As a cold autumn chill comes into the air, I feel the plight of the homeless even more keenly.
I should feel compassion for them every day and try to help. But somehow when its a sunny day and all is right with my world, I look past them without meaning to.
Sometimes people referred to as street people and their problems do almost blend into their surroundings as T.V. ads on awareness suggest. It is not that when I pass by I dont see them, its that when they smile, nod, and say have a good day, I think they must be OK.
Well, they are not OK.
They are making the best of a bad situation. A situation they cant change. They have simply learned to survive, to adapt to their life on the street. Over time, they have learned to hide their deplorable situation from the public.
The average person walking downtown might not even know that they suffer its only when you see the same people, out there every day, waiting in the cold for a hot cup of tea that you know. Our long, warm summer has given them a reprieve from the bitter cold that is to come.
Yes, there are places the homeless can go for help and get a midday meal. But they are few and their resources are down. Why? Because more people need them, not just the homeless but the soon to be homeless which includes the working poor who cannot make ends meet.
Next week is Homelessness Action Week.
This week I have spent my days at the Prince George courthouse covering an inquest. Walking to and from my car takes me down parts of George Street and onto Third Avenue depending on where I can get a parking spot. Usually my job doesnt take me there. I usually go to nice places like local art galleries, the theatre and music concerts.
Downtown I pass by people outside the Firepit where they gather, the thrift stores where they shop for warm scarves and hats, the pawn shops where they bring the last of their treasures in exchange for cash.
Last Saturday I was at an AWAC (Advocating for Women and Children) fundraising event and I heard a talk by Dr. Theresa Healy, a well-known and respected woman who, after spending time in an orphanage when she was young, ended up on the streets at age 14. Later on, as a young mother, she raised two daughters on her own and as a young adult, enrolled in university and ultimately attained her PhD.
She found love, got married (she says her rock is Wendy Young) and became what we like to refer to as an upstanding citizen.
On Saturday night, she read a few poignant poems shed written including the School of Hard Knocks, and yes shes been there. Shes walked the walk. Shes known what it is like to struggle, to feel despair.
Indeed, seated all around the room were women who are still out there on the streets, still struggling. Women who still bear the scars of their ordeal. Healy spoke about the betrayal of trust in her life and about her now strong passion for the work of AWAC.
It all comes back to that old phrase, There but for the grace of God go I.
It can happen to anyone.