When Life Hit Hard – a poem

No. 2 #ShePersisted Series — They said, be quiet. She spoke up.

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.

12 thoughts on “When Life Hit Hard – a poem

  1. It’s a delicate situation that requires a compassionate and empathetic approach, and there needs to more options for people facing being homeless in the first place. I realize we are in different countries, but I’m sure the issues are similar around the globe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You did the right thing AND you put the situation in the exactly right words with your touching poem. I know, our own consideration, patience and compassion goes only so far – yours has proven over and over again to go always the extra mile – but as we say: They’re welcome, but not in my backyard…. We were torn when we experienced and saw the outcomes of the Calais Jungle in 2016 & 2017. It was truly heartbreaking, but also scary, to see the situations, to ‘suffer’ from the delays, the fears, the extra controls, the losses and to hear, discuss, read the controverse opinions and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a beautifully compassionate post and writing. I think it is very easy to assume and judge and much harder to remember that having compassion for others may be compassion we ourselves need one day.💗

    Liked by 1 person

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