Laat night about 10pm leaving Walmart I was approached by a teeth chattering homeless guy begging for change. The temp was about -26 (with the wind -36) and it had just started snowing. Instinctively I said sorry, I have no change, without making eye contact. As I took a few more steps towards my truck I wanted to cry. Even if I did give this poor soul a toonie, how is that helping him get off the street, into a job and into a place to call home? An utter sadness filled me for the sake of this guy and the countless others out there again tonight amidst this life taking weather.
In regards to the homelessness crisis, I feel like a two year old babbling my opinion but I do in fact have something on my heart to say and to explore. Typically, I’ll see the person outside Walmart or the person standing on the median in heavy traffic with their handmade cardboard sign. Never have I once laughed at their situation or thrown a joke at their expense within my warm vehicle but equally I usually shrug them off. I see everyone equal. They, just like me, have the opportunity to work a job and receive a paycheque. If I give them five bucks, I feel like it will go to further their addiction, not help them seek shelter, food or better their place in life. I was fairly numb to their beggary.. until lately.
It’s the deep winter that gets me. Again, forgive my naive curiosity but I mean aren’t there shelters for men and women whom have nowhere to go and especially when sleeping outside means death? Twenty five years ago when I was fresh on my own and dabbling with the party life style too much I never stayed at a shelter but I did have a few meals at one. Surely there must be some sort of criteria for a person to be given lodging beyond being homeless. Something like it must only be for a certain time frame then you must reapply, depending on need and space. If you get caught using drugs then you’re temporarily suspended, stuff of this nature.
But maybe it is harder getting a spot. And if that’s the case and I’m choosing death by freezing or short to long term prison incarceration, you better believe I’d gladly relinquish my freedom. And the sad thing is I’m almost certain this is not a new concept. They say prisons are mostly over filled and in scenarios such as these I can see why.
Stop and think about this real quick. To me, both of these choices are literally my worst nightmares come true. Being faced with letting your body get so cold that your organs start to hog all your blood so your appendages begin to freeze first. Eventually your lungs aren’t able to take in much oxygen and your heart slows rapidly then your brain begins to die as does the rest of you. There’s that or having all your rights taken away and surrendering yourself to a tiny cell, surrounded by rapists and killers for possibly the rest of your life. What would you choose?
That’s really all I have to say on the subject. I don’t ever give change but I definitely want to help more with soup kitchens or wherever else I can volunteer. I want to keep these feelings at the front of my brain otherwise it won’t happen and my life will move on but sadly others will not. Let’s all count our myriad of blessings tonight.