- 7,045 people stayed in emergency shelters in 2008.
- There was a 13% increase in use of shelter beds in 2008 (both via).
- Our city has a Community Action Plan on Homelessness.
- CTV W5 report entitled Capital Shame (can be watched here).
- Drug trades in broad daylight
- My friend was asked if she was a prostitute while walking to work (before 9 am)
- Dirty, bloody needles on the streets near my house and near local schools
- People shooting up
- Lots and lots and lots and lots of drinking, enough to put me off drinking outright some days.
- Needle exchange programs
- Signs that someone has smoked crack (sores on their face, like really bad acne, caused by smoke)
- How to wake up someone who is dead asleep or passed out on the street/at work (reach your leg out and tap the back of their knee; that way, if they lash out, your leg is behind theirs instead of in front, where you can get whacked)
- Homeless children and teens
- Shelters for those who have been kicked out of all the other shelters for violent behaviour.
- Events like this, and groups like the Ottawa Leadership Table on Homelessness (thanks, Kate, for the link)
- SCAN legislation (in progress)
Part of me thinks we should all just stop what we're doing, permanently, for as long as it takes to make this city better. That's it: nothing I do in my daily life could possibly be as important as ending this suffering. I make this tenuous link to education, and literacy, lifting people up and giving them one path out of the lives they are currently living, but I don't entirely believe it sometimes. Sometimes, it's just about a safe place to sleep. I know that many of the people I pass on the street have a list of attendant issues: unemployment, addictions, histories of being abused, criminal activity, mental health issues. Believe me, I have seen most of it walk through the solid oak doors of my workplace.
There are so many organisations in this city to help people going through rough times: the boon, and also the curse, is that they are all in one neighbourhood (it happens to be mine, but whatever). The point is, what is the use in creating a ghetto? Many people I talk to, who come to my workplace to get away from these enclaves of misery, say that they have trouble getting back on their feet in this neighbourhood: their dealer, their drinking buddies, or whomever, are simply waiting for them on every streetcorner. How can they escape the lifestyle?
All this literally in the shadow of Parliament, a few blocks away from monuments celebrating heroic Canadians. No sign of heroism in Parliament for these people: the only heroes I see are my staff, making friends with the regulars, and the staff at the Mission, Center 454, the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, and so many others.
I have trouble really enjoying Ottawa, or enjoying the grandeur of the city. I find I am mostly thinking about who's out on the street near my house, especially in the dead of winter, and why no one is doing anything about it. Until the W5 piece (in which they do a good job of putting politicians on the spot, and getting nowhere), no one was talking about it outside of Ottawa. Frankly, no one's talking about it within Ottawa. It's been two years since our mayor called the homeless "pigeons," and I've seen Police Chief Vern White making a concerted effort to change the Market, and there are some plans to construct housing on Merivale (non-Ottawan readers: that would be outside the ghetto in my 'hood - rejoice!), but nothing from O'Brien (OK, well, except this, but that's really all).
We should be doing more. I should be able to sleep.