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Homelessness - stories of living on the street?

Discussion in 'TRIBE Main Forum' started by OTIS, Oct 9, 2005.

  1. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

    So the statistics show that:
    - approx 1/4 of Toronto's population live in poverty
    - approx 32,000 people have used a homeless shelter for at least one night last year.
    - approx 5,000 people are homeless in Toronto (in comparison, approx 2,000 people are homeless in all of England)
    - fastest growing category of homeless are families
    - according to an experts primary causes for
    -- 1/3 of the homeless is mental illness
    -- another third are substance abusers
    -- and another third fall into a more ambiguous category usually a combo of many factors from abusive homes to disabilities to criminal record, etc.
    - youth primarily live on streets due to abusive parents/households (re: abuse; this doesn’t mean defiant of ‘house rules’)
    - most do not choose homelessness, only about 8% of the homeless 'choose the lifestyle'

    Ok now that all the stats are out of the way, lets get slightly more personal. Has anyone had to experience homelessness or living on the street? Has anyone known anyone close who has had to deal with being homeless or has had it affect their lives in some way? I don’t want to judge or politicize this thread so lets try to keep it just about personal anecdotes, and story sharing.
  2. sarafina

    sarafina TRIBE Member

    i don't know anyone who has been homeless...and i have to admit that homelessness hasn't really had a huge impact on my life...but i would also be interested in reading what people have to say/about people's experiences on the subject
    i am about to start reading "down to this" for my community planning and housing class, and it is one of the issues we will be dealing with.
    what ideas do others have about ways to help people in this situation?
  3. salad

    salad TRIBE Member

    I'd be interested to see the source of your numbers on the UK homelessness. Having lived in both countries for numerous years, I find that extremely hard to believe.
  4. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    Experts say a lot of things. I'll stop short of outright disagreeing with these stats, but the ones that particularly bend my neck are:

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is an expert trying to tell me that in the GTA there are about a million people living in poverty? *scratches head*

    Toronto has more homeless people than England? Ah...possible.... but.....

    As I mentioned in the other thread, I was (in a way) friends with Brett and Jasmine who were homeless and lived on the street out front my apartment. We would hang out together and talk about books and eat sandwiches.

    My friend's dad "bobbo" has adopted a 'homeless' or vagabond type lifestyle. Originally he was a software engineer at HP but then moved on to dough art and after that, a lucrative 'lost and found' operation. Then he walked to BC and collects shiny stones on the beaches around prince rupert. Although he "chose' this lifestyle, one might arguably say a mental illness is involved. But hey, he always seemed corpus mentis to me.

    On that note my other buddy is homeless now. He used to be a mech engineer for a large oilfield services company, hauling nearly $150k annually altogether. But then he got fired, basically for increasing bouts of wacky/insanity. They gave him a massive severance which he then used to "hire" a spiritual advisor (a homeless man he met in calgary) and to fly around Canada preaching a "new" spirituality. Anyways, this cross-country evangelism quickly exhausted his liquid cash flows, and he got arrested for exhaustive philosophizing when he came back to Alberta. The mother of his child is becoming increasingly concerned that he is unfit to visit his kid (last time he came he was all paranoid and may or may not have flooded(!) the four seasons in downtown kitchener) Anyhow the point of this part of my rant is that it's hard and bizzarre to watch a normal, intelligent friend deteriorate into schizophrenia, paranoia, or some other real but helpless mental issue.

  5. Sigh...

    Sigh... TRIBE Member

    where are the stats from otis?
  6. beaker

    beaker TRIBE Member

    i've known a few people who have lived on the streets due to pure laziness - they'd rather mooch off their friends or hang out and smoke weed than go look for a job. it's hard to tell who really has it tough and who really doesn't and that kind of just makes it all the more depressing.
  7. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    Also Bobbo became good friends with, and introduced me to, "The Wizard" who hangs out front the beer store on Philip Street in Waterloo. We hung out once at his 'place' in the forest behind Waterloo Inn and smoked weed. If you see a man dressed in some hand-fashioned cloaks and various other garments, with pseudo dreads, playing a flute like instrument outside Philip Street beer store, buy him a "crest" beer. If you have time also buy him a water as they generally mix the crest with water to make it more drinkable. As well, tell him "bobbo" says hi and is doing OK.

  8. Sigh...

    Sigh... TRIBE Member

    i'm aware of a mom and two kids that live in a shelter right now. the kids are starting school, but having 'behavioural problems'. go fucking figure.
  9. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

    The stats are from a bunch of different places.. the England one is here:

    source - Sleeping rough in London
    In radical contrast to North America, London has a mere 620 homeless people, according to the London Times. This small number is a reflection of Britain’s generous social housing programs. The London Times reports the government estimates that in England as a whole there were only 1,850 homeless people as of June 1998. London is divided into thirty-three boroughs, each responsible for the local homeless population.

    One of the ‘experts’ in this case is David Hulchanski of UofT recognized as a leading expert on the phenomenon of homelessness. He's also a founding memeber of the TDRC.

    The poverty stat for Toronto is from Toronto's 2003 homeless report card available on the City Of Toronto's website, and Jeffsus, ‘megacity’ Toronto is home to about 2.4 million, not 4 million. The actual number is 554,000 people living under the poverty line. Define it how you will, but this is simply a standard measurement of poverty as (if I’m not mistaken) defined by UN standards. I'm not here to debate stats really; I just wanted to get them out of the way so that we could get onto the stories. Thanks for what you provided so far dude it was really interesting.
  10. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    Also, last year when Torry and I went to Vancouver, he got into a political discussion with a homeless man at the Cambie. Then we went up east hastings and smoked crack with a prostitute who wasn't making much money that night. The next morning we had a bad hangover and "went out" for sushi at roboto sushi express at the corner of davie and thurlow.

  11. squirrely

    squirrely TRIBE Member

    is this purely conversational or are you collecting stories for a project of some sort?
  12. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

  13. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

    No project, I've just been reading stories and personal accounts of homeless people, but the detailed ones are really hard to come by because usually those gathering them are doing work for a thesis or article, and have a hard time disarming the subject's hunger and desire not to dwell on their lives. I thought I'd tap Tribe for some.
  14. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    I hear ya. But I'd take these stats with a grain of salt, as there certainly is no real international definition of poverty. And so, comparing what a British Government agency calls homeless and what a Canadian agency calls homeless is a probably a bit fruitless. Moreover, even what a Canadian government calls poverty and what is actually poverty leaves a wide gap: not many Canadians are killing their neighbour to eat a chicken. Statistically I'm sure I qualified as "poverty" many times but we all know that's not the case. And as soon as we're talking about a statistic that affects at least a half million people, you are guaranteed it came from a government 'access to information' type report that measured incomes or whatnot: not actually polling or estimating numbers of people actually on the street.

    But like you said, the stats aren't what's important.

    The stat that I agree most with is the mental illness/substance abuse observation. That has certainly been my experience with homeless people. In fact, I would wager it's much higher than only 1/3 each; but I guess, again, the definitive lines are fuzzy. Is Bobbo insane or just eccentric? Is my other buddy going nuts clinically, or just having a rough time, or just eccentric? If *I* don't even know this about good friends, I doubt that it can be accurately quanitified by a government statistician.

    Canada is a sufficiently "wellfare" type state that, at the end of the day, no one needs to be on the street but either their illnesses or personality keeps them there.

    My $0.02

  15. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    The man had a dime which he would attempt to balance on its side. This task might otherwise not be toooo difficult, except at the Cambie the tabletops are a worn, rutty wood. When he successfully balanced the dime he would toothlessly grin at me and tap his forehead, then say "self analysis". His meaning was clear but with more conversation I came to truly understand what he meant. I felt slightly guilty because I continued to buy him beer until he grew tired of it. And basically, between the free beer and the self analysis, it was obvious he wasn't going to get tired anytime soon.

    Then he would pick up the dime and do it again.

  16. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

    Jeffsus, I haven't made any judgment regarding the statistics. But that's what they are. You're free to apply your own value to statistical data as you wish.
  17. salad

    salad TRIBE Member

    These stats show the number of homelessness in England in the range of 100,000+.

    I appreciate you posting your source, but 2,000 seems awfully low for such a large group of people. I am guessing that the definition of "homeless" may differ between statistics.

    Either way, the numbers are too high and you are right that very few people "choose" this life, and it is mainly due to either mental health issues or abusive relationships.
  18. OTIS

    OTIS TRIBE Member

    Yeah, those stats do seem small, but that 100,000 is the gross stat. If you look further down, you have to factor out the amount taken care of by social housing and other things. Who knows really, but the original source was the London Times which is normally a fairly credible source. Maybe it was taken out of context? Who knows?
  19. Jeffsus

    Jeffsus TRIBE Member

    I accidentally stumbled into the 'homeless' area of Osaka. That was an eye opener.

    In a way, we are all homeless.

  20. nonlocal

    nonlocal TRIBE Member

    Re: Re: Homelessness - stories of living on the street?

    Fuck man, I got busted for this a few weeks ago and had to spend the night in the think-tank.
  21. The Peej

    The Peej TRIBE Member

    I was lucky enough to have great friends. Being homeless for me only meant wandering the streets long enough for one of them to wake up and offer me a couch to pass out on.
  22. Boo

    Boo TRIBE Member

    I lived in the UK and Ireland for a long time, and can say from my own experience there are definately more 'homeless' in TO. The social system over there is second to none, and homeless in that context could refer to those not in permanent housing but rented accomadation provided by the state.

    I had neighbours who had rent subsidies for years and living in the same middle class house, who would be classified as homeless by this report.

    As you can see from your own source the number of people actually 'sleeping rough' is only in the single digits in many cites.

    Other figures for rough sleeping include:
    In October 2000, the DETR estimated there were 1,180 people sleeping rough on any given night in England.
    A report by Shelter in 1997 estimated in England, outside London, 2,000 people sleep rough each night
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2005
  23. zoo

    zoo TRIBE Member

    I haven't read this thread yet (I will) but I want to post this before I forget to later. It's an article about a guy in my fourth year business policy class and his buddies that decided to go homeless for a week (ending last friday).


    One pillow, one blanket, and one change of clothes.

    Those are all the supplies that James Fitzsimons, Rami Reda, and Stephen Gagne were allowed to bring with them when they went homeless for charity last Monday.

    During their five-day stay on the concrete outside of the student centre, the trio cannot leave campus, purchase food or drink, or clean themselves anywhere but the student centre washrooms.

    By their own admission, the campaign has not been glamorous.

    Today I felt gross, said Reda, vice-president external of the DeGroote Commerce Society. I felt the dirt on my face, I felt the dirt on my arms, and this is only day two. Day fourwow.

    The students are also required to attend all their classes.

    When asked about how his classmates have reacted to his personal hygiene, Gagne, president of DCS, answered, I just sit at the back of class.

    Despite the dirt, the exposure, the exhaustion, and the social exclusion, one misery the participants have not had to endure is hunger.

    Donations have exceeded our expectations, said Gagne. Today we were overwhelmed with how much food we got.

    On Tuesday, they claimed that students spontaneously provided them with three separate suppers; first a full chicken dinner, then pizzas, and finally bagels.

    As a result of this generosity, the group has actually been turning down offers for free meals.

    Were telling people wed prefer cash and canned goods, said Gagne.

    At the end of the week, these donations will be given to the Good Shepherd Centre, a charitable organization that serves Hamilton residents at seven different locations throughout the city.

    According to Anne Lee, vice-president academic of DCS, Good Shepherd Centre expressed a specific need for diapers, breakfast cereal, and boxes of macaroni and cheese.

    Many members of the community, students and residents alike, have already heeded this call.

    According to Gagne, a Hamilton woman made the trek to campus to give each of the participants 20 dollars, a blessing, and a kiss on the cheek.

    Reda also noted that Jim Bontaine, the owner of the Willy Dog stands, has set up collection canisters at both stands and posted a sign asking his customers to give a 25 cent donation with purchase. Bontaine has pledged to match any donations made by his customers, and is also providing the homeless trio with free hotdogs when they get hungry.

    The group has even received an extra sleeping bag and a deck of playing cards.

    Its been mind-blowing the amount of support weve got, said Fitzsimons, a second-year DCS representative. So far its been beyond our expectations, the money especially.

    In addition to raising money and supplies for the Good Shepherd Centre, the projects organizers hope that the campaign will get students thinking about how they can help the homeless in Hamilton.

    So many people walk by homeless people daily and never give it a second thought or offer a helping hand, said Karin Phan, a third-year representative for the DCS. By living in the middle of campus we are putting the issue in peoples faces and providing an avenue for people to talk to the participants and see how it is to be homeless.

    Despite such good intentions, the trio has been criticized by some members of the community for making a mockery of the plight of the homeless.

    Gagne readily recognizes that this campaign has provided him with only a glimpse of what it may be like to live on the streets.

    By no means do we mean to downplay what it means to be homeless, he said. Were lucky.

    Reda, however, maintained that their campaign is a better alternative than apathy.

    Its obviously easy to criticize, he said, but at least were making the effort. Maybe students will realize this is an issue in Hamilton.
  24. basketballjones

    basketballjones TRIBE Member

    ummm...the gov and the useless self interest groups go out of their way to sqew the "stats" on the homeless...cause if we had a real guide, we wouldnt need to spend insane amounts of money trying to "help" the homeless....they make their livings on keeping the ppl on the streets and un-counbtable...
  25. zoo

    zoo TRIBE Member

    As well, on the topic of insane people:

    Any resident of the 'city' (in Hamilton) can tell you just how many wack-jobs and nutsos there are walking the streets, being fed by the government. Many of them are living in subsidized housing (mostly small apartments in old townhouses or low-rises), and some simply live on the street, because that's what they know how to do.

    There's one guy, totally mad-scientist-hearing-whispers-certifiably-insane that I see quite often around my neighbourhood, at the local grocery store, on my driveway, etc. He frequently stands in the middle of the (major four lane one-way) road adjacent to my house, and literally plays frogger with the cars, yelling at them in the process. He's not really concerned with crossing the road, he's more concerned with jumping back and forth between lanes. This guy looks to (me to) be around 60-70 years old, based on his facial characteristics and ghostly white hair.

    I don't know if he's homeless. It wouldn't surprise me, though I think he's collecting some sort of income based on the fact he always seems to carry Fortino's bags full of canned goods and syrups.

    There's another local crazy that we see fairly often, this one is a woman, around her 40s or possibly 50s. Her specialty is stopping infront of all female students in the area and telling them they are evil, and are going to hell. She also likes to use the words "fucking bitch" and "slut" in her arbitrarily hate-fueled verbal assaults. She's probably not homeless, but again, it wouldn't surprise me if she was.

    On the topic of homeless people:

    Strolling around across Europe this past summer I saw homeless people in many different (mostly capital) cities. The most notable was in Frankfurt, and Stockholm. In Frankfurt, it appears that the nice summer weather brings out all the punky homeless kids, as there were probably close to 100 of them sleeping outside on the ground in small packs throughout the main shopping squares (and surrounding areas). Some wearing cool army gear, some holding interesting music apparel, and most surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol. These people are homeless, plentiful, and extremely visible, but I'm guessing they are seasonal, since really they're all just kids.

    The best homeless wackos I saw were in Stockholm, all living in a park surrounding a church, grave-yard and all, holding bottles of liquor, and yelling at each other. Skol is the only word I understood, but it's really the only word I needed to understand.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2005

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