No Sense Of Belonging

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I’m apparently not allowed to be at my own place during a property showing, and neither are the rest of the tenants who live there.

For the past few days, we tenants have been getting notices from the Re/Max realtor assigned to selling the building I’m in. Each notice states specific times for the house showing, but never at the same times.

What is common with all the notices is the directive. “Prefer that we are not to be present”.

I find that curious since I LIVE here.

To add to the bizarreness of this directive, the realtor also gets to see the inside of our rooms. While we’re not supposed to be around.

Before I leave for a temp job or go to the library for my morning job search, my knapsack has been full of things I can’t risk having stolen.

Since these viewings are almost daily, this has proven to be a damned inconvenience. I can’t do laundry during these times. I can’t clean my place or tend to my sty on my right eyelid. I can’t even go home to shower and rest after a Kijiji or Craigslist gig ends in the afternoon during these viewing times.

I have to stay away, even if I have no idea where to go. Why?

I’ll admit what I think the reason why the tenants are asked to not be around is more speculation than fact, so take what you read next as my personal opinion.

Having said this, it’s plausible enough for consideration.

The place I live in is a low-income group home. You’re not going to see rich people with stable jobs and generous benefits living here. You’re going to see people, like myself, struggling to make do in this Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery.

Some of us have personal issues. All of us are not exactly where we really want to be in life. The realtor probably realizes this, and has some misgivings of having us around during a showing and has decided maybe if we were not around to sully the scenery, the house will have a better chance of finding a buyer.

Think about it. A structure, a thing, is being given special treatment over people with rights and feelings. These same people are being regarded as something that needs to be hidden, in the same way a water stain or warped floor would be.

Harsh? Yes, but it’s about real estate after all, and people’s rights and feelings don’t matter when making money is involved. The Region of Waterloo’s house market is on fire as of this post, and everyone is trying to make as much money as they can.

Everyone, except for those who live there, and are being asked to stay away from their own homes.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Lost Foundation

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A scene from the final episode of my “David Needs A Job” series where I was forced to move out of my apartment because I could not afford the rent. I could be facing the same situation soon, but for different reasons.

Everything starts from somewhere.

Whether it’s my job search, working temp jobs and gigs, raising awareness about my situation, it all comes from a single source: a roof over my head and a good night’s sleep.

Without it, I can’t effectively continue my efforts to return to financial reliance and self-sustainability. Woe be me if I were to ever lose the place I’m in right now.

I always thought I’d lose shelter if my family announces one day they can no longer financially sustain payments, which is perfectly understandable. I always stressed this was a temporary arrangement while I search for work.

I never expected my landlord to be the cause.

My landlord has announced he wants to sell the group home I’m in. Why he wants to sell is not important, since it’s trumped by more pressing questions, such as  “how will this affect my tenancy?” or “what will happen to me if the new owner does not want renters?”.

I asked the landlord and the property manager to keep me up to date on any news about the sale. I also want them to copy members of my family, one of which is the leaseholder, on any correspondence to me. I’ve already informed them of what the landlord has planned, and could continue to update them when I hear anything, but I prefer them to know the moment the landlord or property manager presses SEND on their email or text.

Even though I’m not the leaseholder, I still can ask questions about the lease. I learned that my lease went from a yearly to a monthly one after the first year of my tenancy. Why the leaseholder decided not to renew as yearly is unknown, but it does introduce a problem.

Because I’m on a monthly lease now, as stated by my landlord:

“if the new owner decides he wants to do renovations he would have to give you 2 months notice prior to eviction”.

In other words, I might not make it to the fall as originally expected.

It’s also possible that even if the house is not sold before my monthly lease ends in September, the current landlord could choose not to renew with the leaseholder so renovations could be done to my room. This means I’m out in the fall, even if the family collective wants to continue my tenancy.

It’s still the same outcome regardless. The chances are VERY good I could once again be a couchsurfer or full-bore homeless.

It would be back to sleeping in a different home every few days, or napping in a park or a bus. It would mean being exposed to the elements, and at risk of being mugged again, like I was once mugged nearly two years ago.

Where I would do all of this is uncertain. Would I stay in the Region of Waterloo where products and services are more affordable, but with little networking options, or make a stand in Toronto where my social network is huge, but things are much more expensive, including public transit?

It would impact my ability to do the things I mentioned before. It’s hard to look for work, go on interviews, and do part time work when you are fighting poor nutrition and lack of REM sleep.

It doesn’t stop there:

  • People who are homeless are more likely to be arrested for something they did not do (or needed to do, such as trying to get some sleep in a non-residential area, or seek shelter from the elements).
  • They are more likely to face discrimination by society, thus being blocked access to opportunities that could help them get back on their feet.
  • They are more likely to be assaulted or be a victim of other forms of violent crime.
  • They are more likely to be victims of fraud.
  • They are more likely to suffer mental illness.
  • They are more likely to get sick and become hospitalized due to lack of sleep and proper nutrition.
  • They are more likely to commit suicide.
  • They are more likely to die at an earlier age from causes other than suicide but from the effects of being homeless that could lead to death, listed above.

This is what I could face.

In addition to letting my friends and family know of my status on a regular basis, I plan to prepare myself for the worse and hope for the best.

I’ll keep you posted, and thanks for reading.

David.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence? Dumb Move!

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Another reason why jobs will become scarcer, and poverty will increase. Source: National Post, Article About Investment in AI in the Spring 2017 Federal Budget.

Warning: Coarse Language

I’ve always said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a bit of a space cadet when it came to running this country, but when I hear news about taxpayer dollars funding a national AI (Artificial Intelligence) research program, well, he’s boldly gone nuts.

According to the news article linked by this post, “In an effort to push Canada to the forefront of digital innovation, the federal government committed $125 million in Wednesday’s budget to create a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.”

You can’t make shit like this up. $125 million tax dollars….OUR money…is going to create a form of benign SkyNet.

I for one do NOT welcome neither our AI overlords nor the Liberal dimwits spending hard-earned Canadian tax dollars for this.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m big on technological innovation and research.  The problem I have is this should be done by private industry willing to pony up the capital and take the risk to pursue this. If anyone wants it, be a consumer and buy it.

I really must ask: what’s the ROI for this gamble? Are we sure we can make this work? Does anyone remember the endless promises being made and the research dollars being poured into making flying cars back in the 1970s? Do we have flying cars today? The only cars I see flying are the stunt car racers illegally breaking the law in Waterloo.

I’ll no doubt be told that this will create jobs and raise the standard of living for Canadians. What jobs exactly? The answer is right there in the article:  high-tech jobs. You know, those jobs that don’t have an entry level to start from, where you need to go to post-secondary education (which only the upper-middle class and the rich can afford) to get training for. What about those people who cannot afford post-secondary education? What about mature workers who are facing increasing restrictions on career change funding? What about those people who, quite frankly, are not tech savvy? What will happen to the jobs that category of people do which will be taken over by hardware and software?

What about affordable housing? $125 million could have gone towards making more units for single moms, the elderly, and the physically challenged who exist below the poverty line. What about programs that help get the homeless back to financial self reliance and self -sustainability? Has anyone forgotten we have people living in the street?

On the subject of raising the standard of living, when are we going to see more leisure time as a result of automation and the remote workplace? Oh wait, it went the other way, didn’t it? We are now working more hours and suffering a work-life imbalance. Your employer has given you the tools to use your smartphone and computer as a virtual workplace. All without getting overtime, I must point out.

Is this truly the start of a golden Age Of Prosperity, or is this going to be an “Age Of Austerity Version 2.0?” instead?

I guess robots and talking computers are more important than helping the more vulnerable members of society rejoin the ranks and share in this bright new future the Liberals are trying to build.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Just Something I Wanna Croak About

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I’m fine. Really. I just cut my hair shorter to save my money, reducing the number of times I have to visit the barber.Image taken by David Alan Gay, with permission to use, provided credit is given to the author.

WARNING: LANGUAGE

I’m always looking for ways to stretch the toonie (Canadian dollar) as far as I can, so when people offer suggestions, I’m all ears.

One follower of my blog sent me a private suggestion about cutting my hair shorter, resulting in a longer interval period between haircuts. Seeing I am also suffering from yet another stye (which comes from high stress and poor sleeping habits as a result of my current situation), I figured I kill two birds with one stone. I went for the shortest cut next to a shaved head: trimmer setting #1.

The end result wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. My hair has been very thin on top for the last ten years and there were only so many ways I could rock my combover.  Once my beard grows back (I had that shaved off to make the trim easier), it will look a lot better. I’d bear a more stately countenance, or at least resemble the lead singer of the band “Clutch“.

Right now, however, I look like a cancer patient — with apologies to cancer patients who might be offended by that remark. I take the suffering these people go through very seriously. I’ve lost a lot of family members and friends to cancer — my uncle just recently — and am royally pissed off at the ROI from cancer research donations to organizations like the Terry Fox Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. Where’s the god-damn cure, people?

That’s a rant for another day, though. I want to talk about  a subject I’ve only touched on in a past post, something I really did not want to address, but after seeing my shorn appearance in the mirror, I think it’s time to do just that.

Despite the stye and dark rings under my eyes, I am in good health for a 52 year old man. I can see very well (though reading small print on an aspirin bottle has become a bit of a bitch), have a healthy blood pressure level, don’t get up in the middle of the night to pee….absolutely nothing, and can easily walk from Charles Street Terminal to Columbia Street in warm weather (a distance over 5km). Being healthy means I can still fight the good fight to return to financial self-sustainability and independence.

What happens if things change, however? What happens IF I go to a walk-in clinic for a seemingly innocent medical issue and am told I have cancer?

It’s an important question. Undergoing chemo and radiation is tough enough for those who have stable housing and gainful employment. That’s not my situation. I have just gigs to keep a bit of money in my pocket and my current housing is supported by family members. That type of housing is not long-term. What happens if I’m told that while (hypothetically speaking) undergoing cancer treatment, “Sorry, hon, we can’t support you anymore.”?

Could I handle the treatment while in a shelter, couchsurfing, or sleeping on buses? Could I afford any prescriptions I have to take that are not covered under OHIP?

After some thought, what I came up with was a blank. I couldn’t. Not only was it impossible, it would also be very cruel and unusual punishment for any person in that situation to go through. Cancer treatment wreaks havoc on bodily functions, especially the immune system and the body’s ability to maintain a constant core temperature.

The one thing I was certain about was I would apply for medically assisted suicide under Bill C-14. If I cannot handle the treatment while homeless, my death would be a foreseeable outcome, and a very long painful one at that. If I’m going to go, I might as well go peacefully and painlessly.

Taking that course of action does not make me a quitter. I’ve heard stories about the homeless succumbing to an illness while out on the street. I will not let that happen to me. My chronic unemployment and lack of stable housing might have robbed me of many things, including my independence and pride, but it sure as hell won’t wrest from my cold dead hands my right to die with dignity.

Thanks for reading.

David.

There’s Us, Them, And Then There’s The Other

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A picture of a Grand River Transit bus taken by Calvin So and posted on Flickr. If the union strikes, the transit system will indeed be “Out Of Service”, with the poor, seniors, physically challenged, and infirm being the most affected..

Final Update: Local 4304 has accepted the second contract in a ratification vote. No strike for three years, but the discussion about the GRT being declared an essential service needs to be held. The poor have mobility rights that need to be protected.

Update: After two counteroffer bargaining sessions, Local 4304 have voted to strike Monday April 3rd, 2017. I will not be able to go on interviews, do any temp work or Kijiji and Craiglist style gigs, but I will still go to the library to perform my job search. I just need to walk to get there. For those of you living in the Region Of Waterloo area, please sign my petition to make it an essential service: https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-declare-grand-river-transit-an-essential-service

WARNING: LANGUAGE

My decision not to learn to drive came from several reasons.

The first reason was because I was born in and lived most of my life in Toronto. Toronto has a very large transit system that can get you nearly anywhere within the city. I know I sometimes rag on it, but you can’t beat unlimited transit  for the cost of a monthly transit pass.

I’ve also seen how some of you drive from the safety of my bus seat. Some of you should NOT be driving at all and instead use public transit. Seriously.

Finally, driving is expensive. I know you car owners out there love your comfy heated seats, preset  radio stations, and your personal space to sing and fart in, but you’ll agree with me that it’s not cheap. Tally the total cost of driving — driving lessons (admittedly a one time deal), purchasing the vehicle, gas, insurance, general maintenance after a few thousand clicks, the odd repair, tire changing and storage, emission tests, and oh yeah, that sticker you have to put on your plates — and it’s a big bite out of the budget even if you are working full-time. If you are working part-time or not at all, it’s either THE budget or a non-starter. If you cannot afford it,  you either take transit, bicycle, or walk.

I know that my decision not to learn to drive has hurt me, even before I ended up in the sorry hell I’m in now with no full time work, very little money and a future in doubt. I couldn’t go to the cottage or anywhere else with my friends or family if it was outside the city. I instead had to take a taxi, a intercity bus, or a train.

Then there were the transit strikes. Hoo-fucking-ray.

Before the TTC was declared an essential service (where the union could not strike), strikes were a pain in the ass. When I was working full-time, I had to take a taxi to work during a strike. Since my employer was not going to pay for the taxi (obviously), I charged the rides to my credit card and dealt with the charges after the strike was over. It was a headache, but I had a job that paid very well. I couldn’t imagine how those less fortunate than I managed during a strike….at least until now.

I’m no longer in Toronto. I now live in Kitchener where the Grand River Transit system is NOT an essential service and Unifor Local 4304 has threatened to walk March 19th at midnight if their union demands are not met. If they strike, it is a massive hit for me for several reasons.

I go to the Kitchener Public Library to use the WiFi and computers to conduct a job search six days a week. A transit strike does not dismiss my obligation to return to financial self reliance and sustainability that can only come from a job search but I don’t have Internet where I live: I can’t afford it. I could use a coffee shop WiFi but I’m sure they won’t let me stay there for too long even if I do buy something. I also go to the library for books, CDs, DVDs, and to meet with my social worker to discuss my unemployment and housing issues. I could walk to the library but it would take me over half-an-hour to get there on foot, and, oh yes,  it’s winter as of this blog post. Having the union go on strike and shutting down transit would make accessing these services difficult, especially on days where the weather is bad.

With public transit, I also have the option to shop around and get a good deal for food — an absolute necessity when you are in my income bracket. If transit is stopped, not only will my choices be savagely cut, the amount of what I can carry — since I’m reduced to walking instead of riding a bus — will be impacted as well.

My biggest worry is how will I be able to do temp work and gigs on Kijiji and Craigslist during the strike. I’m scheduled to do inventory work at the end of March in Cambridge, which is too far to walk to. If the strike runs long enough, I’ll have to tell my contacts there I can’t work.  Not working means no wage. No wage means no money for food, dental, and other basic needs.

It’s not just about me though. What about those less fortunate than I who are physically challenged or blind? What about seniors? What about those who need to get to their appointments for dialysis, cancer treatment, or physiotherapy? Do we really think there’s going to be enough taxis to cover the slack? Is it fair to ask those same people to pony up money for the taxis — which they do not have — just because a union wants more money and the continuation of comfortable working conditions and benefit? Perks those in the private sector do not have due to downsizing and doing more with less in this Age of Austerity and the Jobless Recovery?

Doesn’t this smack just a teeny bit of greed through extortion of the poor?

Disputes between management and the unions have been around longer than I have. It’s an old story that has been told countless times, usually coloured by the portrayal of either the union or the management as “the good guy”.

The story  is not so binary in nature, however. Yes, there is an “us”, there is a “them”, but there’s also the “other”… those in the middle of the dispute who lose when caught in the crossfire yet gain nothing when it’s over. That part of the story has never been told because very little people know about it. Unless, of course, you happen to be someone like myself who consider transit as essential.

I really feel it’s time for all transit systems to become an essential service, not just the TTC and certainly Grand River Transit. Transit is a vital lifeline for those less fortunate in our society, and they should no longer be used as bargaining chips in labour negotiations.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Teach A Man To Fish….

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You just need to know how to score big like this guy. This image was originally posted to Flickr by melaniae.trapani at http://flickr.com/photos/100404555@N07/9531441073. It was reviewed on 17 August 2013 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0. I found this on WikiCommons and respect the rights and ownership of the image.

*LANGUAGE ALERT*

Oxfam Canada released a report at the top of January that not only decries a widening gap between the rich and poor, it also blames the rich for the increase. As a result, they should be taxed more to pay for social programs that help those like myself who are unable to take care of themselves in terms of financial stability.

As someone who can’t find work, who has been homeless in the past, and who cannot financially fend for himself — a member of the community  Oxfam Canada says is under siege by the mean ol’ rich folk  — I’d like to say the people who released that report have fucking rocks for brains.

In a majority of reports released through reliable sources, the upper class in fact do pay the most taxes. More than the middle class and more than the poor. Yes, it’s true they don’t pay as MUCH as they used to, but you can thank global trade acts for that. All one needs to do is to relocate a company’s manufacturing base to a country with a lower tax rate and Bob’s your wealthy uncle.  It’s business and while it takes a steaming dump on the local employment market, it’s a smart move.

It is for this same reason why increasing the level of taxation on the rich would a dumb move. Businesses thrive in a low-tax economy and flee a high tax one. That’s why the high hydro rates here in Ontario have prompted many enterprises to relocate. Tax the rich more to pay for social programs to address this imagined slight on the unfortunate and they will leave, taking the jobs and services with them.

When that happens, social programs will see their income source dry up like a lake on a hot summer day. Unemployment, homelessness and poverty rates  will skyrocket as a result.

The issue isn’t is what the rich have but what the poor haven’t. They don’t have employment opportunities. They don’t have affordable housing and post-secondary education. They don’t have a social support network that works at all to help them either start their own business or pair up with someone who will hire them. They don’t have people who understand the problem enough empathise and assist, but plenty of people who regard them an inconvenient blight, and BLAME them for something that’s not their fault.

Don’t steal the fish from the rich to feed the poor. Help those like myself fetch our own fish. All we need is the rod, bait, and a nice lake full of salmon. Give us the tools to make our own opportunities, and we’ll forge our own road back to financial self-reliance and self-sustainability.

Thanks for reading!

David.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

I’ve been stuck on a topic to write about for a while. I guess after over five years of writing about my past homelessness and current chronic unemployment situation, your well runs dry. Don’t worry, I’m sure I will come up with something.

I created a comic on the Pixton site, as part of a contest for what I would like to have for Christmas. While I admit my chances of winning are pretty slim — we have a lot of very talented individuals on Pixton — I gave it a go. It was shortly after I published that comic that I in fact had something to put here as well, so here is the comic I posted, along with the link to the original copy.

Thanks for viewing, and Merry Christmas.

David.

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