This poem came to me this morning as I sat at my desk watching the river flow past.
Earlier, my daughter and I and our pups had walked at a park near their house and while walking along a trail through the woods came upon a large encampment.
It wasn’t there just a few days ago when we walked the same path, but now, it is well ensconced and easily visible. A bright blue tarp is draped across trees providing both shelter and privacy to the occupants. The smell of food cooking on an open fire permeates the air.
I understand the desire to build such an encampment, particularly if someone has no place to call home.
But there are challenges and dangers.
Community residents might not look favourably upon such an encampment and might decide to take matters into their own hands. Or, might call upon the City and insist something be done. In the past, this has sometimes resulted in City Parks staff dismantling and removing the encampment without showing much concern for the belongings or needs of the campers.
And, an open fire in the dense woods where this encampment is situated is problematic.
We are fortunate in Calgary to have the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP) and the Encampment Team through Alpha House Society, an agency serving vulnerable, at risk Calgarians. Their focus is to interact with individuals where they’re at, and to support them in addressing their needs. The Encampment Team, in partnership with City-ByLaw, supports ‘rough sleepers’ to help them address their safety, well-being and housing needs.
For Calgarians, the benefit of these teams is that it gives everyone an opportunity to reach out and support someone in distress or in need of housing supports, knowing the response will be compassionate and humane.
I have phoned the Encampment team to alert them of the situation. I know that their response will honour the individuals involved and provide them support in a way that reflects their humanity and their needs and their rights.
If you have concern for someone on the street in Calgary who is intoxicated or in distress, please call the DOAP Team first. The number is: 403.998.7388
If you have a concern about an Encampment – call the Encampment Team. Their number is: 403.805.7388
It can be hard sometimes to know what the most humane response is. The DOAP and Encampment Teams are the right response.
And… if like me you need to give voice to what you experience, witness, hear and see, write a poem, speak up, volunteer…
And support the agencies doing the work on the front lines. They need our help to do the important work they do supporting vulnerable people in our communities.
When Life Hit Hard by Louise Gallagher When life hit hard she stumbled and fell hard She got back up and when life tripped her up again she fell not so hard this time but getting up was harder. Life kept happening and she kept falling until the falling down was easier than the getting up until the staying down was safer than trying to find a way to stop falling . She no longer cries out for help when she falls She no longer reaches out for help to get back up Trapped between the fall and getting up she lies silent dreaming of a hand reaching out to help her get back up.