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.