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?


I’d like to tell you a story about Calgary Housing.

There has been a lot of ideas, conversation, and talking in Calgary involving the less fortunate.

As an example, there is The Plan to End Homelessness. Their are several agencies that are talking about it

Notice,I said  talking. Notice, I did not say help. There is a reason for that.

To explain the reason, I need to tell you a story.

The story involves Calgary Housing.

But first ,I’d like to introduce you to Jodie.

Jodie is a single mom who has been clean for 4 years. She has 2 kids and a job. She is trying to do what she can to put one foot in front of the other. To get ahead.

Because of where Jodie has been, which was homeless, she found herself in Calgary Housing. A great opportunity to live in a reasonable house with affordable rent.

Now, with this affordable rent comes some expectations.  They include a clean house, clean yard, no live in roommates, updates on income changes, and no pets.

Let’s talk about pets. Also, let’s talk about rules.

Jodie’s job shifts vary. They could start as early as 5:30. They could go late into the evening. With two small children, a job like this is not easy to plan around.
Fortunately, she has a babysitter. Not only a babysitter, a free babysitter. How many of you with kids could have used a free babysitter? Obviously, a blessing. Particularly with no daycare open at 5:30 AM. As well as $1,000 a month cost for a daycare.

The one thing with the babysitter is she has epilepsy. Because of that, she has a dog. A dog that she is required to be with her should certain health issues arise. This certainly would be understandable right?

Apparently, not for Calgary Housing.

We will move the scene to Tuesday May 20. Jodie comes home and checks her mail. In it she finds something shocking.

She is given an eviction notice.

Now the amazing thing about this eviction notice is Calgary Housing gave her until May 31 to leave. The notice is dated on May 2, and she got it May 20. I have lived in Calgary all my life and I have never seen any mail coming from Calgary take 18 days to get too me.

Now when Jodie approached the house manager about why, she got an interesting response. She was told she had a dog.

According to the Calgary Housing website, pets are allowed in some premises. You must ask for permission. She didn’t ask for permission because, first of all,it’s not her dog and the dog does not live there. Secondly, as I learned from another source that lives in Calgary Housing, there are many tenants who own cats and dogs. And have not got permission for them. Jodie has seen cats and dogs in her property. Many tenants will hide their pets during routine inspections.

Others have too.

The situation gets worse . Jodie explained her situation to the manager. She explained  about her job hours as well as her babysitter’s health, this is the response she got.

“It’s not my problem”.

When her babysitter was on the premise, she got confronted by an older gentleman who guards the premise. She was walking her dog when she was confronted by this gentleman, she explained her situation. This is the response she got.

“You don’t belong here”

Now, perhaps you think this is an isolated incident. It’s not. Another source who lives in Calgary Housing me that is a common way the tenants are treated.  Particularly those that are “difficult or bad”.

“They put the fear of homelessness into you if you don’t comply and believe me when you are on a fixed or low income and get evicted from housing it is very defeating” My source said.

Too be clear, Jodie is not looking for a handout. Jodie is willing to move and overall thinks it would be better if she did. What she wants is more time.

“It’s not easy to come up with 3,000 for a place.”$1,500 for rent and $1,500 for damage deposit.”Jodie said

As you can imagine, Jodie is frustrated. She has never missed her rent. She’s a good tenant who is trying hard to take the right steps in life.

“Life is supposed to improve once you work. I refuse to go back to where I was” she said

I’m also frustrated, I’m frustrated by the fact that an organization that is suppose to be a support for families feels they can belittle their tenants. There is a lack of compassion, heart, and quite frankly any reason to treat people like this. People that are overcoming so much to move and stay ahead.

If you combine this story with the stories Tim Barber shared on my Podcast. As well as the recent issues with the Mustard Seed’s parking stalls, I think,it’s time to ask this question.

Is Calgary saying they want to help the needy? Or does Calgary actually want to help the needy?

Agree or Disagree: We are having better conversations about Mental Health

Agree or Disagree: We are having better conversations about Mental Health

Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.

Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.

About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

You can read more at this link

Clearly, it would seem that there are more conversations, more awareness about mental health.

Do you think we are having better conversations about Mental Health?

Let’s talk about that.

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: Society is supportive of those who struggle with substance abuse.


The past week, the world’s eyes have been glued to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  Ever since Police Chief Bill Blair revealed that they had the now infamous video of Ford smoking crack cocaine. There was the subsequent denial and then admission of Ford smoking crack cocaine. There was another video of him acting inebriated making threatening remarks and swearing.

There have been many jokes made at his expense. Many have had a good laugh over this. And while there has been this laughter, I had to stop and really look at this situation. Not because I like Rob Ford. But because there is a serious situation happening before our eyes.   

It is pretty obvious to all of us watching that Rob Ford has a problem. A very serious substance abuse problem. Whether he admits it or not, he need serious help. The reality is he is not the only one who does. I recently read a CBC report that estimated that 11% of Canadians struggle with substance abuse. That number seems low too me for some reason. However, let me ask some questions? Before I do ask, I’m not asking this to be self-righteous or critical, but bring a perspective I was thinking about.

What if this was your friend and your friend was acting like this?

What if it was your brother and or sister and they were acting like this?

What if it was your spouse and they were acting like this?

What if it was your parent and they were acting like this?

What if it was you?

It seems easy to post a joke, or go to a public protest and demand a resignation of a figure that is “embarrassing your city”. It gets much tougher when we add the element of human being  you know with real problems in the mix. Because, many you know in a personal way how hard it is to go through this. Supporting recovery, or trying to recover yourself. 

What I have been thinking about and what I would like to talk about is how as a society deals with the topic of substance abuse? Is it a place of support? Are we open to the discussion? Or, are we ignoring it? 

My small observation of what we have watched this week might suggest we can improve here.

Agree or Disagree: There’s enough support for families of children with disabilities.

Agree or Disagree: There's enough support for families of children with disabilities.

By now, many have expressed outrage over this letter. If you missed it, a neighbour wrote this letter to the Milson family in Oshawa Ontario. They have an autistic boy named Max. He’s 13 years old. Here are some of the highlights.

You selfishly put your kid outside everyday and let him be nothing but a nuisance and a problem to everyone else with that noise polluting whaling he constantly makes,” the letter reads. “That noise he makes when he is outside is DREADFUL (sic) !!!!!!!!!!

“We have a nature trail!! Let him run around those places and make noise,” the letter continues. “Crying babies, music and even barking dogs are normal sounds in a residential neighborhood!!!!! He is NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It goes on to suggest that they consider the idea of “euthanizing” the boy.

We all can agree that this letter is utterly disgraceful and inappropriate. It is right to feel some anger and sadness as I am feeling while writing this too you.

Reading this has led me to conclude some things. The first one being, there is still some ignorance and lack of awareness when it comes to people with disabilities. For many, people with disabilities, or even the idea of having a mental or physical disability has a stigma to it. It is uncomfortable, and as we know as humans, we don’t always like the uncomfortable or the different.

The second thing that this tells me is there is a lack of support for families with children with disabilities. If we examine the letter and look at what possibly happened, I think it’s a safe assumption that Max was discussed by a few people in the neighbourhood. Likely with some laughter and scorn. Also likely, with some criticism towards the family with fingers pointed at the parents. Before this letter, I wonder how many of the neighbours took the time to stand and support or ask about Max? Probably not that many.

If you are a parent, you know the joy, the thrill and the fulfillment your children bring too you. But you also know that you need support. Be it family, friends, or parent groups, it helps.

If you are a family member of someone who needs support for some deep struggle, you know how hard it is on the entire family. It can be divisive, taxing and draining.

Perhaps it’s a good time to examine if there’s enough support for families of children with disabilities?