Activism · Addiction · Homelessness · Homelessness · Lifestyle

Don’t worry, if you read this, you wont catch ‘Poor’.

Tent City in Victoria BC. Photo by CBC News Victoria. Tent City is no more, but most are still homeless.

Some of you may have experienced homelessness in your life but probably most of you have not. I have found that people who haven’t experienced losing everything or going without the basic life necessities, are much less sympathetic or empathetic to the situation. I’m not generalizing ALL people, but it is the majority. I don’t blame you for it, either. But, I feel like it’s time that people educate themselves about the homeless and low income population – because right now we are in a crisis and people are closer than ever to losing it all.

It’s unbelievable how many people that I know who were solid and made good money who are now just one pay check away from being homeless. This is a big problem. The cost of living goes up every year, but the wages are not going up enough to compete with it. Rents are sky high and single people are no longer able to rent an apartment on their own – nevermind owning. The small percent of people who are “rich” and can afford any cost are very few and far between.

A Person sleeps with their belongings in Victoria BC – photo by Peninsula News Review. This is a common sight in downtown Victoria.

There is a stigma amongst the homeless and low income population, that they are lazy, alcoholics or drug addicts, they should ‘just get a job’. While this is true for some, it is not all. Many have mental health issues and other disabilities preventing them from working. Many have debilitating depression and anxiety. Many have chronic pain from traumas of the past. But one thing that every single one has in common is that they have been made to feel worthless. Less than human. Did you know that if you don’t have a home address, you are not allowed to get government issued photo ID? This hinders any progress they could make because you need ID to do just about anything.

I can vouch for this treatment, as I have experienced it first hand. People have grabbed there kids and told them to ‘walk faster’. Some people will move their bodies in such a way that they make it really obvious they are trying not to touch you. Some people will literally cross the street to get away from you. Instead of asking people for money we collect cans. Sometimes people laugh at us. Sometimes people say “gross” or make other disrespectful comments. Without even trying to collect them – just picking them up along the route I’m walking everyday – we will make between $50 and $80 per week. That is taking NO time out of my day to do it because we are already walking somewhere to begin with. To me that is a lot of money and totally worth picking up some cans and have some rude people make some comments here and there. This even still happens now sometimes and I just say “You can’t catch poor!”

Our Place Society – Victoria BC – Photo by OakBayNews. Our Place is a place where homeless, and low-income all over the city can come get together with others get resource help and eat for free – ALL DAY! There are also low income apartments above it, which is great, but hard to get in to.

Last week – October 13 – 19th 2019 – was Homelessness Action Week. That is what has made me write about this. It’s taken me about a week to figure out what I wanted to say in this post because I’m hoping that people who are reading this are people who maybe could learn from it.

If you have ever been one of those people who have made rude comments or disrespected a homeless or low-income person – it’s okay. You can always change that thought. Not all homeless people are stupid. Not all homeless people are homeless because of their own actions. Not all homeless people are on drugs or alcoholics – although a lot are and that is not because they just want to do drugs, but because they are trying to forget something awful in their life. We have all had traumas in our lives. We’ve all hit rock bottom. We have all thought about suicide. And think about it next time someone wants to be rude or disrespectful to a homeless or low-income person. They could be so close to the edge that it just takes that ONE comment to have them jump off. Instead send a smile their way or say hello! Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world to have SOMEONE be nice to you. Even if it’s just a smile.

Cool Aid society in Victoria has many low – income supported housing buildings and they also have resources for just about anything you need. Including Doctor’s office, Pharmacy and Dental clinic.

We are all human and we all deserve to be treated respectfully – regardless of our situations. See what kind of programs and resources your city has for these people. Some cities don’t have anything. Maybe you can be someone who can help!

Thank you for reading. It means a lot to me.

Be Brave. Be Kind. Be True. Be you. and Stay Safe.

Carly Leigh