Agree or Disagree: Some Women Feel “Invisible” .Guest post from Connie Jakab

For those who have been regular or semi-regluar readers, you may have read some guest posts from Connie before.

This Sunday at the Hotel Arts in Calgary, there is a fundraiser for a show called Invisible. Invisible will be a dance show at June 14 and June 15 at Theatre Grande. The focus of this show is how women feel invisible. The focus of the fundraiser will be raising funds for an organization called Wildgarden. Wildgarden is a grass roots in Calgary helping women and children in domestic violence issues and pregnant women in need.

Tickets are $55 or you can get a VIP ticket for $70. There will be a silent auction, appetizers,live music and a Dance Party hosted by DJ Walk and DJ Crosswalk.

When I think of the word Invisible, a number of different images come to mind, This is an issue we will be unpacking a bit as we get closer to the show. Here, Connie gives a perspective.

Thank you Connie and we will see you at the show.

Walking downtown, I notice the strange mix of business suits with those wearing worn out clothing carrying bags of bottles. Although they walk side by side, they are different. They don’t acknowledge one another. As they walk, the only similarity is their eyes looking towards the ground. I stop to chat with a dog owner when we are interrupted by a homeless woman. Before she can speak, my dog-owner friend cuts in to say, “I have no change”, and walks off. I’m left with this woman waiting for me to reject her as well. I reach into my purse and give her a toonie. I ask for her name and tell her mine. She introduces me to her friend and her friend’s new fiance. They are beaming with pride over the bright blue ring that looks like it came out of a toy box. We exchange in casual conversation about the amazing soup you can get at Red’s on 4th and then say our goodbye’s.

Harmless, really. However I understand how many are afraid to even speak to the homeless. It’s not that we look down on them, it’s more more fear of what’s unknown. Personally I have wondered about my safety at times or have had thoughts of being followed for more money. We don’t fully understand their situation, making it hard for us to engage even in something as simple as conversation.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on homelessness in the last year and half, and more recently, on women who are homeless. My findings have allowed me to engage in friendly conversation with ones such as these. I have found a few interesting truths in the process. I’d like to share them with you.

No teeth does not equal axe murderer. It equals someone who has nothing and is probably ashamed of their smile. (If I struggle with a slight coffee stain, how must they feel?!)

Saying “hello” does not mean unending harassment.

Giving money may indeed go to booze, but it may remind them that someone cares. Wouldn’t you drink if you were on the street in the dead of winter?

If you have no money to share, I’ve found finding out their name and introducing yourself brings more than money can buy; it brings humanity back to their existence.

There are many contributing factors to what causes homelessness. Because of how vast the subject is, I would like to highlight a couple of factors when it comes to women you may see on the street who are homeless.

Did you know:

Many women on the street have come from situations of domestic violence. If they don’t have children, there are very limited shelter space for them.

Women on the street will often hook up with a man for survival and a place to live – even if that man is abusive or feeds her substance abuse habits.

Women only make up 20% of homeless shelters, mostly because of the dangers that exist for them while staying at a shelter.

Some women you see on the street once were just like you and I. Maybe they were trying to support themselves through University and chose an escorting job that led them to a party lifestyle of crystal meth that depleted their beauty and thus their employability. Prostitution was the next best option for them.

Some women are homeless due to mental illness and no family that is around or willing to help them.

Single moms have a hard time finding affordable housing in Calgary. Imagine working a $10/hr job and having two kids that cost more than that for childcare and your rent is $1500 a month. How does one survive?

Knowing some of these facts has brought their humanity back to my heart. Knowing their name has become important to me. Thinking about where they have come from means something to me. I don’t see them as separate than myself. I see them as valued members of our community, our city.

Seeing value in them makes them visible to me. I don’t need to solve their problems, but having them and the issues surrounding their situation makes them no longer invisible to me. This becomes the start to building a city I want to live in.


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