Lost In The Shelter Issue … The Homeless



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.

Right, Mathieu?

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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8 thoughts on “Lost In The Shelter Issue … The Homeless

  1. “If they really wanted homes, they would most likely find a home. ”

    Yeah, I’m gonna call you on that. If you’re a homeless person with mental health and addiction problems and relying on panhandling and Ontario Works’s $720 / month to feed yourself and your addiction… just how are you going to find a home? What landlord will rent to you? The cheapest thing I could find on Kijiji was a hotel room in gatineau for $100 / week.

    That’s right up there with “anyone who wants to work can find a job”.

      1. Ken,
        I am not going to get upset with your reply to Bob – yet.

        I hope you are aware that many can’t find a home because they have problems that cause them to be unable to want a home. Mental health distorts priorities and reality.

        A helping hand , a meal and a bed from a kind face (like the Salvation Army) is all they may need and all they can understand.

        My wife and I are getting older and a few years back we started to worry about who would look after our son when we can no longer do so. We enrolled our son into a program to try to develop his life skills but after a year he was accessed as incapable of living on his own.

        He has no concept of cooking, eating or looking after a worldly environment because he doesn’t live in our reality. We will look after him until we die and then another family member has committed to taking over.

        He will never “want” a home on his own because he doesn’t think that way. That concept is beyond his ability to understand. Not everyone can be normalized into living what you and I consider normal.

        1. Chaz:

          I recognize that.

          There are people who cannot take care of themselves.

          I guess what I’m trying to say, unsuccessfully it appears, is that in there own way these people are capable.

          They are capable of surviving on their own but their needs are much different from ours.

          Most don’t want homes. They want to be with their friends, dysfunctional as they may be.

          Many don’t want a home because they don’t want to be alone. That frightens them more than anything.



          1. I agree with you Ken, they are survivors. Housing is not as important to them as a sense of belonging is and definitely not more important than their addiction.

            1. Kosmo:

              The Dirty Dozen I met just wanted some food, some drink and their friends.

              I didn’t hear one of them say they wanted a home. I doubt any of them could handle such a dwelling.

              They have enough trouble holding on to their OHIP cards.

              Sad but true. We think that these people would like homes. Not necessarily.

              Humans are social creatures. They don’t want to be alone in a room with a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.



          2. Ken,
            I thought that was your thinking. It came across in your opinion piece but not in your reply to Bob.
            There are many reasons for a person to be homeless.

            Some do want a home but there are waiting lists to get into something affordable, shelters are needed here.
            Some live a different reality, as you just stated, and shelters provide a needed service here, too.

            So, yes we do need affordable housing and group homes too but the friends and care offered at a Salvation Army shelter are needed too. We can not force a person into a group home or subsidized housing AND we can’t ignore their plight.

            I have zero empathy for neighbourhoods that fear a reduction in property values. Fear is not danger. It is a feeling that something might happen. Fear is for fools.

            I see that the plan shows a new building that is 1,000-per-cent better than what is there now and I trust that the Salvation Army will do a fantastic job of running it.

            If the neighbourhood wants fear, then just wait ’til I buy the motel and run it as a cheap motel. That will give them something to fear.



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