Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A SMACK IN THE FACE: PICTURE OF HOMELESSNESS

What is the true extent of the homeless situation in St. John's?  Are we becoming a city/province of socioeconomic extremes? 

Housing  influences individual well-being and enables participation in the social and economic life of the community. The darker side of the oil   boom is that more and more people are finding it harder to buy groceries, pay utilities and afford escalating rents. 

When we hear about homelessness in this province, we do not think of mean, women, children sleeping near heating grates, under trees in the park or on park benches. There are few images of the stereotypical "vagabonds" found in the bigger cities.

 I have blogged about this issue many times in the past. Most of the time, I have pointed out that our homeless situation is not as visible as other large metropolitan areas because youth are couch-surfing or that existing shelters can accommodate homeless people at night. 

I was wrong. As you read this article there are dozens of homeless people enduring the wind, freeing rain and cold temperatures in abandoned buildings, tents. makeshift shelters and ledges by the sides of buildings.

The Telegram Photo
My first encounter with homelessness when I worked on Parliament Hill. There were always a few people looking for change along the heating grates at the bus stops, and along the Sparks Street Mall. It was a new phenomena for me. 

This exposure provided me with  a healthy respect for many of the homeless people whom I met.  Most of them suffered from some sort of mental disease like depression or schizophrenia. Many were educated and had fallen through the cracks. One man had been a deputy-minister at one time. He had the greatest stories and a unique insight. Often l would think, "there but for the grace of god goes I
 "


A story on VOCM this morning certainly stripped away any misconceptions about the growing homelessness issues in our city. A group of workers encountered a homeless living in a tent in the woods off Pitts Memorial Drive! The story quotes the RNC as saying there are " a number of people living in tents in an and around the city,"
The Telegram Photo

Just this past weekend the Telegram ran a series about homelessness. Several reporters took to the streets to experience life as a homeless person. The images and stories are disturbing. The reality hits you like a sledge hammer.

Newfoundland and Labrador Housing is the province’s largest landlord with approximately 5,573 non-profit social housing dwellings province-wide.

So. as you weather out today's storm shelter, in a cozy, warm and dry environment, reflect for a moment on these pictures and imagine spending your days and nights out in the howling wind, wrapped in plastic trying to stay warm and dry!



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