Tuesday, April 03, 2007

WARNING -- Lives in Progress

Photo: Mike Sturk
The other day one of my students was telling me about a notice posted near the Bow River in Calgary (the Drop-In Centre where I work is next to the river). Today, he brought a copy of this notice in for us to see:

So long as the CALGARY DROP-IN CENTRE is allowed to harbor drug addicts and chronic criminals it will be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO TRAVEL THE RIVERSIDE BIKE PATHS between CENTRE STREET and the ZOO.

These are not "homeless" - they get welfare cheques in Saskatoon, Vancouver and (even) Calgary! They are TRANSIENTS BY CHOICE, and PREDATORS BY NATURE.

- a message from a concerned East Villager who knows.

This message is extremely sad to me. For those of you who don't know, Calgary is a BOOMING city. With the increase of wealth, the divide between the wealthy and poor has grown exponentially. Low-income housing is non-existent and rental properties are scarce. The Drop-In Centre is a place of HOPE in the city. I feel very thankful that so many of the clients I work with every day see value in the services it provides. The average client stays at the Drop-In Centre for 6 months. They are thankful for warm meals, hot showers, clean clothes, and a place to sleep for however long they need it.

Contrary to popular belief, those who access the services at the Drop-In are not all drug addicts, criminals, unemployed or predators. Yes, there are some who have made choices that have brought them there. Yes, some have mental illnesses and some are addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling. But in my experience with the people I work with daily, that is not the "norm," nor is it even the majority.I see people who are an inspiration. They have a desire to LIVE, to survive and overcome the obstacles in their path.

I see people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience and who have a lot to teach me ... they have a lot to teach US! Every life that I have encountered has changed my own.

To the writer of the above poster and to those who share his opinion, I want to invite you to spend a few days at the Drop-In Centre with us, to talk with the people who live here and to experience their stories and to be impacted by their lives. I want you to experience the beauty that I see every day in learning from those around me, especially those who have a different experience than my own.

Katie S. is an instructor in the Career Training Initiative at the Calgary Drop-In.

No comments: