The cracks of society: we who are strong need to offer a helping hand to those who need it.I'll never forget the first time I encountered homeless people begging on the streets. I was a student visiting Rome during an Easter vacation and walking down the Via Del Corso Via del Corso, commonly known as the Corso, is the main street running through the historical centre of Rome, Italy. It is remarkable for being absolutely straight in an area characterized by narrow meandering alleys and small piazzas. in the heart of the city's shopping district.
Suddenly I found myself facing a row of small children sitting on the sidewalk A Microsoft service that was launched in 1997 to provide online arts and entertainment guides on the Web for major cities worldwide. In 1999, Microsoft sold Sidewalk to Ticketmaster, which continued to provide guides, ticketing and other information to the MSN network. furiously bending themselves back and forth yelling at the top of their lungs and holding out tins for us to drop some money in.
Old women in rags were also yelling. I was taken aback. Once we had run their gauntlet gauntlet /gaunt·let/ (gawnt´let) a bandage covering the hand and fingers like a glove. , a friend explained that the women were mothers and grandmothers yelling at their children to keep begging. The experience exposed the vain urbanity masking mask·ing
1. The concealment or the screening of one sensory process or sensation by another.
2. An opaque covering used to camouflage the metal parts of a prosthesis. the naivete na·ive·té or na·ïve·té
1. The state or quality of being inexperienced or unsophisticated, especially in being artless, credulous, or uncritical.
2. An artless, credulous, or uncritical statement or act. of growing up in Nova Scotia Nova Scotia (nō`və skō`shə) [Lat.,=new Scotland], province (2001 pop. 908,007), 21,425 sq mi (55,491 sq km), E Canada. Geography
Despite this, my ignorance remained intact insofar in·so·far
To such an extent.
Adv. 1. insofar - to the degree or extent that; "insofar as it can be ascertained, the horse lung is comparable to that of man"; "so far as it is reasonably practical he should practice as I assumed there were no such problems in my home and native land. That was before we moved to Toronto a dozen years ago. Walking downtown in the winter along Yonge Street meant stepping this way and that to avoid people, young and old, male and female, huddled hud·dle
1. A densely packed group or crowd, as of people or animals.
2. Football A brief gathering of a team's players behind the line of scrimmage to receive instructions for the next play.
3. over subway grates trying to keep warm. It was a pathetic game of hopscotch.
In fact, homeless people are present in many communities but they are drawn to the big cities for the same reasons as everyone else.
The reasons for people living on the streets are many. In Canada it has to do in large part with the closing of mental health institutions beginning in the 1960s. Partly political, partly ideological, the effect was to throw thousands out on the street who were ill-equipped to take care of themselves.
In Toronto alone, the city identified more than 5,000 homeless people in a 2006 survey. In 2002, almost 32,000 people used homeless shelters Homeless shelters are temporary residences for homeless people. Usually located in urban neighborhoods, they are similar to emergency shelters. The primary difference is that homeless shelters are usually open to anyone, without regard to the reason for need. at least once, including more than 5,000 children.
We are not comfortable with seeing people lying on our streets begging, nor should we be. What is almost as disturbing as the facts is FACTS I Federal Agencies' Centralized Trial-Balance System the common underlying belief that somehow it is the fault of street people that they are in their predicament.
That is willful naivete. If living on the streets and begging were so easy, more of us would be doing it. The truth is that many people have mental illnesses that are undiagnosed or difficult to treat. Drug addicts are often effectively self-medicating. Prostitutes are most frequently the victims of an abusive childhood.
Besides those whose troubles are rarely of their own making, our cities are seeing more and more refugees and "illegal" immigrants fleeing their homes in dangerous ways to come to the relative safety and presumed prosperity of Canada. In Toronto alone, people involved in street ministries estimate several hundred such people are smuggled smug·gle
v. smug·gled, smug·gling, smug·gles
1. To import or export without paying lawful customs charges or duties.
2. To bring in or take out illicitly or by stealth. into the country each year and dumped on a street corner with nothing except wholly inadequate clothes, speaking neither English nor French.
What are we to do? At least three things.
Firstly, we need to hold these people in our prayers. I don't mean asking God for miracles. Prayers help keep people and situations in the front of our minds. By mentioning the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicts and the abused in our private prayers as well as public prayers in church, we are less inclined to forget them and their needs.
Secondly, we need to support generously the ministries in our communities and church that provide food, shelter and counselling. Some of these ministries in Toronto are the focus of photographer Abel Pandy's lens in our cover feature.
Make it a Lenten practice of giving any person asking for money the loonies and twoonies that accumulate in your pocket. They are as much in need of a coffee as we are.
Thirdly, we need to remember our prayers when we are voting for whatever level of government to support housing and health care policies to take care of those who have otherwise slipped through the cracks of society.
They are children of God as much as we are and we who are strong need to offer a warm, strong helping hand.
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