By Dovette Federspiel. While driving in my vehicle today around 8 AM, I listened to the radio announce that the “Jubilee Park Protesters” (as they’ve been dubbed) have 48 hours to dismantle their camp in the park and to move on out.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
This being in part due to a serious drug overdose, an assault, and fire hazards due to propane heating and open flame candles that some of the folks use inside their tents. All of which are reasonable things to be concerned about however, what really threw me for a loop was what I read online when I got home, our mayor has stated that “we will discuss these issues early in the new year”, “pointed out that dealing with homelessness and mental health and drug issues was not the city’s responsibility but rather that of the province and Fraser Health.” and so on so forth.
With all due respect, it is everyone’s responsibility.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Proverbs 3:29 “Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who trustfully lives near you”
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 Timothy 5:8
With 35 days to go until the new year, what shall we perceive to happen then? The camp might move, however when it does there will still be fire hazards, assaults, drug overdoses and cold weather to battle. It just won’t be in plain sight for all to see. You will have to go hunting in the “bad end of town” to find it.
I imagine the following serve to be a great excuse for nothing to get done for 35 days:
- Government policy
- Subsection this, subsection that
- Waiting lists
- More important priorities
- … and maybe shopping for the holiday presents and getting ready for a turkey dinner in December
These things are all great and wonderful benefits of living in Canada, we have access to health care, and many wonderful programs; however in order to participate or enjoy these things we need to seek them out. When we do we must wait in line patiently for the buzzer to ring our number. Or in this case, until one is “well” enough to appreciate and benefit from the services provided. It would all be for not to extend the services to someone who doesn’t want them anyway, or can’t understand the need for them. In that case, the services and benefits should be preserved for someone who “actually”needs them, or is “serious”.
Well, unlike anonymous facebook poster who commented on the story I read, it is unlikely and unreasonable for all of the affected homeless to “go out and get jobs” instead of living in Jubilee Park and “making a spectacle of themselves”. After all these people simply love the attention they receive. In most cases it’s scorn and ridicule. Who wouldn’t love and want that??
The other day I took the time to walk around the park with my husband and we met a few of the people there. It didn’t take long to see that this isn’t ideal for them either, however it is what it is and they do the very best they can with what they’ve got. I watched as a woman had her long hair brushed by an older male friend, I watched as the group cared for an individual who was very intoxicated and probably not fit to walk around. They kept him in a covered area, wrapped in a blanket and warm. When asked if an individual needed a hat or gloves, they said “No, I don’t but so and so does” and pointed us in the direction of the one in need. I witnessed probably ten or more tents situated so close together that it is uncommon and unprecedented in other homeless communities to cluster this way. They trust each other. However, things like mental health and addictions can come in the way of this community setting and frustrate it, which causes violent outbursts and overdoses. Overall these people just want to be safe.
It is our job to help them. We shouldn’t brush off the responsibility to another agency or another person. When we do this we are merely acting as a switch board and eventually these people reach a voice-mail and are asked to leave a message and “someone” will get back to them in 35 business days.
When are we going to step up? These are our neighbors, and they have no food…lets feed them! these are our neighbors who have no car and need to get somewhere? lets take them! These are our neighbors who have no house, lets help them find one! These are our neighbors who are sick and need help, lets help them! These are people, who have two eyes for seeing, two ears for hearing, one mouth for speaking and they’re trying to do so. When will we hear?, how dire does this situation need to be before we act? does someone need to die in this “cold weather”? does their home need to be consumed by flames before we help?
I recall walking around downtown Edmonton doing outreach with my sister, in temperatures that measured -27 and lower, with a biting windchill. We saw so many people lined up and down the side walk waiting to get in to the shelters for the night. Most were turned away due to overcapacity and there they stood. In little huddles along the sidewalks to keep warm. In fact, the quick ones found the big heat vents behind the buildings nearby to crouch down near. But they couldn’t fall asleep….why? because if they did someone might come and stab them to take the jacket on their backs. Those who were entrenched in addiction just continued to do what they always did….because addiction is so diverse and ever changing. If you don’t educate yourself about it, or experience it for yourself then you can never know the horrors it can produce.
Granted, the people who need a home in Abbotsford, are not the same as the people in Edmonton but the principle is the same. Why should we send them away? are they too hideous to look at? are they too less to be loved?
Sending away the group of people who call Jubilee Park home, is not a panacea answer. It won’t pause the situation, it won’t change the situation, it will just put it out of plain sight and on it will continue and 35 days from now it will be the same, or maybe it will be worse? and by then someone will have died or burned up in their tent. And IF that happens and someone dies or burns up it will be a mark of shame on our community and someone’s family and friend will mourn their death.
Instead of worrying about what to do then, let us do as Jesus commands, and care for the poor and the sick and those in need. Let us kneel down as we would with a child, to hear their voices and extend a hand to help. They are our brothers and sisters…nothing more, nothing less. If we do nothing and wait for someone else to do something, some time, then surely we are doing ourselves a disservice. Don’t wait to join a volunteer agency, or wait to be invited. If you feel the urge to help, just help. No good thing goes unnoticed.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength