From the streets, August 16

The welfare system seems to be designed not to help you in your time of need, but rather to punish you for the mistakes you may have made.

My analogy is that I was quite a few rungs up that proverbial ladder, with a promising job and a place to live and food in my belly. Through various circumstances I slipped off and fell down a few rungs on the ladder, eventually falling off the ladder onto the ground, laying in my filthy bed at the Mission in oppressive heat and I knew I had hit rock bottom. But I was wrong. OW called them last thing Friday night and told them I could not stay there either. It’s as though I’m on the ground, trying to get to my feet, and OW is there, cowering over me, punching me back down every time I try to get up.

If there is one lesson you learn from being homeless it is to never take what you have for granted. After being denied a bed at both the Centre of Hope and the Mission; sleeping on a friend’s office floor because I was too terrified to sleep in a park, I landed at the Unity Project. The wonderful, caring people there made a phone call and managed to speak to someone with compassion at OW, a rarity, and they agreed to let me stay, at least until the end of the month. Throughout all this horrible ordeal I was also going through a series of job interviews with a local retailer. It was incredibly hard to buck up and put on my game face with them through the interviews, but I managed to get the job, albeit temporary part-time for now. If OW wasn’t just going to deduct whatever I make it would help me to get back on my feet, but at least it’s something.  I had no choice but to go out and buy safety shoes with my last dollar for my first shift on Sunday, but OW has me on suspension and hasn’t reimbursed me for them.

I have registered for emergency housing, but have heard nothing. Apparently, even if you are homeless, it can take up to a month at the minimum. Without a permanent address OW will not help you. How do you find a place in this very expensive town when you have no money for a deposit or to pay rent? The fact that you are working and doing your very best to get off the system doesn’t seem to register with anyone. It should be a requirement to work for OW that you surrender everything you have and spend a week on the streets, fending for yourself. If you make it through the ordeal, then and only then do you get the government job. At least you would understand what we are dealing with every day and maybe show some compassion.

And thank God, literally, for the fact that the churches in London feed the homeless and the hungry. Without them you would be stepping over the dead bodies of people who have starved to death. These soup kitchens are staffed by very caring people who understand our plight and do more than their fair share to keep us alive.

Then there’s the guy who sets up his barbeque every night downtown and cooks up hotdogs for anyone who lines up. No inquisition. No judgment. Just food for the soul. Thank you, kind sir!

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