Saturday, March 15, 2014

Homeless People Are Not "Creatures"

After reading an article in The Metro Calgary about a Face book page started by high school kids that posts photos of videos of homeless people in Calgary,   After working closely with the folks at V.E.T.S Canada (A group which provides assistance to homeless & at risk Canadian Veterans) seeing the posts on this page made me sick to my stomach at the way these people who are just as human as you and I were being portrayed on this public site.

The original page was deleted by Face book but they’re back with a new page called “Creature Sightings” which the caption for the group says “funny pics of indigenous intoxicated interesting individuals”

The saddest thing about this is that everyone on this page doesn't look over twenty years old and they all think these photos and videos are great entertainment at the expense of others misfortune.
I’m in downtown Calgary just about every day and often pass about ten or more homeless people just waking a stretch of five or six blocks.  So the same day I had read this article I decided to walk around downtown Calgary for a few hours and have some conversations with these “Creatures” as the page so describes them.

I first talked to a guy named Joe who was shocked when I asked if I could sit with him and have a chat.  He first was shocked that I wanted to chat with him but we talked for about fifteen minutes.  Joe and his wife had split up after he had been laid off from his job due to cutbacks and when his wife threw him out he decided to live out of his Van for awhile.  He said he had tried going to shelters but would be attacked and have his personal items stolen.    He said to me "If you are not dirty people give you this horrible look like you are a liar or a fraud."  

I asked Joe if he had any family he could contact.

“There is my mother, but she is looking after my little sister and they barely make enough to put food on the table already. I don’t want to make things even harder. That’s what it means to grow up. You have to look after yourself. I know I’m not in a great place now, but I’ll find my feet.”

I gave him a contact number of a friend of mine that manages a warehouse in Calgary who is always looking to give people a chance at a new start and I could see his eyes flood up.    Joe is not a creature, Joe is a human that had a tough break and I have no doubt he will “Find his feet”

Over the next hour I sat down with five different “Homeless Creatures” (As the Face book site referred to them) and none of them had the same story.    One used to be a mortgage broker, Another worked as a professional musician for 25 years.  I spoke with a guy who used to be a truck driver throughout Canada & USA who got addicted to drugs & alcohol and ended up losing his job, his home & his family.

The only common thread was that they lacked a community and shared a reserved and wistful smile that held the memory of better days and a distant hope for the future.

It’s kind of ironic that when you watch the news & view social media that everyone is “Taking a stand against Bullying” yet the same people that are probably wearing their pink shirts on a given day of the month are posting photos on these pages and laughing at the misfortune of others.

A quick search of similar Face book pages brought up several results across Canada with the same “Public Shaming” theme attached to them.  As an example “Only In Hamilton”

The next day this article & their Face book page was still bothering me so I decided to spend a few hours the next day handing out Tim Hortons gift cards not just to “Homeless People” but to random strangers downtown who were walking around looking like zombies on their smart phones or a look on their face like if they smiled their face might crack.  I am not one to post things looking for a pat on the back from anyone however I strongly suggest others might do the same sort of thing.  You will be blown away at the stories and reactions that you receive.

Dave M. – Calgary, Alberta

If you would like to know more about V.E.T.S Canada and they work they do check out their website by clicking the link on the photo below.


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