It’s a very sad reality how little most people think about homelessness and the daily struggles individuals facing it have to endure – but it’s not completely our fault.
One of the reasons we don’t dedicate a lot of time to the issue is because we’re too busy with our own day-to-day struggles to even notice others. Everyday realities of work, family obligations, mental health or financial issues, and too many more to list, can all keep us preoccupied with our own lives.
Looking to break into our often preoccupied attention spans, in mid-April, the House of Lazarus and Linking Hands brought forth the full experience of what kind of hoops homeless people have to jump through in order to obtain the basic necessities of living. Residents of North Dundas were given one of seven scenarios and had to navigate through the Joel Steele Community Centre to find the services that best match their needs.
There was something about this experience that really stuck out for the residents of Winchester; and for this writer in particular. Weeks later the event is still on my mind.
Participants complained it was cold in the arena; they complained that it was tiring; they complained that the maze was frustrating to navigate with all the barriers and no entry signs. And that was the entire point of the maze.
After the maze activities, Mark Snelgrove, an intensive case manager for the Canadian Mental Health Association, during his presentation recounted responses heard during the activity, and then pointed out a startling truth. He noted that, even though there were approximately 20 different services there to help people, it still wasn’t enough to get the homeless what they need in order to survive. All he could say about that was that it must be terrifying for people who actually go through this for real. All the crowd could do was show their agreement in silence.
The reality of how hard it is to go day after day without having the warmth of a house, the luxury of a vehicle or just a home-cooked meal finally hit the audience – and it scared them. Now, there’s probably someone reading this who has once criticized that man or woman sitting on the sidewalk or walking down the street asking for some spare change; we’ve all heard the tropes and stereotypes used to describe individuals in the homeless population. It is important to keep in mind that there are innumerable reasons why someone may end up homeless, and countless hurdles to face once in that situation to try and have your basic needs met.
Dollars to donuts, everyone walking out of that maze exercise will never again underestimate the hard work and dedication these people have to go through in order to survive each day.