Christmas, 'Tis the Season

Imagine having Christmas, wherein you have to rely on others to decide what your kids or even grand kids will get through charity because all of your income goes to keeping a phone for Xmas or the heat on, and when you look at what's left you find nothing but a lump of coal. Now imagine that's for a person considered lucky. Each year at this time I always get a number of calls or requests or pleas that are out of my range of actual influence - although by using different methods we can still keep the pressure on year round.

One of the recent concerns raised was the upcoming cancellation / shifting of distribution of Community Start Up funds which was available under the provincial government for those seeking 1st and last months rent and unable to afford it. The homeless used this fund to get into a place from the streets or a shelter. Another long time running fund up for review by regional council now was made available to home owners to upkeep their homes to liveable levels, and these funds literally help keep thousands off the streets.

One single woman I know of is being evicted, and aggressively so, by a group that is supposed to care for our disadvantaged - the ones with addictions or mental health issues - and seem to believe they can control these 'wards' or kick them out. These religious landlords/programs such as Cross Links - no matter how they try to hide it - should not be the only options for these people. "Landlords" as such become complacent when they are essentially the only game in town for people in this predicament and begin to feel they can impose rules as they please and muddy the rights of these tenants, who often are unaware, if they steer off their decided path. It seems the only help these charges get - the free legal clinics - are reluctant to tackle or challenge these groups to the degree they need to keep people in their homes without constant threat of removal should they not fit a particular mold being sought. They are assured programs are voluntary when they start out living in these places, but should people opt out the heat gets turned up it seems.

Another person lived in a Cross-links building infested with bedbugs - yet they billed him only for removal costs while the rest of the building's tenants weren't. When he balked they pounced. He moved out eventually frustrated by their persistence to oust him. These points of concern regarding the areas 'help" devises for the 'poor" came up during our in-depth social audit, Behind the Masks - testimonials from those marginalized by circumstance of a few years back, but as yet it seems the Region drafted it in name only as it seems to collect dust whilst they fund various forums to find out the same info, such as the United Way's recent series of 'community input" forums..Of course they too were criticized in the audit.

What we have done in regards to the Community Start-up funds is drafted some suggestions and forwarded them to the Region of York wherein we were invited into the discussion that regional council is now embarking on regarding these funds and the upcoming downloading of O.D.S.P. to the municipalities to distribute. I have no plans to attend but used the detailed draft letter complete with itemized suggestions to put them on notice. Prior these funds as well as O.D.S.P. - Ontario Disabilty Support Program - has been distributed by the Ontario government. Our main objection, in addition to wanting a guarantee the emergency funds will remain intact, is that municipalities are less educated to the root issues of poverty and more inclined to think in stereotypical terms - that these people are just lazy or can be dealt with through hand-out systems - like food-banks. The fact that a regional councilor also has a father with ties to many of the local homeless connected charities, often deemed part of the "solution" here, worries me frankly.
Some prefer the streets to these luxurious accomodations
For instance did you know everyone staying in the YR shelters pays to! That's right they are fast tracked into welfare but must sign off their rights to the cash to the shelters as a condition of staying - leaving what incentive to create housing as opposed to more temporary stay warehouses for people? Not that they're building any for the 90% street homeless which are men in York Region. Remember them? The ones who die on the streets?

The one's no one has written about but me.

Anyway low income women are not getting an easy run for Xmas either as one person who caught up to me reminded. They are trying to take her grand kids away from her because one of them is ' difficult' and has a number of ' diagnosis" apparently. I know the kid. He's not a bad kid at all and in fact very polite. He may have these so called diagnosis but this is no reason to remove a child from family. Once again a family unable to afford all the "help" they apparently "need" for their child will result in a REMOVAL?! Merry Xmas to you too!

The woman was at her end to hold back from crying as she was out shopping at the dollar store with them, for Xmas no doubt.This is becoming epidemic with kids being removed or parents - often single moms - controlled by being ordered by C.A.S. to participate in outrageous often unwarranted "programs" because they say so..or else...what if they can't afford the transportation or program cost? It's like living under glass jar! One person who attended a "mandatory" anger management "program" told me they watched movies every 'class".  
Someone's making a killing and its not the students! Another woman I know is going through the same thing with her daughter removed in front of the whole neighbourhood - based on statements made by a neighbour not in her household - and for 10 months has now fought for her child back! Still another had the baby taken at birth! All have one thing in common- low income.

Today I met a woman at a volunteers thanks lunch put on by the York Region Food Network. She manages to volunteer, where she is allowed to, even though she lives in her car! She grew up in an aboriginal household looking after her siblings having a severely alcoholic mother. It was her the taxi companies would deal with when a child had to go to the hospital from their rural location. "Which one is it this time?", they'd ask her, the mom too fall down to deal with anything. Recently she was stopped from volunteering based on new rules asking for "food handling certification". To wrap sandwiches? Give us a break! Wear gloves! People just want to be involved not controlled and needless "programs" waste resources and alienate. Christmas to her is a terrible memory - when the drinking would be at its worst. I Invited this lady to the Deli House Catering Xmas - Bread & Jam party and vowed to give her at least some fun this year!

People sometimes are born of circumstance as well. One person I know who's spent many a year in shelters, rooming houses, and even jail - often where the down end up when there's "no room at the inn".. He was sexually abused as a child, beaten by his father and brothers. He was ostracized at school for being unkempt and for what he wore and because they were poor. The father drank heavily. Recently, this same guy while drunk, was jumped and beaten when leaving a community dinner by some men coming out of the Habitat for Humanity store back warehouse area. So even eating is a danger now to him, let alone have to hit a shelter if it came to that. You get the picture..

Another I ran into, a family man with both parents working full time in factories and concerned they'll not have anything for presents for their kids after bills are paid out. You can read such stress in their faces like lines in a book, and that it breaks their hearts not to be able to despite apparently doing everything expected from society, yet still with minimal overhead comparatively, they struggle. Year round.

One guy had never had a friend. He never stayed in one place long enough to gain any, basically got wasted everywhere he went, and when things got too bad he packed up and left to the next town or city. Until one day he made a friend who believed in him, and encouraged him, and guess what? That was all he needed...along with some other supports, was another soul out there that gave enough of a fuck to say,

"Hey man how you doing?" and mean it. 

Can it all be so tough for people to do? Goodwill to men and women?

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays!

PS there is a Xmas Party - FRI DEC 21 6 - 8:30pm The 1st Annual Bread & Jam Xmas party at Deli House Catering Hall 1220 Stellar lane Newmarket for those who might have it tough this year and also those who assist in that plight when they can. PACC will be on-hand and some presents for the kids and award(s) given out.

Entry is $1 for a gourmet buffet dinner or $10 if you can afford it. Entertainers for Open Stage welcome!