by Vaughn Young
After reading Hayes blog I must say that I am appalled that we view the homeless as an infestation that complicates our daily lives. Hayes demoralizes the homeless by speaking as if the ByWard Market is public space, but not for the homeless. He states that in his 10 minute walk that he is “harassed” by three to five homeless people. In my opinion someone asking for change isn’t harassment. Furthermore, Hayes goes into more violent acts that take place in the ByWard Market that are unrelated to the activities of the homeless. The fights, robberies and mischief which are all violent acts cannot and have not been attributed to the acts of the homeless. It further displeases me that his blog has received positive feedback from fellow Ottawa residents via their comments.
It is my personal belief that people need to come to the realization that organisations such as ‘The Mission’ cannot accommodate all the homeless people in their designated area. If they could, these homeless people would not be on the street. There needs to be further investigation as to why these individuals are homeless rather than dismiss their inability to reach social norms on drug addiction or being lazy. It seems that we no longer see the homeless as people. Instead we view them as pests that complicate our lives because they are in our sight.
by Becky Stark
So I asked a group of five individuals over the age of 55 if they would use the Kindness Meters in the downtown core instead of giving the money directly to the panhandlers.
None of them knew what the Kindness Meters were so I explained to them how it is an initiative that uses old retro-fitted parking meters in the ByWard Market to collect money for homeless to help get them into supportive housing. All of them were concerned with where the money actually goes – whether it was a government agency or charitable organizations; and none of them had faith in the government distributing the money correctly.
“They’re mentally ill people. People think that they want to be there but no one makes a conscious decision to be on the street. Take it away from the government and give it to the people – give them what they need.”
– Ruth (whose sister has schizophrenia and lives on the street)
“When they’re lucid they know what to do with their money, but when they become intoxicated or have an episode that’s when they have issues with their money.” – Dale
Then I interviewed Dave, Wilma and Sandi. Among the chorus of: “they’re drug addicts and mentally ill” I made the point to say to them, “You know they’re not all the same. They are all on the street for different reasons.”
To which I got this response:
“It might be unfair in assuming they can’t handle their money. They probably feel like they’re autonomy is being taken away.”
Overall, all of them agreed this was a good project not only because panhandlers make them feel uncomfortable but also because they do not trust the panhandlers won’t spend the money on drugs or alcohol.
“This research project has changed my perspective on a number of things. First, it has made me aware of the kindness meters in the market. I worked on York Street for two years and I have never noticed them. It has also made me more aware of how quickly I can pass judgment on someone. I’ve never really analyzed why I do not always give money to homeless people. It made me question why I gave to some, but excluded others: what makes them more deserving? Similarly, it has made me question the root of the stigma behind homelessness. I now see this population as stigmatized because the rest of the population imposes their values of home-ownership on them, as if homeless individuals do not “know any better”. I’ve also come to realize that the solution to the supposed “problem” is also inherently flawed.
Kindness meters stigmatize a marginalized population even further by infantilizing them through assuming the money will fund illegal activity. It makes me question what kind of charitable organizations I chose to donate my money to. In the future, I will research where the money for charitable organization actually goes, and what the motives behind the organization imply. I have realized that these factors are important because I could potentially be funding ideologies that I may not necessarily agree with.”
Jaslyn: “The majority really does rule and social norms will always be in the forefront of how we see and treat others. While walking to the Bank/Slater bus stop today, I was stopped by a lady claiming to be a mother of two on the run from an abusive relationship at home who felt ashamed of using city services and shelters for the night. My initial reaction was to decline her request of grocery/christmas gift money but in the end I decided to return and give her one of my spare $10 gift cards from Loblaws that I reserve for such occasions. I still have mixed reactions in doing so, but hopefully she had been telling the truth because dishonest actions from the panhandling community only serves to prove the point of the Kindness Meter Initiative.”