Do You Know What it Means to Homeless?

Gael Gilbert’s Reflections

Imagine if you will, a young man in his late 30’s, who had a ‘secure’ position in an advertising agency, had a small apartment and enough money put aside to carry him for a few months. Then things changed and his position disappeared, leaving him dependent on a few months’ savings.

Housing eventually is lost due to non-payment of rent, causing him to appeal to friends for some couch surfing time until he gets back on his feet. Friends often have their own struggles and this temporary measure is not providing him with a stable space to find new work and get back on his feet. The only options seem to be either a shelter space, if one can be found, night after night, or maybe a tent in some wooded area where no one might notice.

Showering and maintaining hygiene is problematic, there are almost no public showers, or free laundries for people to care for themselves. Accessing mail is another problem, when one has no address mail can be a challenge, and maintaining laptops and cell phones when homeless is often a recipe for loss or theft as folks must carry all of their possessions with them all of the time. People quickly lose contact with friends, co-workers, families and are left to deal with the inevitable loneliness and isolation on their own. Mental wellness is extremely difficult to hold on to when one is feeling as though no one cares. The slide to depression, substance use, or more extreme responses are common, and in our community this challenge continues to grow. Dignity is virtually impossible to maintain when one is homeless, because one can become invisible.

There should be no debate about the need for affordable housing now, kudos to our Region for encouraging so much more growth in this area, but we need more immediate responses for those living rough and we are all able to call on our politicians to recognize the growing and desperate need for basic incomes, and increased housing rent subsidies to encourage landlords to make units available.