The title is a quote from Pema Chodrin’s “The Wisdom of No Escape”.

This quote is based upon her teachings that hope is something one prays for when there is nothing else one can do, one has tried all things and now, one is down and out.  Then you hope.  In Colonial Civilizations hope is something people are praying for as they plan for their get a ways, shop organic, eat locally farmed raised happy cows and who’s children are in schools they have time to volunteer at.  These same parents find themselves struggling from contract to contract and with that economic stress which often turns into a vicious cycle of unnecessary pain and suffering which is really what they are hoping to get out of.  The source of that pain is ignored due to the need for survival.

This kind of praying for hope, it comes with victim energy, a “poor me, I cannot do more for those people” or “that situation”, “It is out of my hands, there is only so much I can do.”   This is unhealthy.  It stems from the modern version of colonial slavery. 

I was an honored special guest of Joel Bernbaum whom I have a great deal of respect for and rather like, for the opening night at the Belfry for Home Is A Beautiful Word. 

He passed me two tickets to bring a guest.

I invited Lorrie S. who’s been homeless, is currently housed, finishing a certificate program and is involved with her street family.  It is so often the case I find that she was unable to attend due to “a situation”.  I’ll guess it involved helping a family member out and is why she and all but one homeless man were unable to attend the play.  Given I know for a fact that Joel went above and beyond in regards to outreach.  He met with 500 and they were: homeless, near homeless,  residents from every class, schools and more.  They did a great job of expressing in the play the “passing of the buck” that occurs in Victoria and beyond regarding poverty.  He interviewed others like myself who were born into poverty, homeless, worked front lines for over twenty years and were now volunteering in local anti poverty with answers pouring out about how we as society could demand “homes for all now” with an easy solution of a guaranteed livable income.

In the Belfry’s own words :

“A kaleidoscopic view of a subject about which everyone has an opinion and almost no one has an answer.  This very special project was commissioned by the Belfry Theatre, and playwright/journalist Joel Bernbaum spent over a year interviewing hundreds of people in Victoria about homelessness. Conversations in grade four classrooms, senior citizens homes, businesses, homeless shelters and on doorsteps have been transcribed and edited into a fascinating play: a portrait of homelessness in our community, in the words of our community. Moving, enlightening, funny and surprising.”

Almost no one has an answer.  Really?  

Why so much airtime given to a business owner who alleges a whole heck of a lot and we all know who he is? As it turns out, anti oppression 101 is needed not only at the front lines but all over and, in this case, specifically in regards to inequity in society here in Victoria. There was a well lead 15 minute discussion at the end of evening giving us the opportunity to talk on these points and we did.   Discussion went: “why are homeless not noticeable here as in Africa?”  We answered that easily.  Displacement of our homeless:  homeless cannot hang out or sit anywhere with out getting jacked up by police.  Folks in the system who work are displaced from family all the time for jobs and this casues a great deal of stress and family separation crisis.  I add: When you really think of it, the play could have had at least another homeless voice with a political bend; given Mayor Dean Fortin, a political figure, was in it with his voice.

 Why were there not more homeless political beliefs presented?  I know there were more like myself who were interviewed and although I did not expect myself to get in, I thought some of my beliefs would?  Some homeless said to me they chose not to get interviewed since they believed “My story wouldn’t get in!  Are you kidding?”  Interesting.  I knew why immediately: some people are and have been for many years highly drug involved and desire less pain and a safe consumption site, there is no SCS and pain relief is hard to come by; many need a needle exchange and it got closed down; many are “red zoned”* due to drug infractions due to a punitive system that criminalises people for pain relief.  Many get involved in illegal activity like stealing due to society’s stigma and how they are constantly marginalized.  Then add the closure of supports that work like actual peer lead RIg DIgs (for example) that VIHA shut down over at AVI.

(*red zones” aremarked off areas in which illicit drug involved homeless citizens or street involved citizens are told they cannot be within the boundaries of.  Victoria is notorious for police illegally using red zones to control movements of Victorians thus going against Canada’s human rights codes.  The red zone area includes all major front line services in the downtown core that poor and homeless need to access daily to survive.)

Many homeless want home and have community.  They are criminalized and punished for pain relief.   Many do not believe in the charity system yet become a statistic within it at the end of their lives.  Some of the homeless want to live in a condominium, apartment or hotel refurbished for thier chosen comunity: some want to be left alone cammping or in a tent city.  SOme like me want to live in an intentional community with gardens.

Social housing might have at least been mentioned.

We had a tent city organized by the homeless themselves right across from services and a NIMBY movement sprang up from generational hatred and punitive arrogance, they led by creating and pushing a bylaw which was enforced to displace them even before it was approved.  Only one City Councilor stood up for the poor, praise Philippe G. Lucas

WE LEARN THAT, EVEN WITH THE BEST INTENTIONS AND WORK TO INSURE 500 PEOPLE WERE INTERVIEWED, IN THE END OF THE PLAY IT’S ALL ABOUT CHARITY.  NO REAL SOLUTIONS LIKE SOCIAL HOUSING WERE GIVEN A VOICE.

Joel went out and hit the pavement, took great advice from everyone he met.  He had accessibility and yet, hardly any homeless came.  Why?  Our homeless family members are chased down by police, have no safe consumption sites or alternatives for pain relief they can access, are run off of many business’s street fronts by security, with no plans for Social Housing.  “Same old same old” for those of us at this foroiur lifetimes?  Yet, Dean Fortin asks the Victorian’s “what will they do?” instead of telling us what he will do.  Not surprised given he supported the old colonial racist poor bashing by law which removed homeless campers from services they accessed.  In some ways he is right, what will Victorians do to get: Social Housing built; a tent city running; open safe consumption site’s and deal with stigma and its horribly divisive class system?  Mayor Dean Fortin has no plans so we best get on it, the best he can offer is more poverty pimping and police state. 

I beg of you to consider: allow the changes many are trying to create and offer for years.  Stop allowing this unhealthy system of charity.  We do have great examples locally from First Nations, Social Justice, Anarchist’s of all kinds, Faith In Action folks, Quakers and Unitarian’s / Universalist’s and many more citizens who involve themselves and have solutions at the ready. 

What I saw in the play is that citizens are told to do more in a charity model rather than to self criticize the very system we hold up as perfect and its far from perfect as we all know so, change right? 

Many government workers cry out “I am doing the best I can, I do not want to get fired or not get future contracts.” So, their voice is oppressed. 

We have a host of answers.  

Nothing personal to anyone but I think folks are tired of hearing “it’s a good start.”  It was a good start twenty years ago and, these ideas are not new so, I think its time to go over the interviews and throw down another one, push it a bit more, all sides even, I’ll guess you held back voices and kept to a “nice acceptable to the palette” version for Victorian’s?  For that reason alone, I commend Joel for being able to get out there, and reflect to Victorians themselves:

“Lets be nice, stay safe and neutral, no blame, we can do more charity.” reflection. 

Don’t get me started with how we could have a whole play about VIHA and its systemic sickness!  But, for now, Ruth Miller Raging Grannie said “I thought this was a great start, I’d love to see a part two.”   

I agree.

kym hothead hines

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