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LETTER: No one wakes up and chooses homelessness

‘Sometimes life just happens, even with the best intentions’

The thing that a lot of people just don’t get is people living on the streets didn’t wake up one day and say “do you know what, I think I’d like to be homeless today.” Most once had lives, and jobs and purpose. Many of them have kids and want nothing more than to be with their children again. But life happens. Circumstance happens. A lost job, an injury that won’t let you work, mental illness, addiction. But none of them woke up one day and decided it was a good idea to be homeless.

I recently met a man named Ray. He was in his 60s. He stayed down by the tracks with his bike and his sleeping bags rolled up, sitting on some cardboard. We got to chatting and he told me that he had a master’s degree in psychology. Yes it’s true. He wasn’t a drug addict. His wife had died, he had gotten sick, and his house was not yet paid off. He couldn’t work anymore so he lost his house. They had no children that he could turn to and again those circumstances left him to be homeless by the tracks with sleeping bags and a bike. Do you think that when he received his master’s degree he put it down on his kitchen table, looked at his wife and said “I think I’ll be homeless when I’m 60. Sounds like a really good idea. After all, it’s what I’ve always wanted.”

No, I’m guessing that’s not how it went. I’m guessing he didn’t know at that moment that his wife would die 19 years from then. Or that he and his wife weren’t going to be able to have children. Or that the house he’d dreamed of owning, would some day be taken away from him. Or that he should have tucked away some of that money he so lavishly spent in Vegas. That he should have tucked it away just for times like this. Times when you have to sleep in some cardboard and sleeping bags over by the tracks.

You see Ray didn’t know that 19 years from then that circumstance would happen and the pretty little life he had etched out for himself would somehow go terribly wrong.

Everywhere you turn in Chilliwack, you can’t help but notice the homeless. In every doorway, every park, every alley, every nook and cranny. And truly it’s like that from here to Vancouver. Oh the homeless, whatever will we do?

Wake up people. House them. I’d say it’s a bit of a catch-22, wouldn’t you? There they are, unkempt, begging, stealing, cluttering up our doorways. But there you sit in your lovely houses, “For Rent” signs up, ads on Craigslist. But you won’t rent to “them.” Well how are the homeless supposed to not be homeless if you won’t rent them homes?

Because of circumstance. Not choice, not addiction, not bad luck. But because we’re human and sometimes life just happens, even with the best intentions

Jay Todd

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