Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the price we pay to live near the mountains.

In the tangle of streets that make up the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, a familiar scene unfolds. Carts full of belongings, the odd police car, dealers and workers, and people panhandling with a mismatch of sayings etched into cardboard signs. One man in particular, alternates smoking a cigarette for playing on a rusty trumpet. He looks up at me as I pass, and in his eyes I see a flash of jazz, of the thousands of stories this man, just like everybody on this strip has to tell. His sign, like the others, cardboard and black marker, with three or four old sayings crossed out. A new one, the ink still drying in the sun, screams from the center of the sign: “I used to be you.” My eyes do a double take and I nearly hear his raspy his voice say the words aloud. “Quite a sign there man,” I say, offering him a fresh cigarette and lighting one myself. “ Sure gets you in the guts eh?”
He laughs, leans back against the wall behind him, smiles a toothless grin and replies:

“Hell, you ain’t gunna wake ‘em up with the same thing that put ‘em to sleep”

Understandably people are getting cynical. It makes sense that people have a healthy sense of skepticism. When that which is supposed to be the “driving force” behind solving Victoria’s issue with homelessness, The Coalition To End Homelessness, is orchestrated, funded and organized by the very system that is routinely interrupting alternative, feasible solutions, we’re not waking anybody up.

We know the statistics. We know the conditions of the crowded shelters, the bylaws and the bylaw amendments. We also know that there is something amiss.

In a city with a Council that claims to have homelessness and affordable housing as it’s number one priorities, a city that claims to be committed to a Housing First strategy, one trusting in therr City, in their ‘representatives’ would imagine progression, communication and solutions.

Instead, we are served red tape, and political jargon.

When “Housing First” means only after; Olympics, flower boxes, light displays, fountains, clean up crews and more police, we are a society asleep.

When “Ending Homelessness” means the criminalization of poverty, violating peoples right for basic survival, and furthering the stigma toward those who are homeless, we are a society asleep.

The City of Victoria has been hitting the snooze button for far too long. It’s time we, together in all the aspects of our diverse city, join together and wake up.

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