This morning, I awoke early. I had a volunteer commitment at 6am and didn't want to be late. I forgot last month. Didn't want to risk letting down my fellow volunteers at Inn from the Cold.
It's an interesting conundrum. 3 churches every night open their doors to homeless families. Approximately 60 to 70 people every night bused to different locations throughout the city and retrieved every morning to be deposited downtown at the offices for Inn from the Cold. During the school year, the children are taken to a school, the same one every day -- they need stability. Working mothers and fathers find their way to work. They spend their day gathering coin, earning a living, and at night, the cycle continues.
What's wrong with this picture?
In making available a program that houses families in a different place every night, we make it possible for abuse by homelessness to continue. No child should have to live such an unstable, insecure and disruptive life. It isn't right and when we make it work, we make it okay.
For ten years this program has given refuge to homeless families -- I believe that if we can orbit the earth in satellites, land on the moon and fly to Mars, we are capable of finding a solution that delivers a more dignified solution to families experiencing homelessness.
Whew! Now that I've got that off my chest, I feel better.
I work in a shelter that gives succor to homeless adults. Doesn't make homelessness right. Doesn't make it okay. It is still wrong that we have not found a way to stem the flow of humanity falling prey to addictions, family break-ups, domestic violence, abuse, mental disorders.
Once upon a time, I was homeless. Conrad and I had supposedly bought a house together. The paper work was forged. I didn't know it. I knew, somewhere deep inside, it was all a lie. I knew, somewhere in the depths of my despair that my life was a mess. And I was homeless. But I didn't call it that. I stayed with friends. I was lucky. They loved me enough to give me a place to stay. They too endured the horror and terror of those final months of my spiral into hell. They didn't know what to do. They didn't know if Conrad was lying, if he was a fraud, if his stories of the problems surrounding the closing of our 'new' home were just a lie or if they really were true. They didn't know what Conrad was doing, they just knew that they wanted to help me. and they did.
I remember the feeling of being helpless, of being lost, frightened, ashamed of what had become of my life. My daughters were living at their fathers, they too were helpless, lost, frightened, ashamed. I was desperately holding my finger in the dike of my despair, praying the floodgates keeping my terror back would not break. My breath came in shallow bursts. My body hurt. Every muscle. Every fibre. Every cell. In my head there was a loud and constant roaring. I couldn't think. I dare not feel. I dare not say a word. I kept smiling. Praying nobody would see behind my carefully constructed armour of self-reliance that I was dying of shame, and guilt and fear and sorrow.
I watch the families this morning gather up their meagre belongings and I wonder if they too are feeling shame and guilt and fear and sorrow.
I know they are.
I can't make right what is wrong in their lives. I can't pass a magic wand and make it all better. While what happened to my daughters was awful, they never had the trauma of moving every night to a different church, sleeping in a wide open hall with 4 or 5 other families. Eating communal meals with 20 other people, every night, night after night. Of awakening every morning to different faces cheerfully saying good-morning, serving you breakfast. It is wrong.
It is right that we care. It is not okay what happens to these children when they shuffle from place to place with no place to call home.