|Tuesday, 26 October 2004 00:00|
I find Vancouver, with all its natural beauty to be more littered than Toronto. I have never really been in some of the less-than-desirable neighbourhoods in Toronto so it really isn't a fair statement on my part, but there are remnants of people's lives at every turn here not just in the "seedy" areas. The homeless residents of this city are from all across Canada and they are drawn here because in their view, at least they won't freeze to death. Many of them are mentally imbalanced; some are addicted to a substance or two and some are just experiencing a rough time in their lives.
In the poorer areas, we see them clustered in groups of three and more however there are homeless people in every neighbourhood and on every street corner. When I see them, I feel so powerless and I find myself wishing there was a cure yet knowing there isn't. We, as a society need to make people value themselves and their bodies more and perhaps the need to get lost in a haze of alcohol or drugs would not be so appealing. At least that would be a start. I am not so removed from reality to think that this problem can be cured overnight or even at all however I can certainly hope for it. It is a dilemma that needs desperately to be addressed by our politicians but even then, what is the answer?
Currently my concern for the homeless here is that they will be driven out of the city to make Vancouver more attractive for the tourists expected to arrive in droves by 2010. And go where? They are shutting down derelict buildings and tearing them down, making way for new condos and hotels and it is merely just a matter of time before the homeless become even more so (if that's even possible). I find myself feeling both compassion for them and anger at them, which confuses me. No one in Canada should have to live like that, from cardboard mattress to park bench, begging on street corners, but what is the answer?
There has been a beggar at one highway exit since April. We've seen him there every day with his dog beside him and a sign "Fallen on hard times, just need something to get by until I can get a job or welfare". He is always getting handouts, always smoking a cigarette (an expensive addiction, these days) and his dog seems fine. So when do the hard times end? Would giving him a roof over his head, a bath and food get him off the streets or does he already have a roof and this is his way of getting an income? I don't know the answer so I am reluctant to keep giving to him, but what else does one do? It's sad seeing so much desperation in such a beautiful part of the world where abundance seems to be everywhere and it truly hurts to see the suffering but what can be done? What are the alternatives or is this just some kind of lesson for us? I know one thing for certain though, I know it is not a life I would wish for anyone.