School starts Tomorrow!!!! Something you may not be aware about some students….

So I know this weekend, there has been a lot of conversations around Syrian refugees. And it is an important conversation that hopefully opens eyes and challenges hearts.

Now, we are focused on #peegate.

However, I would like to make you aware of something else.
School starts tomorrow. It is an exciting time for many as they are going forward to pursue an education to get a job. To contribute to society in some way. To feel better about themselves. To be better people.

The problem is as school starts tomorrow, there will be many students that will not have a place to stay. At our orientation Friday, several hands went up when asked who needs a place.

I understand that there are many issues surrounding this topic. Here are a couple;

If you call a potential and say you are a student, there is hesitation. If you say you are working, there is more openness to rent.

The cost of coming up with in some provinces, not all, of coming up with one month’s rent plus one month’s damage deposit.

You say live in a Hotel? The Y on Beatty and Robson costs $900 a month. Which being a student, is above my own personal price range.

I find it odd that in a country where we say that we value education, that we would allow students to be homeless. An unsettled student is going to be an disorganized student. A disorganized student will be an unsuccessful student.

We are better off with successful people doing what they are good at.

So be aware and educate yourself on the issues in Syria. If you need too, have a good laugh at #peegate or whatever scandal that comes up today.

But, maybe we can be a bit more aware that there are some Post Secondary Students that will start school living on the streets.

Agree or Disagree: Being homeless is a choice

We have had some small conversations about this before.

I’ve interviewed a homeless man named Tim Barber on Agree or Disagree: The Podcast. He talked about his experiences being homeless in Calgary.

You might also remember we talked to Cory Chapdelaine and Kali Readwin about this topic as well. We spent some time discussing the different social implications being homeless.

Now, we have a challenge for a debate.

Robyn Moser has challenged Kathleen Smith to a debate on this topic. So, like a good Podcast, we will record it.

Some of the topics we will cover.
There will be someone who has a homeless experience. They will share it.
Current overall trends of homelessness in Calgary and Edmonton.
Current trends and concerns on LGBT homeless in Calgary and Edmonton. As well as support options for LGBT,
And of course, the question if homelessness is a choice.

For clarity, and this will be expanded on more, Robyn thinks homelessness is a choice. Kathleen does not.

To prepare us, what do you think? Is homelessness a choice? Why or why not?

Agree or Disagree: We would end Homelessness, by giving Homeless homes

Agree or Disagree: We would end Homelessness, by giving Homeless homes

The above link is an interesting idea from Utah. 

 Since 2005,Utah decided to give the homeless homes. Studies showed that the costs for E.R visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person. Giving them an apartment and social worker costs $11,000. 

Apparently the idea has worked.  It has reduced homelessness by 78%. A huge step when your goal is to end homelessness by 2015. As a matter of fact, other states are adopting this idea.

But, do you really think this idea would work? It seems simple. As a matter or fact, there was a thought of this idea in Calgary. There were some concerns.

Do you think this works?

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty…. but about the homeless.

At the current moment of this writing, the current temperature is -26 in Calgary. With the windchill and other factors, it feels like -38.

In other words, it’s extremely cold. Quite likely, you are going to be staying in the comforts of your home. You will sit and relax and have something hot, and you will be warm, and you will be comfortable.

In many senses, you might feel fortunate. Because, there are many tonight that do not have that privilege.

I’m talking about the homeless. Imagine just for a moment, you do not have a place to call home. Struggling to find a comfortable place to rest. In this cold, that would be tough.  This leads to a higher risk of frostbite, hypothermia,and other health risks.

Well, there’s the Mustard Seed right? That’s an option for the homeless? Last night, they turned away about 15 people. In other words, the places and the options where they can go is limited.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m trying to bring a perspective into a situation.

Do you remember during the floods the response from Calgarians supporting their neighbours in need? There was more volunteers then anyone imagined. People stepped out and they spoke out. We as a community stood up. We spoke through action, we spoke through social media, we offered homes and food.

Right now, some might say we are in the brink of an emergency. And the silence is deafening.

Argue what you want about how one got to where they are today. Today, they are there

Again, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. However,  I think the time has come  to ask some questions.

In extreme cold situations like this, is there more  as a community that we can do to provide safe and warm shelter for the homeless? What do you think of the City of Calgary’s policies on this? Do they provide enough support? 

And one more question.

How can use Social Media as a tool for communication, share options of support for the homeless in these conditions.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. However, put yourself in their shoes. What would you want?

It’s the end of this writing. The current temperature is -26. It still feels like it’s -38. And it will only get colder.

Agree or Disagree: The Homeless should not be allowed to own pets



 You probably have seen this in a city near you. A person, or persons sitting on the street sometimes wrapped in blankets. A sign made out in cardboard, sometimes witty, or sometimes depressed needing change. Sitting beside them is a dog. Loyal to their master, they lay there. Homeless and not knowing any different, are you as a passerby ever wonder if this is beneficial for the dog?

If you are a dog owner, you know there is a cost to owning a dog. There’s the adoption fees, food, licensing, and of course health issues. You may need to train the dog as well. It certainly would seem on first glance, based on these costs, that you really might wonder how one who is homeless can own a dog and treat them they way they should?

However, if you are a dog owner, you also know the benefits of owning a dog. They are loyal, a great companion, and protective of their home and master. They are good exercise as they ask you to walk and or play. Homeless or not, you might wonder how you could live without a dog?

When I was in Montreal, I saw an argument between a man walking on the street and the person on the street about the very same thing. The homeless person actually had a cat, but he was defensive about his ownership of the cat.Stating very clearly that he could take care of the cat.

What do you think? Should it be a legal requirement or a priority that a dog or a cat owner has a home to take them?

Agree or Disagree: It is possible to completely end homelessness.

I’m sure  in certain areas of your own city downtown and surrounding area, there likely is an area some would recommend that you avoid.

You know the ones. They have a reputation. A group appearing to be an unseemly sort. Unkept. Unclean. Unwashed.

In some cities, they have been pushed away. In an attempt to clean up an area, there have been “revitalization projects”. To attract new businesses and new ideas, there has been an attempt to change the culture of the Unkept, Unclean, and Unwashed. However, while the “revitalization projects”go into full swing, it seems that the Unkept, Unclean and Unwashed have been done with.

The only thing is, they just went to a different area.

In Calgary, where I live, there’s a project  that the Calgary Homeless Foundation has been in the midst. It’s the 10 year plan to end homelessness.

It started in 2008, and it is expected to end in 2018. They have 3 phases. The first phase is from 2008-2010 in which the plan was to develop a better understanding. The second phase of the plan in which we are currently in from 2011-2014 is to build a homeless-serving systems to end homeless. They have identified 4 key strategies. They are prevention and rehousing, housing, data and research, and the non-profit sector. And the plan for 2015-2018 is to develop a sustainable plan and transition into community leadership.

Now how the project is going, the success of this idea might be debated by some. You can have a look at this to see their ideas. I would say that I think it has been understated the tremendous amount of time and effort many in the front line of homeless shelters have given. Whether they be case workers, front line workers or the countless volunteers that have given their time, I think they should be thanked much more than they are.

Last Monday, I happened to attend a panel discussion that was put on by the Centre for Christian Thought. There were opening remarks from Deputy Mayor Gail Macleod. The discussion lead to three factors to look at homelessness. Dr, John Rook the CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation discussed homelessness as a social problem. John Bodman, who was homeless for years, looked at it from a personal problem. And Bishop Fred Henry looked at the spiritual problem of homelessness.

There was some very important issues discussed. Dignity. Addiction. Mental Illness The impact on smoking laws and recycling. Our responsibility to the homeless. And they are key issues to what we are dealing with. 

But there is so much more.

The more I think about it, it seems to me that it comes down to how we look at that group of the Unwashed, Unclean and Unkept. Because very clearly, there are many ways to look at this. Some of you may respond with some of these questions like.

How can you live in a city like Calgary and not have a job?

Why should I give any of my spare change to a homeless person? It’s going to go to booze and drugs anyway.

Where is your family? Don’t you have any education?

And some might respond with questions like these.

“Did you know he was a smart guy? He has a business. He put his trust in someone and they took off with everything.

Did you know that there is a huge population of working poor? Did you also know that if you don’t have a fixed address, you can’t have a job?

And one I deal with on a regular basis.

It is very tough as an adult learner to get the education that some desire. Yes, there is Continuing Education classes you can take. However, in many disciplines it is simply not possible to take courses part time. Some of the programs are designed in a way where it can only be taken full time. In some cases, it includes a practicum. Which might be unpaid. And if you are an adult that is established, this can be very discouraging. 

What about funding for education? Great question. It is somewhat limited depending on what you are taking. There is government funding for one year Certificates, but not for any higher forms of education. And you and I both know who a company will hire.

The point being is that I think there are very important questions that have been asked. And there are some real frustrations in dealing  with this as well. And they are all fair.

But, if you think it is even possible to end homelessness, then I think it’s going to take a culture shift. And a shift in our mindset

But, what do you think?

Agree or Disagree-We need to stop volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens

Last night I participated in discussion on how to solve some issues related to poverty in Calgary.

There were many themes and discussions that came out. One thing we did get too, I think was some deeper discussion then a simple “hand out.”

This point came from someone who I would consider qualified to make this statement. It’s someone who has spent some time at  the shelter and has worked with volunteers.

This is the statement that was said. “Instead of 30 people coming from a church and spending an hour helping in the kitchen, why not 3 come and spend some real time with them.”

There was another theme that came up that was interesting. A theme called “Poverty Porn”. The term comes from a book called Damnation. It basically means that perhaps our help is more on the level of making us feel good, rather then actual help. Instant Gratification.

Here is an interesting thing to note. Did you know when the boom hit in Calgary from 2001-2006 that the top 20% of Calgarians  felt the positive impact of it. In other words, the money that we thought should solve the problem didn’t.Those that were stuck, were still stuck. 

Clearly, we do need to look at different ways. And to add another perspective, I’ll post Culture Rebels blog as a part of this which you can read here.