Taking the time
by AlexeKantchev on May 16, 2017 - 7:52pm
I had never taken a class like newsactivism before. At first, I have to admit, I was a little nervous because I like when assignments are structured, a minimum of words is required, specific subjects are listed and I know exactly what to do. Now that I was left with too many options, I actually did not know what to do. However, throughout the first few weeks, I learnt how to deal with overwhelming amount of sources and information. Then, when came the super post as well as this project, I was prepared and felt confident enough to write with such liberty.
I chose homelessness as a topic of research because a few weeks before I watched a documentary named “Where is Home?” and it truly inspired me. This documentary focused on a specific town named Lethbridge, Alberta, in Canada and it made me see a new perspective of this social issue. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to make more research on homelessness, I jumped on it.
While doing my research on homelessness this semester, I have learnt many interesting as well as important facts about this social issue. For instance, while writing my super post, I have notice that homelessness is not perceived or responded to the same way all around the world. In Melbourne, Australia, the government tries to solve the problem by pushing homeless people out of the city by creating laws who disadvantage them. I have also learnt that England is very similar to the rates of homelessness Montreal experiences. Another point these two notorious cities have in common is that they both promote help through shelters and volunteer work
I have also found many different organizations that support homeless people such as the Old Brewery Mission where I volunteered at the end of the semester. Many non-profitable organizations around the world try to help these people in need. For instance, in England, an organization called the night stop that offers room rent-free. Indeed, when a family has a spare bed, they can apply for the program and house a homeless person for a night or two. This is a new concept that is growing and actually makes a difference since shelters are already overcrowded. Night Stop was inspired by new power, which is a new way to be more involved in solving a problem.
All of these researches made me realized how important it is to talk about this growing issue. Indeed, 235 000 people experience homelessness each year and 19% of these people are women. I have learnt many interesting facts and it allowed me to realized that most of the preconceived ideas people have about the homeless are false, based on ignorance and discrimination.
After doing some research, I decided to volunteer for a supper at the Old Brewery Mission in Montreal. This organization serves supper, creates events for homeless people and raises money to give back to people in need. My first step was to contact someone at this organization. The person in charge replied to me within hours and gave me dates where they would need my help. On Tuesday, April 4th and Friday, April 7th, I served supper to homeless people and I felt pretty good about it. The first time I went, I was a bit nervous because I did not know what to expect or what I would be asked to do. When I first arrived, there were already a few homeless people waiting in line to come in. I went inside, presented myself and they let me in to get ready for supper. People inside were really kind to me and showed me the way to the cafeteria where I was asked to put on robber gloves. Afterwards, they presented me to people who were working in the kitchen and other people I would be working with during the next few hours. For the first night, I was assigned to distribute bread, salt and pepper. When the first people came in, I was still a little nervous but after a few minutes I actually began to enjoy what I was doing. Some people were very polite and others would start conversations with me. One man in particular truly touched me. He asked me questions about my education and when I told him I was studying criminology at Champlain College, he truly seemed interested and asked me even more questions. I also saw another man give his dessert to someone else because he was not hungry and did not want to throw it away or waste the food. Many people came to see me to thank me for my help. This made me feel really good because they did not have to do that. I think those people are grateful and they appreciate what people do for them.
The second time I went to serve supper, I served bread, salt and pepper again. This time, there were a lot more people and even if I was busy, it was important for me to take a few minutes to talk to them. I met a man who was working in the kitchen and he told me his story, which was really touching. This man was struggling with money for a few months and he decided to find a roommate to be able to make ends meet. Sadly, his roommate took advantage of him and stole all the money he had left. This man became homeless and had nowhere to go. He then explained to me that the Old Brewery Mission employed him and rent him a room upstairs so he does not have to sleep in the streets. Even thought there are not enough jobs available to make many homeless people work in shelters, I believe this is an interesting idea that could help out a few of these people. At the end of the supper, I talked a little with a man who I had previously met during my first visit. I asked him if he was working at the Old Brewery Mission and he told me he was actually a retired man who was coming every time he had an opportunity to help. He also told me it was his sixth year volunteering at this particular shelter and he still enjoyed it a lot.
My perception of the issue
I believe these people deserve a chance to prove themselves before being labeled as “good for nothing”. While doing my voluntary work, I have met amazing people who made me learn a lot. I have encounter different kinds of prejudice against this group of people, which I believe were based on a lack of information concerning them. For instance, when I told a co-worker that I would go at the Old Brewery Mission to serve supper, she told me to be careful and not to talk too much with them. At first, I was shook to hear this coming from her, but then I took things into perspective and realized something. She did not made as much research as I did on the subject and my co-worker was basing this warning on things she heard about homeless people.
Doing all of this research and volunteering truly inspired me. Since people in those shelters do not necessarily want to be photographed, I did not take pictures of them. Instead, I decided to write a poem to express how I feel about my experience and the issue of homelessness.
Look into their smile and you will see sadness
Look by their side and you will see loneliness
When you pass them by
You don’t see their doll eyes
Asking for an encouragement
To feel accepted for a few moments
Homelessness is a growing issue
And no one really knows what they’re going through
So instead of judging
People should start listening
Next time you see one on the street
Take a pledge to do something concrete
This semester, I have learnt a lot about homelessness, but I have also learnt new technics to research information. With an assignment due each week, I also learnt to be disciplined and efficient. This course also gave me the opportunity to volunteer for a good cause and I really want to do it again if I have the change or the time to do so.