Category: Dark Ages

For The Little Guy, Them’s The Breaks

Tim Hortons Image
A double-double with no benefits or breaks, please. Image from the linked story’s home page.

If this story is indeed true — and I have reason to believe it is — the fallout from the folly of the Ontario government’s decision to proceed with increasing the minimum wage has begun.

Employees at an Ontario Tim Hortons in Cobourg, Ontario claim they have been told to sign a document acknowledging they are losing paid breaks and paid benefits as a result of the province’s minimum wage hike.

I’m against the idea of raising the minimum wage too quickly and too soon and wrote a post stating my reasons why, yet when I hear stories like this, I’m not sure who should I be angry with.

Should I be angry with the Ontario government for not listening to the concerns of businesses — the generators of jobs — to balance the increase against the need for businesses to make a (reasonable) profit, and instead ram the labour law change right over them?

Or should I be angry at those same businesses for using the labour law change as an excuse to promote a “take-it-or-leave-it” style of employee management? This document signing smacks of employer bullying.

No matter what party I’m angry with, one thing I’m sure of is that it will be those caught in the middle who will be hurt — those who are already doing their damned utmost to keep financially afloat in this Age Of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery.

These people have just moved closer to experiencing more workplace abuse if not outright unemployment.

Thanks for reading.

David.

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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.

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.

Falling Stars Still Shine.

the_story_of_the_sun2c_moon2c_and_stars_28189829_281477884999529
From “The story of the sun, moon, and stars (1898)” by Agnes Giberne. Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” 

– George W. Bush. Past President Of The United States Of America.

NOTE: The mentioned in this post are innocent before proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

Another falling star.

Every day I turn on the radio, I hear news of sexual misconduct involving a public celebrity.

Harvey Weinstein, George Takei,  Kevin Spacey, LouisCK, Dustin Hoffman, Mark Halperin, the list goes on and on and on.

So does the outrage. Names are removed from credits in decades-old movies, films currently in production are reshot after recasts are made, past awards are revoked. The history of the accused is being wiped clean, all that was accomplished is being blasted into nothingness.

Is this fair? I feel it’s not.

I’m not saying there should be no justice for the victims of the crimes committed by the accused. I believe people should be punished for their crimes and after a trial serve the sentence given to them. The guilty must pay for what they’ve done.

Having said this, their crimes have nothing to do with the past accomplishments they earned. They are mutually exclusive. There is no link of causality between the two.

It’s clear Weinstein has behaved in an absolutely horrific manner. He has to take responsibility for his past actions, and accept whatever punishment for committing them. He was also a very successful film producer and executive. He was co-founder of Miramax. He is an Academy and Tony Award winner.

He is the personification of the American Dream by achieving success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. The fruits from that labour should not be taken from him.

To do this is to set a precedent right out of George Orwell’s “1984” where one day if any of us commits a serious crime, we could lose our diplomas and degrees, our trophies and awards, our titles and medals. The current power of digital video sharing and virtual reality technology makes it possible to erase people completely from the public record through de-pixilation. Each of us would be effortlessly and efficiently un-personed.

This un-personing could also go so far to prevent those individuals from rejoining society and contribute in a positive manner. For example, what are the chances of landing a job if your past employment and education history and the associated certifications that qualify you for the position are *POOF* gone?

Thanks for reading!

David.

What Lies Beneath

800px-iceberg_in_the_arctic_with_its_underside_exposed
Just like figuring out how big an iceberg is, sometimes you have to look below the surface. Image by Andreas Weith. Click the link to get more information about this image.

The amount of time a resident stays at the House of Friendship will depend on a few factors, such as the individual’s situation that got them homeless in the first place, their current state of mind, and their ability to turn things around before getting thrown out. Some only stay for a day, maybe two, while others are residents that have been around long before I arrived. My own stay is coming up to the second month mark on November 12th.

This means that I will see roommates come and go. Every time I get a new roommate, I have to figure them out quickly in case they are mentally unstable or have anger management issues that require me to sleep lighter than I usually do. This is an important life-skill: one past roommate not only made slanderous remarks about myself and two other roommates but also threatened me.

This latest arrival is another homeless person who sleeps a lot in the Kitchener Public Library. My previous post had a picture of him. I figured since he sleeps a lot during the day that he would not sleep at all while in the shelter. Apparently that assumption was wrong: he does sleep at night during albeit rather restlessly. In fact, it seems all he does is sleep.

An observer of his behaviour might assume he’s lazy, or doped or sloshed out of his mind to the point he can’t do anything to turn things around. That might be correct: I don’t know enough about him to counter that claim. He’s not much of a conversationalist if all he does is sleep.

Having said this, not all assumptions are true.

I want to stress that homelessness is not like camping. It’s extremely depressing, especially for those who have no family or friends for support. It’s also very stressful and can make you sick. It’s a very unpleasant reality that requires the individual to find a way to cope with it.

Before my residence at the rooming house I stayed in for two years, I was homeless in Toronto for a couple of months after I moved out of my aunt’s home. This happened during the dead of winter and boy oh boy, was it cold. I would stay up all night at a 24-hour McDonald’s near Eglinton Avenue East and Yonge Street after sleeping on the TTC subway for a total of four hours. Sometimes the subway train would stop for a few minutes at a station that was open to the elements. With the doors open to let in the passengers, it got pretty cold on that train after a few minutes, even while wearing winter clothes and long underwear.

To keep warm, I carried a metal flask containing Forty Creek whiskey.  I’m not a regular drinker of whiskey or even beer but I was told by another homeless person I met that whiskey dilates the blood vessels and causes a temporary release of core heat.  I took a few sips and within a few minutes my cheeks were flushed and the cold didn’t bother me as much.

Anyone who smelled alcohol on me might have assumed I was homeless because I was a drunk. The same erroneous reasoning could have been applied to my sleepy roommate. He might be sleeping in the library because he cannot sleep with four other men who snore during the night. It’s also possible he is suffering from SAD or is so depressed from living a homeless life that sleep is a form of escape for him. It’s way to cope.

Dealing with poverty issues like homelessness, chronic unemployment, and poor wealth distribution is like trying to suss out the size of a floating iceberg. You need to look at what’s under the surface to get the bigger picture.

Thanks for reading!

David.

 

Why, Not What.

Homeless Guy Sleeping In Library
A homeless person who frequently comes to the Kitchener Public Library for a nap on the second floor. Helping people like him must address WHY he comes here, not WHAT he is doing here in the first place.

It’s important to understand a problem before trying to solve it. This is especially true in the case of resolving my homelessness and unemployment issues.

Having said this, there’s a difference between understanding what the problem is and understanding why the problem is happening. To explain this more clearly, I need to take you back to a time when I was a night-shift computer operator in the 1990s.

One of the things I did in that job was to submit the overnight batch jobs that applied the business transactions to the financials, printed off the necessary reports, statements, and invoices, and on occasion performed monthly, quarterly, or year-end closings.

During my shift, one of the batch jobs might abend because a required file for updating was locked by another process. At first my employer thought it was I performing my backup while the batch jobs were running, but the system log cleared up that misunderstanding. A check of all production environment activity showed no one was online during this time (I would kick all the users off and shut down the interactive subsystem to prevent logon) and no other production batch jobs were running.

The programmer assigned to fix the abend issue had a quick solution: before running the update portion of the batch job, he added control language coding in the batch job to request a lock of that file. The request would wait indefinitely until the file was successfully locked, and the job would then continue on.

It worked, but it introduced a new problem. Sometimes the lock was immediately carried out, while other times it might take as long as 20 to 30 minutes for the lock request to work. This pushed back some of my other duties like printing and separating the invoices for the accounting staff, causing me to work later than I should.

Since I had control language and operating system experience (OS/400), I decided to find out what was causing the lock on my own time.  After some effort, I discovered that there was a separate test environment batch job that copied production data from that needed file to the test system. It’s a valid copy to ensure a program being tested will operate as expected once moved to production, but it was also the culprit. Had the programmer took the time to research further, he would have found the proper solution to the current problem without creating a new one.

In short, I addressed the WHY of the problem, not the WHAT.

It’s the same thing with my current situation. I’m not in a shelter because I don’t have a place to stay. I am in a shelter because I cannot hold down a place of my own. There’s a difference.

Why ask WHY? Because it gets to the heart of the matter every time.

Thanks for reading!

David.

It’s Okay To Say

shh
By Nma7k3 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“We don’t tell anyone you are in a shelter” – said by a family member.

“Dude! Don’t tell the manager you are in a shelter!” – said by a resident letting me know of an opening at his place of work.

“There’s no need to mention the shelter.” – said by an absolutely amazing staffer at the House Of Friendship who is helping me with my job search.

If I had to count the number of times people told me never to mention that I am in a shelter, I’d need to borrow someone else’s fingers.

The number of times isn’t what astounds me, however. It’s being told I shouldn’t disclose that in the first place.

Why shouldn’t I? Since when was it a crime to be homeless? Since when was it taboo to bring it up?

Wait a minute. Hold that thought.

There was a time not long ago where no one talked about domestic assault. Don’t bring up the fact your husband hits you, a battered woman is told.  Don’t call the police for something that is nothing more than marital disagreement. Don’t embarrass your husband by making a scene when he starts to berate you in public. You were being put in your place. A good wife listens no matter what.

Same thing with child abuse. You are not being abused, you deserved it. If you weren’t such a bad seed, you wouldn’t have the strap taken to you. If you tell anyone about what Daddy or Mommy did to you, you’ll bring shame to the entire family. Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister? I wish I never had you.

It was taboo to talk about those issues and nothing was done about them until we actually started to talk. Domestic assault is no longer simply a marital strife, it’s a crime and punishable by jail time. Same with child abuse. You can’t beat your kid and call it discipline. You try it today, you lose your kid and go to jail.

Now we have the same thing being said about homelessness. If I’m homeless, it must be my fault. There must be something wrong with me: I don’t want to work. Why can’t I be like other people and just get a job? I mean, jobs are lying all over the place. All I have to do is get off my lazy butt and get a job because they are just…everywhere.

Don’t tell people you are homeless. You don’t want people to know you’re a maladjusted person.

Okay then, so if there is something wrong with me, wouldn’t anyone want to see me get better? If so, how will I get help in order to get better? I’m being told I’m not allowed to bring up the fact there’s something wrong with me. How exactly does this get fixed it we keep it a secret?

Thanks for reading.

David.