Month: December 2017

Something Better

Shelter Under Shelter By Purnie
“Shelter Under Shelter”, by “Purnie” on the Pixton comic making service. Permission given by author to use her work.

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE

The eagle-eyed of you who follow my blog might have noticed in a previous post that I mentioned I am moving out of the House of Friendship on December 28th, 2017.

It’s true. After over three months in a shelter, I was able to find a place well within my budget and the budget of those supporting my housing. In fact, it’s $25 less than the rent paid before my previous landlord sold the property (no hard feelings about that: he was awesome enough to give me a reference that made a difference. Thank you).

I can’t wait to get out.

Not because of the staff. They did an amazing job ensuring I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. For that, I helped wipe the table and chairs after dinner nearly every night. My resource planner helped me find the proper mindset to look for housing. Bless the House of Friendship for all they’ve done.

It’s just that I had to deal some difficult residents who threatened me with physical harm on two occasions and with death in another, on top of the diplomacy I had to practice to peacefully coexist with others. While I’m not saying I could bring peace to the Middle East, I would at least help send peace talks in the right direction after what I experienced. Maybe I should ask the United Nations if there’s a job opening. I’ll gladly work at minimum wage.

Such experience in the shelter helped support my past arguments why the homeless will sometimes choose not to go to shelters. It’s not a slumber party for adults. It’s stressful. You have to deal with weird shit from some people, and hope you have a good understanding of them in order to predict the next weird shit move. There are days I can’t sleep because a new arrival in my room has proven to be a tough nut to figure out. It’s sometimes wiser to stay awake than go to sleep only to awake in a hospital bed minus a few teeth and in a lot of pain.

It also supported my concerns that we are headed in the wrong direction with urban development.  We just had our first major snowfall recently, with more snow and bone-chilling temperatures on the way for the Region of Waterloo. The shelters are now at overcapacity, being forced to either send homeless people to motels (an expensive solution) or turn them away outright. According to data from a  March 2013 Ipsos Reid poll,  “as many as 1.3 million Canadians have experienced homelessness or extremely insecure housing at some point during the past five years”.

So many people, yet we price a basic need like a luxury item through building expensive buildings only the wealthy can afford and the homeless will seek cover under the awnings of.

I’ve already given a city councillor my opinion about yet another expensive high-tech tower being built for Torontonians to move into, while ignoring the homeless (who either cannot find work like myself, or are millwrights, welders, contractors, or landscapers who would not benefit from this development).

We need more zoning for affordable housing, not more glistening gleaming towers that only benefit the wealthy. We need something better than the current urban mindset that punishes the poor for being poor.

That is what I will strive for once I move into my new room on the 28th.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you all a Merry  Christmas and a Happy New Year.

David.

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The Needs Of The Many

society
No individual has the power to hold hostage the needs of the many in society. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE

Kirk: I would not presume to debate you.
Spock: That is wise. Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Kirk: Or the one.
From the movie, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan”.

That exchange (to be repeated later moments before Spock dies) is an important life lesson.

Whether it’s about our democracy, our place of work, or even the mission statement of a homeless shelter, the greater good must always take precedent over the few…or the one.

It might seem cruel but it is necessary. To save a tree, sometimes branches must be severed. The same goes with those with cancer or diabetes: the removal of a body part to ensure the life of the individual is necessary. For a company to improve its chances of survival, layoffs are one option to consider.

How do these points apply to my situation, you ask?

On December 6th, I received my third threat of violence from another resident for no reason. He claimed I got up from my seat during breakfast, walked over to him, stuck my rear out, and farted on him. His response to this imaginary slight: he’ll punch my face in if I don’t stop “processing” him.

I went on Urban Dictionary to find out what processing means and the definitions I found do not match his usage, so I’m assuming he made that term up. The one thing I am certain of is that a good number of the fighting amongst the residents had something to do with mental instability. It was something I felt it was time to bring up with the administration staff of the shelter.

I wrote the following Email to them below to bring to their attention the impact chronic mental illness was having on the safety of both the staff and the residents:

 Hello. My name is David and I am a resident of the House of Friendship since September 12, 2017. I will be moving out of the shelter on December 28 now that I have a place to stay.
 
I am grateful for everything the shelter has done in helping me formulate a housing strategy. Were it not for this shelter, I would have had no place to go when my landlord sold the building I was living in.
 
I must also request the administration of the House of Friendship to make changes to the resident rules to make it harder for severely mentally disturbed people to stay at the shelter.
 
As of this writing I’ve been threatened twice with physical harm and received one death threat, all from residents who were suffering from a severe mental illness. I have never started a fight with anyone. I’m a 53 year old man with no addictions, no anger management issues, and suffer no mental illness of any type. I just want to return to financial self reliance and stability. Most homeless people have this wish.
 
My most recent incident was on December 6th, 2017, from an individual named Cameron. He accused me of leaving my seat during breakfast to walk over and pass gas on him. He told me not to “process him or I will get punched out”. For the record, I never left my chair and I have a roomful of breakfast eaters who can verify this as fact. Thankfully, one of the staff members — Natalie — had a word with Cameron and made it clear this was unacceptable behaviour.
 
Cameron has a history of provoking both staff and other residents due to mental illness.
 
I understand the House of Friendship wants to feed and protect as many of the homeless as possible. I think that is a wonderful, noble, caring and extremely generous sentiment and the shelter goes all out in trying to make this happen with what little resources are available.
 
Having said this, the shelter is for housing the homeless. It is not a place where the staff are verbally abused (If not physically threatened) by those suffering chronic mental illnesses. It is not a place where residents like myself are at risk by those who lack compunction about committing harm. The facilities at the shelter should neither be damaged nor destroyed by those who cannot control their violent impulses. People who are mentally ill to the point of being dangerous belong in a hospital.
 
There must be a line drawn where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. It might seem like a harsh rule, but it is a sensible one. The mission statement of the shelter should never be placed second to the irrational and unreasonable demands of the disturbed individual. To allow this to occur will bring a sense of entitlement and a lack of consequence that will embolden those people to sink further into their madness, to commit actions that could lead to more disruption or perhaps even cause physical injury or death.
 
I hope my suggestions can be brought to attention at the next steering meeting and become part of the rules of residence in the future.
 
Kind Regards
David Alan Gay.

Requesting the refusal of access to shelter for those with chronic mental illnesses might appear heartless. Some of you might even state they have as much right to be at the House Of Friendship as I do, since no one should be exposed to the elements.

That’s a fair statement, but when a few disruptive individuals have so much impact it affects the shelter’s ability to help the majority of those who need assistance, well, that goes back to the needs of the many point I raised earlier.

The greater good must prevail. Always.

In addition, and as I stated in a previous blog post, those suffering from chronic mental illness shouldn’t be in a shelter. They need to go to a mental hospital and seek treatment.

Perhaps a stiff cold December wind outdoors will give them the clarity to take charge of their future by dealing with their issues.

Thanks for reading.

David.