There was a young man at the Homeless Awareness Day event we held at Olympic Plaza yesterday. His name is Brian. Brian is connected to an agency that works with at risk youth. Brian is an ardent believer in helping out. Giving back. Being part of changing the face of homelessness.
Yesterday, he handed out cards with Facts on homelessness. He held up a poster. He sat and listened.
At the event, MLA Kent Hehr spent some time talking to Brian. He learned that one of Brian’s dreams was to get a photo with the Mayor.
Mayor Nenshi arrived at the event. Addressed the crowd. Moved them with his passion and his commitment to ensuring fellow Calgarians did not keep ending up homeless. At one point, someone in the crowd yelled out, “Then maybe you should come and live on the streets and see what it’s really like!” And Mayor Nenshi called back, “Why would I do that?” Adding more people to the streets won’t change the reality of being homeless. Homelessness sucks. What we’ve got to do, he said, is to ensure we do whatever it takes to get people off the streets, to move them out of shelters and into housing, and to do that we need more affordable housing.
He was on message. On task and on point. As part of his talk he read the messages youth wrote on the suckers. Hearing them read out loud was hard.
These are our children. And these statements frame the reality of those youth who hit the streets. Pretty telling a message.
As I was shepherding the Mayor off the stage, trying to get him away as quickly as possible as he was on a really tight timeline, MLA Kent Hehr stopped him and said, “See that young man sitting over there?” And he pointed to Brian with his cardboard poster sitting on the steps of the plaza, taking in the events. “Well one of his dreams come true would be to have a photo of himself with you Mayor Nenshi. Would you take a moment to do it?”
Mayor Nenshi didn’t hesitate a moment. I ran and called to Brian to come down and he stood beside the Mayor, smile wide, poster held high and had his photo taken.
It was heart-warming and very very touching.
As the Mayor walked away, the two hip hop performers at the event, The Blue and Notebook, followed the Mayor off stage and asked to have their photo taken. Later I saw a tweet where one of the young high school students posted he was so excited to have met the Mayor.
It is a measure of the man that young people in our city look up to him. That they want to meet him. He inspires them — and I believe youth need adults who inspire them in good ways. Thank you Mayor Nenshi.
Later, I spoke with Kent Hehr and thanked him for caring enough to ensure Brian had his photo taken. He shared how he’d spent half an hour chatting with Brian before the event began and how he just really wanted to ensure Brian got his wish. “It was a small thing, I know,” Kent said. “But it was important for Brian and I’m so glad it happened.”
“It’s a reflection of your heart and spirit,” I told Kent.
And he shrugged my comment off. “Just doing what I can”, he said.
Kent does a lot. He gives, a lot. And he makes a difference.
Kent is at every event he can make in the inner city riding that he represents in the provincial legislature. He is tireless. Committed. Passionate about the work he does.
And yesterday, as I watched the events unfold, I felt grateful. I felt happy and proud.
This is my city. These are my fellow Calgarians.
And, I was grateful that we have a commitment to ensuring public spaces are wheelchair accessible, which means, Kent could make it to the podium. We have a public space where over 300 people could gather and participate in an event that focused on the need to build more affordable housing in our city. We have youth, young hip hop artists who want to share their talents and their time to make a difference. And we have public servants who take the time, and have the heart to ensure a young man can have his dream come true and a Mayor who no matter how rushed he is, stops to have a photo taken with two young high school students who want to be able to tweet, I met the Mayor.
Wow. What a great city. What amazing people.
I am grateful. The weather held off (it poured later that evening). Over 300 people turned up. TV media were there. Photos were taken of people sitting on The Big Comfy Couch. Planter boxes were viewed and the auction has begun online on the Alex website. (The Alex website) For those of you in Calgary — these boxes are awesome!.
Mayor Nenshi read the Proclamation and he said, Homelessness sucks! Ald. John Mar came out simply to be on hand in case we needed him, and to be part of the event. Wisdom and stories were shared by those at the frontlines and those who came to lend their energy and name to ensuring the event was a success. Gord Gillies, Anchor, Global News; Bob Steele, Afternoon host of XL 103; Kim O’Brien, Exec Dir of Horizon Housing; John Rook, Pres & CEO, CHF; Alvin Law, Motivational Speaker and author; Ken Lima-Coelho – YMCA Community Builder, Heebee-jeebee; Jari Love – Local fitness guru and founder of Get-Ripped; Walter Twiddy, CEO, Neighbourlink; and Sue Fortune, Director, The Alex; Sean French, CACHH; Yvette Rasmussen, The Alex.
You make our city great. You make a difference.
And to all the agencies who turned up and participated and lent a hand, setting up, tearing down, moving tables and planters and smiles and carrying signs and greeting passers-by to the wonderful people from Kairos, to the volunteers and all those who simply came out to find out what they could do — You Rock!
Join the movement! Here are 3 things +1 each of us can do to ensure our City has affordable housing for everyone.