Today is World Homeless Awareness Day.
I’m excited about what the day will bring (I love starting my day with excited anticipation!)
At 11:30 people from across the homeless serving sector will join with Calgarians from every walk of life to learn and engage and find out how they can make a difference to ending homelessness in our city.
Affordable housing is the key.
That’s the theme of our events and now, more than ever, the reality of that statement drives home the dire circumstances of affordable housing in our city.
Our rental market vacancy rate is less than 1%. A typical two bedroom is over $1250 (and that was before the flood in June). It is not a good situation for anyone looking to rent — and for those on the margins, it’s even tougher. Low rent housing in Calgary is at disastrously low levels. Where once agencies working with low income and homeless individuals to help them find housing took about 30 days, it now takes over 90 days to find something — if they can find anything at all.
That’s why at 11:30 today we’re gathering at Olympic Plaza where Mayor Naheed Nenshi will be kicking off the event.
Yesterday, as I was pulling together speaking notes to send over to his office, I read through the statements youth had made regarding homelessness. the Youth Sector will be there today handing out lollipops with tags that read: Homelessness sucks because…
It was the statements they’d written that grabbed my attention and reminded me of why we must do this work, why we must not stop.
Homelessness sucks because…
You got no friends and family
You’re always dirty
People think you’re lazy or just don’t work hard enough to get a home
It’s a dog eat dog world out there and you just can’t trust nobody.
It ages you real fast.
These are our children. These are someone’s daughter, sister, cousin, friend. Some arrive at the street at the age of 12, running from a life we can’t imagine, even in our worst nightmares.
Some know things I will never know about pain, fear, abuse, horror. Some have experienced things I can not even imagine. Some, are already so broken by life’s tragedies their journey ends before it even begins.
And still, these are our children.
They deserve better.
And we can do better.
Homelessness isn’t a dream come true. It’s a nightmare that won’t end.
It’s a daily drudge of fear and worry and instability. It doesn’t matter how well we treat people experiencing homelessness. The experience of homelessness sucks.
As I read the messages these kids had written on the labels, my heart felt heavy and my mind whirled in a frenzy to understand, to grasp, to make sense of their lives. Why do we keep doing this to our children? Why do we destroy their lives before they even begin.
Sure, I can say — I didn’t do this _______________________ and name the particular misdeed that a parent somewhere acted upon their child.
But in fact, we did. We are all culpable if only through our silence, our turning a blind eye, our judgements and our criticisms of others. Our unwillingness to get involved, or perhaps simply because we don’t know what to do and so take the path of least resistance — to do nothing.
When kids hit the streets, it’s because they’ve learned, where ever they’re at was not safe. It’s not because they think the street is the only place to be, or that it’s glamorous or fun (though they may imagine that to be true before they hit its dark reality). They hit the streets because somewhere along the road, they didn’t get what they needed to feel safe, to feel secure and loved and wanted and worthy.
Kids hit the streets because they are running from something awful not towards something better.
They don’t find their answers on the street. They find more of what they already had — fear, abuse, fighting, instability, insecurity, drugs, violence, and so many other things not one of us would wish upon our children.
It isn’t until they find caring people in places that care, like the Boys & Girls Club and Avenue 15 and Exit and The Alex and CUPS and a whole host of other agencies who are fighting for the lives of these kids because… well because at this point, no one else is.
Today is Homeless Awareness Day.
We’ll be gathering at 11:30 at Olympic Plaza. If you can’t do anything else today — come and join us. Come and add your voice to the call for affordable housing. Come and find out what you can do to make a difference in ending homelessness in our city.
And to all my co-members of Face it Calgary!, to my amazing co-workers at CHF and the members of CACHH and the hundreds of people working and volunteering to end homelessness, Thank you! You inspire me.
Today is also — World Mental Health Day — National Depression Screening Day — and if you haven’t taken the test yet…. do! It takes less than 5 minutes and taking good care of our mental health is important. It starts with knowing where we’re at. Click this LINK.