What I have to say about homelessness in Vancouver now that it's winter
Today was Vancouver’s first snowfall of the winter.
We all dealt with it in our usual Vancouver ways, wiping snowy windshields with mittens, trying to stay stable while strategically hopping along the slushy sidewalks. There was a lot going on – a bit of chaos - and that’s understandable. Unlike other cities, us Vancouverites haven’t carried the burden of several snowy winters on our backs. We struggle to cope and that’s ok.
Given all the noise about the snow I found myself reading a lot of news today – the car accidents, the weekly forecast, the buses slipping and sliding across the bridge. I thought about our frantic reactions throughout the day and the things that many of us feel constitutes a true crisis. Clicking through the websites I couldn’t help but think about the homeless, and wondered why I couldn’t find a related story.
Let me state before we get deeper that I am not any sort of Mother Teresa and I do not pose to be. I help prepare food and hand it out in the DTES only once a year, and I know this situation isn’t simple, trust me. I will say that I have worked with dozens of children with homeless parents – I know from experience their problems multiply during the winter.
Every year the stories are all the same. The homeless passing away while sleeping on the cold sidewalks, not enough shelter, not enough food, the list goes on. Add on to that our burgeoning drug crisis and we’ve found ourselves back at step one.
What I’m trying to say is that I felt helpless today – not just because I don’t have a shovel or because my sneakers aren’t waterproof.
A few years back I participated in a food bank challenge to raise money for the homeless. Nothing could have prepared me for the fat roll of salami presenting itself to me in the basket I was to live off for one week - hey, you gotta have a sense of humour at least! I eyed the powdered milk, expired produce, lentils, and more. In retrospect it actually wasn’t bad at all. It goes to show how much I still had to learn.
I came to realize that this issue of surviving during the winter was incredibly political with bold sociological implications. It wasn't really something that I learned about in broadcast school. I saw all of this argued from very conservative and liberal sides. The anger was boundless but I was relieved, at least, that everyone admitted there was a problem.
This isn’t just about food. It’s about drug rehabilitation, affordable housing, employing more professionals - the list goes on. We should be focusing on this more every season of the year, all the same knowing that winter is especially crucial.
I wasn’t incredibly sure about our new government with the chaos that transpired before the results were finally called. I will admit that BC’s political history within the last decade has had me feeling rather glum – like Gordon Campbell’s spending decisions regarding social welfare, and no, I am not quite over that.
To me, it didn’t matter who was elected if they weren’t willing to admit that action (and not just words) is the catalyst for change. No more lying or avoidance behaviour as seen from years and years before.
Sometimes I go crazy trying to determine the answer to these problems. Modular housing? Naloxone kits? Shelter upgrades? Maybe we’ve already found the answers, or maybe we haven’t. Regardless, it finally looks like change is in motion.
If anyone has names of any organizations you can donate to in the DTES please comment below or send me a message. I’d like to put together a list. I’d also love to know what you think about this article. Thanks!