Category Archives: homelessness

Shadowed Community Reflection

For the last two months, I’ve been involving myself in the community of those who are underserviced. Most of these individuals are homeless, which is why I surrounded this project around that particular group. When you think of the homeless, do you automatically think about individuals who are living on the streets? If you do, you are not the only one. I thought the same thing too. But the truth is, anyone can be homeless, it doesn’t mean that the person has to be living on the street. The reason I thought that though was because of the stereotypes and stigmas I have on the homeless.

While growing up in Toronto, you get accustomed to seeing people beg for money on the streets. That to me was homelessness. However, this project opened my eyes to a whole new meaning behind it. It has battled with my thoughts that I had against the homeless, allowing me to the see another side to them that I would never have thought to exist; another side that really isn’t that different from us. All these years, I have thought they were dirty, unmannered, violent, and either an addict or a criminal. I know those thoughts are harsh and VERY negative, but it wasn’t until this project that I finally saw the harm I was projecting from something as simple as a thought or an opinion.

I’ve dropped in for community lunches and dinners 5 times over the past two months. I had hoped to have gone 6 times but other priorities ended up stopping me. Instead, one of the blog posts was an email interview with the founder of the community drop-in. To recap, community drop-ins are not only a place for a hot meal. It is also a place for support, building relationships, acquiring essentials for every day life and to keep warm/cool from the cold/hot nights of Toronto. Basically to many, it is a safe haven, a sanctuary where there is no such as thing as segregation and exclusion.

For every visit, I documented my experience including every detail of smell, feeling, thought and taste in my blog posts. Here are a couple of the stereotypes that I had on homelessness, where I was most shocked to experience the exact opposite:

  • The homeless are rude and have no manners. In my first visit, the act of kindness in this community surprised me, surprisingly. People generally think that everyone is well mannered, but when it comes to the homeless, our minds think otherwise.  Since it was my very first time at the drop-in, I was very observant about everything that was going on around me. Before dinner, everyone said grace. During dinner, everyone ate as civil as they could; even those who were intoxicated would ask kindly for the salt and pepper shaker. While I was eating I was also people watching. I noticed an old woman walking slowly with a cane;. She took a seat at the other end of my table. My first concern was how was she going to get her food if she could barely walk without her hands holding her up? However, as I was thinking that a young Native American woman came up and placed a plate of food in front of her. She sat down and helped her cut her meat up into bite size pieces. I was shocked. When you see homeless individuals on the streets, you don’t ever get the chance to see their true self. You end up only seeing the defensive personality because living on the streets requires a tough skin. But to see her show respect to an elderly individual and everyone else around, really brought out the false in this stereotype.
  • The homeless are uneducated. Every visit at the community drop-in, I experienced how wrong it was to think they were. One lady I met was in the middle of finishing her Masters in Psychology. I actually met her the first day at the drop-in and I was taken aback when she told me. Without thinking, I had asked her why she comes here and she kindly responded saying she loved the company and people here. Unfortunately, many of the individuals who are homeless, living on the street or not, are taken for granted of their educational background. JL (my friend who introduced me to the community drop-in) had met someone who had a doctor’s degree but when he moved here, he ended up becoming friends with the wrong crowd and became an addict. He overcame his addiction thankfully, but if you were to look at him before, you would’ve doubted his educational background and intelligence based on his addiction.

I met a lot of great people in my 5 visits. Each person has shown me a different perspective on life, school, the government (popular discussion topic) and on homelessness of course. I’ve always feared the poor or the homeless. I felt like they would impact my life negatively in some way but when in fact, they’ve opened my mind about the issues that they have to overcome. They have also reminded me of what I have at home, something that I myself take for granted many of the times. They are often ignored by society and the government. This ignorance not only neglects their identity as a human being, but it harms them as a community and their possibility of a future in their life.

I definitely accomplished my goal for this project. Although I didn’t become a part of their community, I did become a different person. At first before I began this project, I was afraid that it would seem like I was “using” them because I was in a sense, documenting them. However, as the weeks progressed, I started to feel like I helped them in some way. The fact that I chose to bring peace and remove any conflict in my mind about homelessness and individuals who are under serviced, that alone seemed beneficial to them because I was learning to recognize them as what they deserve to be.

Although the project is over, I don’t have any intentions to stop dropping in on the community dinners and lunches. Maybe I’ll even check out a couple of board game afternoons if a holiday was to land on a Friday. I want to continue to build relationships with them and to create a change in others who have had stereotypes and stigmas against them as well. A peer of mine had originally proposed her NVC project to communicate with the homeless, but at the last minute she changed her mind because she feared their violent behaviour. I laughed because I thought the same thing once but now that I’ve seen the false in these stereotypes, I am confident enough to say that they are anything but harmless.

What makes us any different from them? We all breathe the same air, have the same organs, talk the same language and want to live life to the fullest after all.


Community Drop-in #6: You, have the best advice for yourself

Today is my second lunch at the homeless drop in. I never really have lunch because it’s on Wednesday afternoons and Wednesdays are when I am at my internship. I came again with JL. As an infrequent guest, I find it easier to go with someone who knows the people and the atmosphere more than I. Just her presence boosts the emotional support for me while being there.

As we were crossing the street, JL made an interesting comment. She said, “You always walk in not knowing what happened.” I was a little confused to be honest, but after the visit, I understood what she meant.

As we walked in, the smell wasn’t as strong as it normally is. Which is a good thing because not only am I getting used to the drop-in, I also don’t have to sense that atrocious smell. I mean, I know it is there, but since my nose has grown used to it, it’s as if the smell isn’t there anymore – to me at least. The first person I saw was Jake. The reason I noticed him first was because of his green shirt. From my previous lunch visit which is where I met Jake, he told me that he only wore black. He said there was a sense of power in wearing all black. Today he was wearing a bright green shirt!

Me: “Hey Jake, you’re wearing a green shirt! I thought you only wore black… so what’s the special occasion?

Jake: “I wanted to s-spice things up. This colour also looks good on me so I wanted to wear it.”

Sure enough, it did look quite good on him. As he talked, I kept thinking back to our previous conversation. I distinctly remember that he only said he’d only wear black, with the exception of dark colours. I guess with summer coming in before spring even arrived, it is beginning to brighten people up in ways we would never have imagined!

I looked around the room trying to figure out what was for lunch today. Lasagna – my favourite! JL on the other hand had left me standing there at the entrance to say hi to a few volunteers/workers. I don’t have a connection with the people there like JL does, so I always look forward to the food first when I arrive.

We sat down across an older man with a clean beard. He looked about 55 to 60, Caucasian and tough. Before I took a seat, he already introduced himself as Garrett. JL asked if he had already eaten and responded with a nod. The more I looked at him, the more he looked like a stereotypical Harley Davidson biker – badass.

As he finished his last bit of yogurt, JL swings her arm around with my lunch platter of salad, chicken burger and whole wheat pasta in tomato sauce. Where was my lasagna? As I analyzed my plate, Garrett looks at our plate and asks where our lasagna was. I asked the same thing. Without saying another word, Garrett waves down a worker and requests them to serve us lasagna. Emotionless and stern. Not even a minute passes and our lasagna arrives. While the worker was serving JL and I a spoonful, Garrett waves down his friend to sit beside him.

Since he is sitting across from JL, the two of them start talking. I will be honest, I wanted to talk to Garrett because I feel weird sitting there and being antisocial, but I was a bit afraid of talking to him. Putting all stereotypes and fear aside, I break the silence.

Me: “So what are you plans for today?

Garrett: “Well, I have to pay this Hydro bill after this. And then, I’m going to go buy a book.”

Me: “Oh, where? What kind of book?”

Garrett: “World’s Biggest Bookstore. Probably a history book. I really enjoy history. I feel like not many people look back at the history of the events that occur. They seem too interested in what is happening at the moment, but the way we got here is in our history.”

Garrett and I talked about history. I, myself am not knowledgeable in history so knowing someone who is, really intrigued me, and sparked an interest to know more. He recommended me to watch a movie called, Nanking. It is about the raping of Nanking, China. When he was briefing me on the movie, as soon as he said the “raping” I knew what he was talking about because my grandmother was a runaway. During his explanation, I can see glimpses of a smile which removed all sense of my fear in him. As with any other movie, I figured he suggested it because he had seen it so I asked what he thought about it. It turns out that he didn’t see it yet, but even if he did, he wouldn’t tell me how it was.

Garrett: “Watch it for yourself, then you’ll know if it’s good. Only the weak ask questions like that.”

I was silent. I didn’t know how to reply to that. Instead of leaving it at that, Garrett explained what he meant by personal opinions being for the “weak.” An opinion will not have the same effect as if the person was to actually watch the movie. When people ask for opinions, what makes them weak is that they are afraid to try new things hence the label weak.

I understand what he was trying to say, but I disagree at the same time. Opinions give individuals a perception from another pair of eyes. I don’t think people are “weak” if they ask for an opinion, I think they may be considered weak if they let the opinions overpower theirs. I always ask people for their thoughts. May it be on a dish at a restaurant, event, movie, or relationship, I ask because I want to see a different angle of it.

This project is like an opinion in a sense. My goal is to show the readers that we as people should not perceive the homeless or individuals who are troubled as dirty, lazy, uneducated, or stupid. There is more to them than the fact that their social class is considered lower than normal. Even though that is how I feel, it is up to the reader to decide how to view my experience. The weak are the ones that follow what I say while the others will research to formulate their own outlook.

Community Drop-in #5: Time is Priceless

Dinner – Beef Stir Fry with Rice (Yummy!)

Today’s drop-in experience was a little different. I brought a friend with me who had never been.

The first thing he said to me was that he wouldn’t eat too much. I figured it was because he felt like he was eating food that could’ve been eaten from someone who needed it. Since I thought he felt that way, it started to make me feel that way again. Even though this is only my 4th time coming to the drop-in, I still feel weird about it because of how people react when I tell them where I’m going. Many show confusion and anger because I’m potentially eating another person’s dinner. Not saying that these individuals are dumb, but they are close-minded and not understanding of what a community drop-in is really about.

My friend is a prime example of the stereotypical assumptions that are associated with homeless drop-ins. There’s nothing wrong with his initial comment. Although it does make it better that he was thinking for them, rather than against them come to think of it. Aside from that, the food that is served is for everyone. Individuals are not excluded because of their social class at the community drop-in. The drop in actually encourages people to involve themselves because it is their involvement that tightens the conflict between the rich and the poor. It is the effort to build a relationship that alleviates the stereotypes that is associated with homelessness, in turn alleviating the silent suffering we are causing them.

Today was a full house. My friend and I had to wait until a seat was available. While we waited in the lounge area, a man sat down beside me holding his stomach in pain. My first thought was that he was going to hurl, or that he was needed to relieve his bowels so I shuffled a little over the opposite side; my germaphobia is kicking in here. I asked what’s wrong because it just seemed like the natural thing to do when you see someone in pain and he explained that he had a simple stomach ache. The odd part was that as simple as it is, it’s been happening for the last few weeks. He had made an appointment with the doctor with the earliest appointment three weeks from now. Since he had to wait three weeks before seeing his doctor, he was very persistent in seeing the nurse at the drop-in. I suggested that if he wanted another fresh eye, there was a walk-in clinic downtown that he could see as well. He asked where about specifically because transportation was scarce for him. Even though he thanked me for the advice, you could sort of sense that the information went in one ear and out the other by his persistence for the nurse.

The note that Joe clearly stated to me during my first time here came into mind from my conversation with the man. Joe explained to me that the drop-in is more than just a place for a hot meal; it is a community with a roof. People who come here often depend on each other like family. To the individual with stomach cramps, his persistence to see the in-house nurse could be an example of how connected the community is in here. Although she is the in-house nurse, she is also considered a friend or even a family member to the individuals who frequent here.

It is heart warming to know, there are people who are willing to use their profession in a community that is underserved. There is much need for involvement in communities like this. To have students interning at a placement like this, is a great step in creating a better future for this community. Students are the future after all.



This week is reading week and today in particular is my birthday. To start off my day, I figured I would take the chance to go to the homeless drop in for lunch with JL before heading out to treat myself on macarons and other delectable treats.

This is my third time at the drop in but my first time here for lunch. I don’t ever have days off so lunches are never really an option for me. Today’s menu: waffles with ice cream and strawberry (YUM!). JL and I came late, so we missed out on the ice cream but I thought it was kind of ironic that today was my birthday and they were serving a “birthday-type” of dish.

We sat down at the table closest to the drinks. The nice thing about sitting at this part of the room is that with more traffic going through here, the more chances I have with meeting individuals.

A guy who JL met during her placement here last semester came over to catch up with her. I ended up meeting a very interesting guy who grew up in a very negative childhood. The thing about talking to people here is the kind of stories that they entrust you with. Some of them can be very deep and emotional. I never asked questions that required him to share his childhood struggles with me but he didn’t anyways. I strayed from sharing much about mine.

When I know that an individual went through a hard childhood, I am taken aback and my childhood runs through my head. My childhood was rough but not as rough as others. Even though I had support, many of the times the support was more of an expectation. When I didn’t meet them, I felt a sense of failure but I still had some sort emotional support.

This guy I met I will call Jake. He’s about 6’2, obese, Caucasian and dressed in all black. He had always worn black because he didn’t like bright colours, and he also didn’t think he looked good in other colours. Women who wore all black were considered very beautiful and powerful as well. I think he just had a thing for the colour black, but from the way he was talking to me about it seemed like there was more behind his reasoning. I expressed to Jake that black in my culture was a sign of death and evil. So for someone who enjoyed wearing black and found others who wore black appealing, I found it odd because to me it means evil and bad luck; something not to be liked. Not that if you wear black, you will have bad luck… just that the two are associated with each other. He found my view on black odd.

Although this is my third time, I find myself growing fond of this community and the characters it holds. I think the reason I most enjoy about coming to these drop-ins is the different perceptions people have on life. It is interesting to see how something matters to one person may not matter to another, or even what one person’s opinion is on a topic versus my own opinion.

Perhaps it is just me, but I find it most appealing when I am challenged in my thoughts. It’s fun hearing what people say and countering it to get them to say more. However, it’s also dangerous because I could be offending someone else in turn. I think Jake and I clicked in terms of conversation. He never found what I said offended and I never took offensive to what he said. I embraced his opinion because at the end of the day, not everyone is the same. People should not be treated any differently on how he/she looks. If a normal business man was telling me the same thing, before this project I would’ve accepted it more easily than if Jake had told me.

When it comes to the stereotypes of homeless individuals are heartless, you’d be surprised at how caring and sweet some of these individuals are. Using the homeless on the streets as an example, they may seem tough when you see them in public, but once you see them at the drop-in you see their true self.

After being accepted into their community, I am starting to see more indifference between myself and the underserved. At the end of the day, we are all striving to survive. Some just have it harder than others and because of that, we shouldn’t segregate ourselves from them because of it. If we do, then we are continuing to increase the conflict between the two social classes. It is already the extreme of each other; we don’t need to make it anymore than it is.

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Impact on a Community From One Person

In a recent NVC class, we discussed an article about Dorothy Day, a woman who served the underserviced. She quoted that:

“We continue feeding our neighbours and clothing and sheltering them, and the more we do it the more we realize that the most important thing is to love. There are several families with us, destitute to an unbelievable extent, and there, too, is nothing to do but love. What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation – no chance, so far as we see, of changing them, certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them, and who wants them adjusted, anyway?”

The class articulated their opinions on providing resources to individuals who don’t have it. Some mentioned that some of these individuals don’t want the resources or some want it but don’t have accessibility to it. I wanted to know what Joe, an individual of peace thought about this.

I asked him a simple question: Do you think the homeless would want to change their life if they had the chance too? I was mostly wondering if there was access to resources such as clothes, health products, sleeping arrangements, career advisors etc. offered to individuals who are homeless.

This is what Joe had to say.

The life of a homeless is not easy to change. It takes a lot of effort, time and support to achieve a better life than of what they have now. Some have bigger dreams for their future, while some only dream of making it to the next day – it really depends on the individual him/herself.

Toronto itself has a great number of organizations that service the homeless, in providing them with resources that they will need to give them a boost into change. For example, Gateway Shelter has a laundry business for men who stay at their shelter to help re-integrate themselves into the workforce. That’s just one organization. There are others that will help supply clothing for interviews, resume writing, leadership training and etc. I volunteer at an organization called New Beginnings that helps women get back on their feet. We supply them with training on self empowerment and assist them through their job search and readiness. For most of our women, we supply them for clothes and other necessities for their interviews. So there are resources out there, but it’s not about locating them per se, it’s about wanting to make that change in their own life.

There are many types of homeless people, as there is of every else. This post coincides with the common stereotype that the homeless are lazy. Many are not. Joe believes that all homeless individuals do want change, however there are other factors that may be stopping them from achieving that (and it’s not because they are ALL lazy).

Positive Thinking. Some individuals believe they can change because their life experience was there for support. For example, JL met a young man who had a very high level education before moving to Toronto. However, when he fell into the wrong crowd, he also made a wrong turn in his career path. He fell off the wagon. But because of his previous life experience, he knew he could change and he wanted it. He surrounded himself around people who would impact him positively. He started to become more involved in the community, which helped him fight his addiction, and he involved himself in programs that will help him get back on his feet. He is now living a stable life, a life he once had. He is just one example of a successful break from homelessness.

Life Experience. Some homeless who may have had either positive or negative life experiences, but don’t see change no matter how hard they try. This can be seen in anyone, even yourself. Sometimes, when you try so hard for something but there is no change, you tend to give up because you know ‘what’s the point?’ To come out of poverty, it is not a change as if you were to give up the habit of picking at your nails. The impact on life is much greater, therefore the support is greater. If the individual does not have the support, he/she is less likely to want to push forward. Even if there was the support, some individuals have the mindset that no matter how hard you try, one can only try so hard.

No Hope. Some individuals have no hope, plain and simple. This may seem like they are lazy, but sometimes life experiences can really take a toll on an individual. Even if everything was lined up for them, the idea of having a ‘normal’ life again seems obsolete or too good to be true.

If I had no more time to spend at the community drop-in, I feel like I would have had learned this from an actual individual who has experience these feelings. Joe’s explanation has really enlightened and educated me on our society. We have so little hope in helping those in need, specifically to those who are in poverty hence the stereotypes such as lazy or uneducated. We see the negative in the negative. If you are poor, you are then [list of negative adjectives]. The more individuals think this way, the more of a negative impact we are creating for them. The more we are hurting this community.

Like Miss Day says, ” We continue feeding our neighbours and clothing and sheltering them, and the more we do it the more we realize that the most important thing is to love.”

If we loved or learned to love in terms of assistance, we could help make a change in one person. One person may seem little, but that’s one more person than none.

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Community Drop-in #2: Light at the end of the tunnel

This week I started to understand for myself what the community drop in is all about. Joe has told me that it’s a place where people can feel safe and cared for and also where individuals are able to build relationships with others, but really understanding it makes a huge difference than from hearing it.

I met two individuals who helped me understand the other definitions of homelessness, aside from having no real home.

A woman in her 40s named Sabrina started talking to me, asking me how everything was going. We talked for a bit and then finally asked the question everyone ALWAYS asks, “So what program are you here for?” The community drop in is known to have students come in for their placements. The programs can vary but are mostly connected with Social Work and Nursing – anything that services individuals in an assistance kind of way. I told her that I was here out of my own free will, but there was a project tied in with it as well. So we talked about what a BA in Communications means and how stressful it is being a student. She signalled me to come closer to her with her finger and whispered, “I’m completing my Master’s degree in Psychology this semester as well. So I can understand the stress of the last few months of school!” She smiled and chuckled. I was shocked. I blatantly asked her why she comes here because I wasn’t sure if she was here as a placement or because of her own free will. She gently replied, “Because I like it here. The people are nice once you get to know them and very supportive as well.”

I don’t know if she considers herself homeless, but I do know that she frequents the community drop-in. She’s only one example of a person who comes here for the friendships, support, and relationship.

Another person who really showed me the reality of what a tough life really is was a young guy named, Tim. He is only a year older than me. He never continued his education, needed a job and moved to Toronto with nothing to look forward to. The community drop-in became his home, his family. Although he uses the services here, he’s also become involved in serving the community. Although Tim came to Toronto with no job and only a certain amount of cash to pay through for his rent and bills, only not too long ago did he land a job. His achievements didn’t end there; he’s starting to think about his education and what he wants to do in the future. As he talked about it, he had the biggest grin on his face. It was priceless.

Just hearing stories like these can really brighten up another person’s life. It’s so great to hear the motivation shine from individuals who started off with barely anything. When people are at their toughest point in life, it is often hard to point their life back in the direction of success. Yet both of these individuals found their support in the community drop-in. Yes, this place may be a safe haven for some, source of food for others, a warm place to crash for many, but to each of them it is also a place of shoulder to lean on.

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I met a lot of people that night, witnessed a fight, experienced theft and learned a new way of playing solitaire; things I would’ve experienced with any community of people, homeless or not.

Tonight opened up my mind to the people who are underserved. As odd as it sounds saying this, they are like regular people. The reason I said it was odd was because they are no different from me, you or your neighbour, but yet I had the mentality that they are different. I’m sure many of you feel that way as well. I am quite ashamed of myself that I felt so much fear against them and pretended as if they weren’t there. I think from growing up in downtown Toronto my whole life, I’ve grown used to hearing them beg for money, food, drugs, and cigarettes, that they end up dissolving into the traffic which is as horrible as it sounds. The past four hours at the community drop-in has really showed me how wrong I have been in the past eight years of my life.

These stereotypes may seem like a small factor from one person, but even that one person’s actions are hurting the greater community of underserved individuals.

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Community Drop-in #1: First Timer

Dinner – Pork Chop and Mashed Potatoes

Today was my very first experience at the community drop-in. Throughout my posts, I will include a stereotype that most people including myself have against the homeless.

Stereotype #1: The homeless are rude.

As I turned the bend around Starbucks, I noticed a bunch of cars outside the church. I was a little confused because homelessness and cars don’t exactly go together. Outside of the doors was a group of smokers and people drinking. It was a little intimidating to be honest. Do I say hi or do I mind my own business? What if they say I don’t belong here – then how will I complete my project? Or even worse, what if they attack me?! All these thoughts and emotions of nervousness and fear were running through my head. I walked past them and one of the men kindly opened the door for me.

As the door opened, a whiff of stale, unwashed clothing with a mix of smelly feet and body odour swept right up into my nose. Gross. Not the most pleasing smell to be… smelling. Beyond the door at the end of stairs, I could hear noise seeping through the cracks.  I walked down the set of stairs and opened the door and the noise of people intensified dramatically. At first I peaked in slowly, noting about 50-60 people in a cafeteria setting. I was a little shy to walk in, but someone behind the door stuck his head out and waved at me. I had no idea, but that alone softened my nervousness. I walked in and the smell really hit me hard in the face along with the general scene of the drop-in. In the center, there were six tables with people having dinner. At first glance, it reminded me of a bar in the medieval times where people would feast minus the alcohol and swords. Along the sides, people were conversing with one another. At the back was the lounge area where a few individuals were resting. The mood level was great, everyone was talking amongst each other and a few welcomed me as I entered and walked past them towards the lounge.

Stereotype #2 – The homeless are dirty.

I met up with Joe (the founder), who welcomed me to the community and told me to wait by the side until I was called for dinner. I stood by the drinks station. At first I didn’t know the drinks were all placed there, until I noticed how I kept getting in the way of people. I figured I might as well grab a drink to give me something to do as I waited. I saw the cups in the rack on the side and I was a bit hesitant because I’m a semi germaphobe. However, my thirst got the better of me though and I broke that fear [for tonight only]. I grabbed my tea and took a step back to where I was standing before.

Stereotype #3 – The homeless are uneducated.

An older man with a cowboy hat, scruffy beard and novel in his left hand came up and stood beside me. He looked right at me, paused for a few seconds as if he knew me and then introduced himself.

Man: Hi, you look new here. What’s your name?

Me: Yeah, I am new. My name is LS, what about yours?

Man: John.

FYI – For privacy concerns, all names that are disclosed in this section of the blog will be changed to an alias.

John started talking about cowboys and vampires. He named a few shows from the 60s of the South West which I was completely oblivious about. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about but I think he could tell from my facial expression as well. He summarized the movies for me so I can get the general idea of what he was trying to tell me. As he talked, a worker interrupted us and told him there was a seat available. John tipped his hat and said it was time for his dinner.

The worker quickly assured me that there would be a seat for me soon. Just as she said it, a seat by the drinks station became available. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to sit beside John to hear the rest of his story. I was really looking forward to it because of my own self interest, but also because I felt comfortable talking to him. He showed me a sense of inclusion in his circle which was also a step closer to the acceptance of the community as a whole. He didn’t know it but just the simple hi dumbed the fear I initially had.

At my table, there was a mix of people – mostly men. Come to think of it, most of the people at the drop-in were men. There were three Native American men, a young Caucasian guy, 2 older Caucasian gentlemen who were minding their own business and an 80-85 year old woman in a wheelchair. The loudest of the group were the Native Americans but they were also the only ones who were intoxicated at my table. The Native American sitting beside was the only one of the three that wasn’t.

I asked him how his day was, hoping it would spark up a conversation, but I was too hopeful. His day started off with his sleeping bag being stolen, thereafter he got into a few conflicts and now he has nothing to keep him warm when he is back on the streets after dinner is over. With the weather continuing to decrease from the present -10 Celsius, the idea of him being on the streets without something warm frightened me. I have a hard enough time walking from my house to my car that is barely 30 seconds away, so I can’t imagine how someone can survive the whole night without heat. I expressed worry that he would freeze but he assured me that there are other ways in keeping warm like keeping close with his street family and finding other articles of clothing.

Stereotype #5: The homeless are heartless.

As he shared with me the concerns of the lack of political assistant for the homeless, a fight broke up the table in front of us. A few punches were thrown but within a few seconds, people around the fight got up from the dinner to pull each other away. The workers quickly came in to calm the two men. I am easily affected by seeing physical fights so I was taken back a little. The Native Americans beside me got up to comfort their friend, while the instigator was kicked out for the rest of the night. The environment became tense after the fight, but it slowly simmered as the night went on.

Homeless in the Winter

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The nervousness in me.

Every week, I will be visiting community drop-in right in the heart of Toronto. Tomorrow will be my first time but before I step foot in there, Joe (the founder) helped shed some light on what a community drop-in is, who goes, and why.

A community drop-in is a safe haven for individuals to freshen up with food, laughs, healthcare and basic essentials of survival. Joe states that it is “a sanctuary” or in other words “a home to their family.”  Truthfully, when I hear of the word drop-in, the idea of a family is the last thing on my mind. I personally thought it would be a place where the homeless or individuals who are less fortunate, are given a hot meal either it be lunch or dinner and then some. But as Joe explained more, it came to me that although these individuals are struggling every day, they are not doing it alone. They have each other and that is what keeps them living through to the future.

Every week they hold events: Tuesdays is a women’s drop-in, Wednesday is a community lunch, Thursday is a community dinner and Friday is a games drop-in. Through out the month, shows will also be hosted such as Java House or a Community Concert.

Every week, I will be attending a drop-in event. In doing so I am becoming one step closer to understanding the life of struggle. We all have struggles in our lives, but often times we have the essentials to becoming “an acceptance in society.” These individuals are often left in the shadows of the streets, forgotten and uncared for. Tomorrow is my first day, and like any first day I am nervous! I don’t know what to expect.  LS

The good in everyone

I am a daughter, aunt, sister and friend. I have a roof to protect me, a bed of my own, a seat in an institution and a shot at a career. Many individuals don’t have what I have, and those that do, take it for granted.

An ad from Pathfinder's campaign

For those who don’t, the reasons are endless. It can be due to an unfortunate turn of events, choice of decision(s), or the enforcenment of another. Many of these individuals take to the streets, or move from place to place, with no home they can call their own.

This section of JLS is my blog space for a project in my Nonviolent Communication course. We are each assigned to choose a project that makes us, a source of nonviolent/peaceful communication within the next 3-6 weeks. I chose to do my project on homelessness because it will bring a personal change in myself, as well to others.

My friend had actually suggested the idea because of an incident that happened recently. We were on my way home from a night out on the town, when we noticed a drunk man walking towards us. He was notably drunk because of his stumbling posture and the closer we got the more scared I became. I’ll be honest here, the main reason for my fear was because he looked homeless, which to me automatically associates with the lack of cleanliness.  When I think back to it, the stigma I had on him overpowered any other feeling I could have had towards him. For all I know, he could’ve had alcohol poisoning which I neglected to help.

This is where this project comes in. I want to change the way I think about them and create change in others. All too often, we as individuals let stigmas take over how we should see people, and that is to see them for who they are, not how they look. It does not just happen with the homeless, it happens with culture, religion, individuals with disabilities, and people with HIV/AIDs. By alleviating the negative judgements, I am becoming a source of nonviolent communication as well as enduring others I know to do the same. Just like violence, peace is contagious as well. If the LGBTQ can make change in the views of others, perhaps I can make that change for the individuals that are often ignored and feared of. LS

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