No More Loss…

No More Loss

 

You love your furry friend…or friends.  So much so that you buy their favourite food, get little treats, maybe special outfits for the cold, have them groomed, and interrogate prospective dog or cat sitters!  You let them sleep on the bed and drink out of the toilet, you get up in the middle of the night to let them out, and you live in fear that they will get lost, sick, old, and the unmentionable.

A friend of mine who loves cats said that he can’t have one of his own precisely because of that potential loss – it’s just too much to bear.  When we imagine stability –  a good job, a house, car, family and friends – then he’s got it.  So if the loss of a pet is too much for him to bear, imagine how much more difficult it is for someone who is not so stable.  Imagine how much more devastating that loss is for someone who has no job, no reliable family or friends…for someone who has no home.

A few months ago, on a bitter winter night, a young woman came into the WYC.  She had lost her housing and had packed up her beloved cat in a cardboard box.  It made getting around the city pretty difficult, but it also kept her from finding a warm place to sleep.  Shelters typically don’t take pets.  And her own friends were either allergic or had pets of their own, so catching some rest on someone’s couch was out of the question.

She preferred facing the freezing cold rather than face the thought of giving up her furry friend!

This behaviour is not irrational.  In fact, it makes sense to hold on to the one thing that provides us love, comfort, even stability.  It is exactly the act of caring for a loved one that keeps us grounded, perhaps even sane.

Furthermore, if we are still capable of prioritizing relationships, love, and care, over our own comfort and our own gain, there is hope for us humans yet.

You can support this humane behaviour by making a donation of pet food to your local food bank or drop-in shelter!


To make a donation to the Windsor Youth Centre, please click on the link below.

https://www.thewindsoryouthcentre.org/support-the-wyc/donate-online/

End Homelessness!

Handing over the house keys

For those of us who are recognizing Good Friday today,
let’s recognize the suffering that still exists
2017 years later:

Not having a home where we feel safe and find some comfort is a form of human suffering.

End of story.

When we talk about ending homelessness, what we are saying is, ‘we don’t want to participate in creating suffering.’

When we talk about ending homelessness, what we are saying is ‘we want to participate in ending suffering.’

When we approach ending homelessness as ending suffering, we act with compassion and urgency.

Let’s put a little more of that in our efforts.
No, let’s put a lot more of that in our efforts.

End of story?

Mental Health and Addiction: put help within reach.

My friend, Simon, has a chronic knee problem due to a childhood injury.  Three years ago, the knee gave out on him totally and made it impossible for him to go about his daily life.  He lost his job and the pain is now so severe that it sometimes keeps him in bed.

Depression

He has tried to go for physio; he has tried to look for work; he has tried to go back to school to get a new skill set.  But everywhere he goes, he’s directed to the third, fourth or fifth floor of a building with no elevator.  The help he needs is almost always just out of reach.

True story?  Of course not!  But this story could be true if Simon had an untreated mental illness or addiction.  Daily, the young people I know are being asked to jump hurdles to get the very help they need to get over those hurdles in the first place.

We have started to recognize accessibility for people struggling with a physical injury (I’m only talking about injuries here).  But what about those kids whose emotional life is such a challenge that:

  • they can’t keep track of the day or the time
  • their lack of self-confidence prevents them from walking into an office and talking to the receptionist
  • they are paranoid about being outdoors in the daytime

There are more valid reasons than we know
that keep some youth from getting the help they need.

Many of the young people I know have suffered so much childhood trauma, that their lives are full of fear.  Fear is exhausting.  That exhaustion, alone, is sometimes enough to keep someone from getting to an appointment – even if it’s with a doctor or social worker or housing worker or school counselor or anyone who can help.

Sometimes,
asking a young person who struggles with mental illness and/or addiction
to make it to an appointment is like asking someone with a broken leg
to walk up three flights of stairs to the x-ray.

The difference is that we would be outraged at the expectation to walk up the stairs.  When it comes to mental health and addiction, the rage and frustration is often directed toward the youth, themselves.  It is necessary to be critically conscious of our expectations rather than being immediately critical of our youth.

Let’s be conscious
of the ways in which mental health and addiction prevent people from getting help.

Let’s work toward
an accessibility that includes those struggling with mental health and addiction.

Please consider making a donation to the Windsor Youth Centre https://www.thewindsoryouthcentre.org/

Something More to Lose

long-after-eviction-move_c3b648ce83138848

“I remember the place I had.  There was a bedroom for me and one for my son.  I had a wonderful queen sized bed, and I brought other stuff in to make it feel homey,” a 22 year old mother, Frances, talked with me over coffee and shared memories of the home she had built for herself and her son just over a year ago.

She has since lost it all.

We are working toward getting her housed again.  I told her, “You created a home for yourself once, so you know you can do it.  It can happen again.”

“What, so I can lose everything all over again?
It hurts worse each time I lose something or someone close to me.”

What is the motivation to build a life when the trauma of loss looms over each success?  The possibility of loss is just as real as the possibility of success.

For those who struggle with poverty and homelessness, the possibility of experiencing loss is a reality in day to day life.

Homeless youth daily have their belongings stolen or lost.  Or they have to pawn whatever valuable item they have for a few dollars to help them get through the day.  And worse, they lose the people who are close to them.

Frances has been homeless now for months.  She stays with friends when she can.  The other night she spent the entire night at a 24 hour coffee shop.  She is exhausted.  Her past has tired her out, her present situation is tiring, and the future seems overwhelming.

Even though we are working toward getting her housed, what we need to remember is that every success represents a possible future loss.  In other words, as she gets on her feet, she faces the potential for more pain and suffering compounded with what she has already experienced.  We have to be honest and admit that we cannot guarantee against future pain.  Our communities don’t often have the resources needed for recovery from past and present experiences never mind preparing someone for what’s to come.

Let’s acknowledge the courage of young people who face both
homelessness AND the path out of homelessness. 

And then let’s be there for them!

Please support a local youth organization that provides homeless youth with some kind of stability.

https://www.thewindsoryouthcentre.org/support-the-wyc/donate-online/

Legacy of an Overdose

graveside

When people struggling with addiction and/or homelessness die, they leave behind grieving friends and family, just like anyone else does. When that person is young and they die from overdose, those friends and family members are also left with a very real understanding of the potential dangers of homelessness, addiction, untreated mental illness, and a range of the symptoms of poverty.

Philip, a youth I’ve known for years, called me today to ask for help getting to the funeral of a good friend who had recently overdosed.  The friend had been special to him because he had been able to ‘look past circumstances’ and see Philip as a human being.

I scribbled these words down on a napkin as we were speaking.  They are part of the legacy that the young man left behind.  And a valuable one – the notion that we should look past circumstances in order to be a good friend.

I had met Philip’s friend a handful of times only and didn’t know him very well.  But I feel sad today for all those who have lost him.  And I feel sad for the pain he experienced during his lifetime.  I hope he has found some peace.

But even more, I hope that we all make good use of his legacy and look past the circumstances of others to their human-ness.  If we take on this challenge, it must be something we do daily, especially when it is not easy or convenient to do so.

It is a strength rather than a weakness to be humbled by the wisdom of someone who struggled with their own difficult circumstances.

Lonely? You are not alone.

What is the worst of all pains?  “Complete aloneness and doubt,” according to Erich Fromm.  He states, “To feel completely alone and isolated leads to mental disintegration just as physical starvation leads to death.” According to him, this pain is great enough for us to hand over our very freedom if there is a chance of alleviating it.

i-feel-lonely-every-single-day-of-my-life-but-im-ashamed-to-admit-that-to-the-people-who-love-me-quote-1

George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian last year identifies loneliness as more unbearable than physical pain, “Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former.”

Loneliness and its consequences affect people worldwide.  People who have good jobs, homes, families and friends can feel lonely.  The feeling of loneliness and its consequences, however, are often more severe and more drastic when someone has no home, no meaningful work, no support from family and friends.

In those situations, alleviating loneliness necessarily becomes the most important task of the day.  It’s a top priority because it is the greatest pain.

For homeless youth, loneliness is dangerous, potentially fatal.  All those activities that we might think of as ‘steps to betterment’, like writing a resume and making it to a doctor’s appointment take a back seat if:

  1. the pain of loneliness is too unbearable to be able to function
  2. something (or someone) else has come along which appears to be a way out of the loneliness, even if it’s potentially harmful

So let’s look at loneliness for what it is –
an unbearable and often debilitating pain.

Only in this light can we look at other people’s choices realistically and fairly.

In this light, the seemingly ‘stupid’ decisions that young people make suddenly make sense. 

In this light, we can start to create real strategies that actually help.

In this light, we understand that alleviating loneliness MUST come before the life-skills classes, the budgeting and resume-writing workshops, etc.

In this light
we finally get it
that we have wasted too many resources on NOT addressing the real problem. 

Let’s redirect our resources, scarce as they may be, to offering young people love, compassion, and meaningful participation in society.  If we don’t know how to do this on a large scale yet, well, we should figure it out. 

Check out programming at thewindsoryouthcentre.org or make a donation to support an organization that takes relationship-building seriously.

https://thewindsoryouthcentre.org/we-need-your-donations/

 

Further reading:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/12/neoliberalism-creating-loneliness-wrenching-society-apart
  2. Erich Fromm, “Escape from Freedom”

Chri$tma$

Chatting with my bank teller the other day, it seems like most middle class families with teenagers are spending about $1000 per kid for Christmas this year.  Sounds about right since this is a time when you can splurge on the larger items they may need – a new laptop for school and warm boots – and on a few things they may not need, too!

poverty_homelessyouth_preview_detail

Chatting with a young man who comes to our youth centre, I found out that he is getting reacquainted with his parents and they said they would like to get him a Christmas present.  He asked for a gift card to Food Basics so that he could get groceries.  This is not unusual.  A couple of years ago, another young man asked his dad for groceries for his 19th birthday.

The reality is that homeless youth are often hungry.  Food is always on their minds and they take any opportunity – especially holidays – to get food that is nourishing and tastes good!

So here’s my conclusion:

If it’s reasonable to spend $1000 on a young person who has a roof over their head and a loving family,we should spend at least that on kids who have known only abuse, struggle, neglect, and pain.

WE adults have the power to relieve some suffering at any time!  Please make a donation to a homeless youth centre or shelter this holiday season.

https://www.thewindsoryouthcentre.org/we-need-your-donations/