Downhome Magazine

A View of Homelessness in Newfoundland

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Being homeless is so much harder than it used to be.

I talked to a guy who asked me for change while I was outside trying really hard to light a cig and while I felt like my life was falling apart. I didn't want to talk to him let alone walk over and give him change. But I always want to be kind and I've been trying harder to be. So I walked up a hill to where he was. He met me part way. I gave him the 20 cents I had and apologized to him that I didn't have more to give. I was caught up in my head. This is the worst my anxiety and OCD have been in months. I briefly mentioned to him that I had been homeless before and I knew it was hard to live like that.

He came to the building I work at a few minutes later. I'd lit my cig and smoked half of it, maybe more. I watched one person refuse him change. I started to remember more of what it was like.

I called to him and offered him the rest of my cigarette. We talked.

He explained to me that he had walked all the way to Pippy Park to simply try to see his doctor... Who was out sick. Then he ended up here. He went to the gathering place who refused him saying he was simply too young to avail of their services. He went to choices for youth who said all of their spaces were full. He went to detox who said they were full. All of them refused him.

Another one of the people who work in my building who I don't know walked out of the building. He was very polite. He asked for change. She didn't stop to talk to him. She kept walking and without looking said she had nothing to give him. I believed her as few people have cash on them nowadays. It would have felt kinder if she had at least stopped. We are right outside of a building with cameras and I was around and cars were all around. This man wasn't a threat and it was mid day.

He apologized to her for even asking. For even bothering her. She didn't even stop to look at him.

I talked to him for a bit and relayed some of my experiences for him. I suggested places to go and he said he had been to all of them. I hesitantly suggested to go to the Waterford, knowing that the vast majority of all of the people on this forsaken Island would rather die than be admitted and to my lack of surprise he shared my sentiments. He said he was scared of them drugging him. Calling his parents and lying to them. Selling him to who knows where or who. I knew how he felt.

I've been to that ugly place. Never by choice. I didn't push farther.

He explained to me how much he had been walking. How he was hungry. Wanted to sleep. His feet and shoes were soaked from last nights rain. This all for a doctors appointment he didn't get to go to.

My mind is afraid of getting sick from him. My mind is saying he was on some type of drug. All the gross stereotypes. But my heart is sad. Sad I wasn't able to give him more than 20 cents. Sad he's all alone. Sad that so many of the places that are built to help people like him turned him away. Why is this how we treat the less fortunate here?

A couple of years ago that was me. I was him. He was me. It angers me that none of it is A) better here than it was in the States and B) that we don't care to extend love and grace to others.

He came to me while I was on low sleep. While I was glued to my phone and thinking of how my life is falling apart for the thousandth time. But I turned all of that off. I am not better than anyone else. I simply know what that man is going through. I've experienced it. I've lived it through a different lens.

That man is not a druggie. A bum. A loser. A waste. He's us.

He's all of us. We are all him. We are a missed paycheque or a family conflict, need to pay, rent missed interview away from being him. Why is that hard to see? We are not rich. Not a soul in this province is safe from that. All of us can be him. Many of us will be or have been,

I've talked to so many actively or previously homeless people. They're not perfect to be sure but they are PEOPLE. I'm not sure why I feel so strongly all of a sudden. Maybe the feeling of everything crashing down. Maybe all of my anxiety or my experiences. Whatever it is I'm grateful. Someone needs to say what I'm saying. I didn't have the voice to say it before. Now is different. I am not homeless anymore and looking at me I doubt you would guess I ever was. How funny is that? You see someone who goes to work and goes to therapy and goes out with their friends and helps to support their parents and you'd never guess would you. Shameful of you really. To see a person and not their struggle. To simply try to ignore that maybe this person has suffered. Maybe they are currently suffering. To think they don't need help based off of the clothes they're wearing. To think everything is fine based off of their posture and disposition. All of it is shamful. Everyone's done it.

I said to that man I wish him the best. I don't give a **** what he uses his meger change to buy. I don't care. He's doing his best to survive while all of the resources available deny him of any help. Don't you wanna cry? Is this not tugging your heartstrings? Or do you not relate? Your life is too cushy and pleasant to relate? It won't always be. Do not forget that. This is not only his reality but it was mine. It can be yours too.

So think of him or me or anyone but yourself really the next time you don't stop to even look a homeless person in the face next time you have nothing to give them. I am not faulting anyone for not having change. Cash is a rare form of payment nowadays. But look them in the face to tell them you have nothing to offer. Say "sorry" not "no." Be kind to them. Please. If you don't trust them then trust me.

They deserve this small kindness. They don't like where they are. They didn't choose to be homeless. They are humans with thoughts and feelings. None of you understand what it feels like.

Be kind to everyone even if you feel like your life is falling apart. Extending kindness to others will make you feel better.

My point is stop proverbially spitting on and looking down on people that you view to be below you for some reason or another. No person is better due to their wealth or social standing. The only thing that makes you better is your willingness to be kind. Your willingness to improve.

Say hi to the people sitting on the streets. In front of the doors to empty buildings. Talk to them. Give them your kindness if you have nothing else to give to them. Make an effort to bring a bit of change with you if you wanna go to the bars or the pedestrian mall. You will see them and a couple dollars to you may be nothing but to them? You've made their days.

Helping people is not that hard. Way way back if you were homeless different types of places would take you in or you'd get temporary work if you're able to work. But now you need to have experience. Now you need clothes to look professional in. How can you look nice if you have no home to go to to shower and change?

Im trying to say...No, I'm begging you all to be kinder. Homeless people are humans. Is that so hard to understand. See yourself in them and maybe you would learn some empathy. Stop looking at them like the scum of this earth and look at them as varied flawed people with feelings and thoughts of their own. Please be kinder to them. It does not take a lot to remember to bring a little change if your going down town. It takes far far less to simply look at them and speak to them if you have nothing to give. This is not a huge ask. Please try. Do better.

Stjohn's Nl
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