I been among a more giving and welcoming group of people. Certainly much more fun and engaging than city council (I would add the mayor but so far this post has been mayor-free. Ah that the city could be that way). I remember one morning they had received their walking-around money so everyone offered me a swig of Bright’s 75. When you think about how addicted these people are, offering me a drink is an unbelievably generous thing to do. But then they are people, too.
They were like a family, a very dysfunctional family, but a family nevertheless. When one would OD, they would call 911. When one of them hanged himself from a tree near the bridge, someone wrote a tribute to him and stuck it on the tree.
One 18-year-old young man who lived there, he had been in 17 foster homes throughout his youth and thus never had a chance, loved this concrete world with its vomit, feces and filth. “I cry for this place when I’m in jail,” Carrot Top said.
Another man said he stayed on the street because that was where his friends and peers resided. You see, more than food and comfort, these people craved companionship love. Maybe the Beatles were right.
Yet another said that his worst fear was sitting in a room with a bare light bulb and being alone.
So this is why I need an explanation because I don’t know much.
Why do I keep hearing from experts that finding homes for these people is much more cost-efficient and humane than putting them in shelters?
They don’t want homes. They want friends and love. If they really wanted homes, they would most likely find a home. Just like they can find a drink no matter what.
I would ask The Dirty Dozen about this but no doubt all of them are dead now. HIV is the ultimate cure for homelessness. A reporter told me about a year after I wrote the series that even young Carrot Top was in pretty bad shape in hospital. Probably had something to do with not following the Canada Food Guide.
So I don’t understand homeless people like the experts and accordingly, I’m confused.
The experts say these people need homes. But from my observations what the homeless really want is a place with their friends, a drink, a laugh and some love.
I hope the people of Vanier when the Sally Ann shelter arrives on Montreal Road can find it in their hearts to accept these sad people.
All they need is love.
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