Friday December 1, 2017
My last night is done! Today I reclaim my identity as a home owner with a family to return to! Last night was the coldest night of the three. Again, the same pattern persisted. I could stay warm moving but became very cold when trying to sleep, regardless of where I chose to sleep. The end of November is simply not the time to sleep outside. Moose Jaw’s climate does not lend itself to homelessness. Our weather for much of the year demands shelter. If it had been colder I would have been forced to seek shelter in a bank ATM vestibule, some heated parkade or other partially heated facility that I could access. Depending upon the number of others who were on the streets, these places of refuge might have to be shared always raising the possibility of altercation.
There are different reasons why someone might be on the streets in Moose Jaw. One reason is the man needing shelter is unaware of Riverside Mission. Other reasons include the man not willing or able to sleep in a room filled with strangers or the man is refused shelter because of menacing behaviour toward other clients or staff members. In extreme weather The Ministry of Social Services, the Moose Jaw City Police Service or Riverside Mission will act to ensure that the homeless person will not be left in a life-threatening situation. Such action will not always be ideal but will provide safety from the weather. It would be desirable for our community to have a facility that would simply provide supervised, shelter for people overnight. The difference between this shelter and Riverside Mission is that this shelter would house those intoxicated or those with social behaviours that bar them from Riverside Mission.
Before my first night out I was in discussion about creating an overnight kit that we can offer those who we cannot house. Those this kit would not keep someone safe in extreme weather, it might provide some comfort in more tolerable weather. Ideally this kit would provide a back pack containing a blanket, a water proof (or at lest resistant) sheet, a bagged lunch, an energy bar, hard candies, a tooth brush, a Tim’s card, those heat packs for gloves and boots, nail clippers and blister band aids.
I am very fortunate to have a warm roof over my head and people in my life who care for me. I cannot ignore those who haven’t. Jesus said regarding caring for others, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Thursday November 30, 2017
There was some improvement in last night’s walk from the night before. Aaron, one of our board members, walked with me earlier in the evening and we scouted out some potential out door shelters. My feet and knee did not hurt allowing me to walk far more comfortably. I had acquired a tarp and blanket to help me stay warmer while sleeping. Despite the shelter choices and the blanket/tarp I could not stay warm enough to sleep so spent most of my night walking about town. I chose to walk at this time to coordinate with our Christmas fundraising. I am very fortunate that the weather is so mild. I had no potential hazards such as ice, snow or dangerously cold weather to contend with. People truly homeless must face whatever weather conditions prevail at the time, even extreme weather conditions. Band-Aids and nail clippers brought relief to my feet. Likely two Advil brought relief to my knee. Some hard candies helped keep my mouth from getting too dry while walking. Despite these improvements my ability to get sufficient sleep remained impaired. Imagine my peril if the weather conditions were such that I could not stay warm even by walking.
Last night was my first night out on the streets trying to gain a better understanding of what faces the homeless among us. I determined not to have access to anything that was not available at the mission. I did not buy special shoes or clothing to help protect me from the weather. I did not scout out any “safe’ places in advance nor did I allow myself access to Riverside Mission outside my office hours.
Last year I slept on the roof with the goals of raising awareness to the plight of the homeless, and to better understand how Riverside Mission might better serve the homeless. I had mentioned my difficulty in understanding the emotions a person might go through when homeless because I am always in control of my situation. This year, walking the streets, I had less control, but I am still in a situation I create. I know this will only last for three nights or sooner should certain circumstances arise. I know that my life goes back to normal after my three nights are done. I have family and friends who are praying for me and encouraging me. These are luxuries that homeless people do not have.
I did a lot of walking last night. I tried to bunk down for a few hours but, though the night was quite warm and I well-dressed, the cold crept in after a short while. The only way I seemed to be able to stay warm was to keep walking. My knee, hip and toes became very sore. If the discomfort in my knee and hip continue I may not stay out for the third night. This is a choice I can make but a truly homeless person won’t have this option. There is no ‘change of plans’ for him (or her).
Functioning today after spending the night on the streets posed one big challenge: staying awake. I had intended to nap for thirty minutes, a time which stretched into two hours. There is a small couch in my office that allowed me my comfortable nap. Many of our homeless do not have an office, let alone one with a couch. When I overslept, I missed lunch. I grabbed a sandwich and a banana. Afterwards I realized that the homeless man would have simply missed lunch. He does not have access to our kitchen as I do. My productivity today was considerably less than my regular days. In a few hours I will be facing my second night out. I am not sure how prepared I am but I need to face it.
Non-profit community organizations, like Riverside Mission, send out a news letter, donation request appeals, or project fund raising announcements in order to raise awareness of the needs of the clients they serve. These letters, appeals and announcements are also useful in raising your own awareness of how you can help and how you can build up your own capacity to help others in need.
So, the next time you see an announcement or newsletter from Riverside Mission, please remember this request is not just made to help build up the clients they provide services to, but to build up you.
The essence of any blessing is that when it flows to you, it should flow through you.
Chairman of the board
Hope is a verb, an action word. Hope is something you do, hope puts its hands to work. Farmers plant a seed with the hope of a good crop. A contractor buys some land with the hope of building some homes. A student gets an education with the hope of having a career. Have you put your hands to work for what you are hoping for?
Ending homelessness is achievable, only if we put our hope into action. Volunteering, supporting fund raising campaigns, one time donations or recurring financial donations, and being another voice for the homeless in the community are all actions that can be taken to help end homelessness.
Chairman of the Board
Moose Jaw has always been a community that generously supports a cause when it needs support. Whether it is fund raising for the Wigmore Hospital, the Trolley, or some individual who needs assistance when dealing with an emergent issue the citizens of Moose Jaw and the surrounding community have always been there. I would like to bring to your attention an ongoing issue in this city, homelessness and poverty. These issues will not be fixed with a one time commitment from any individual or the community; this is a long term effort. So, how can you help out? Whether as an individual or if you belong to a community group or faith group, there are several ways you can assist with alleviating the impact of homelessness and poverty in Moose Jaw.
Financial donations; whether it is a one-time donation or regular donations, Riverside Mission needs your help. All donations help the Mission to innovate in the supports it provides to its clients and also invest in the essentials that the Mission needs to deliver on its overall goals. Your donations can be targeted to anyone of the many renovation/upgrade projects that Riverside Mission needs support to complete. You can also join Coldest Night of the Year this upcoming February 25, 2017 and fund raise for Riverside Mission through this event. Donations of packaged or frozen food items are also greatly appreciated.
Volunteer; Riverside Mission serves meals five nights a week and also three lunches per week. They need volunteers to help serve these meals and then provide clean up of the dining hall afterwards. If volunteering during meal times won’t work for you, call the Mission and talk with Rachel, she always needs help before meals with the preparation of the food. Volunteering can also mean providing manual labour when anyone of the work projects needs helping hands, call Riverside Mission to see when these projects are underway and to see if there is any way you can help.
We tend to think outside our community and our country when we think about how I can help others. If we look inside our own community there is help that is needed. These non-profits may not get the same media coverage that other world or national volunteer programs do however, it has just as great of an impact on those you will be helping out.
Chairman of the Board
We made the first page on the Moose Jaw Times Herald!! Unfortunately, it was reported that I was staying two nights rather than the three but MJTH did give good coverage. We are thankful to them for that. Last night was the coldest night as far as temperature is concerned. It was much more damp and I found myself sleeping with my head under the covers. As with the previous two nights I was snug and warm and slept well. There was more noise from the bar and the trains were busy. I awoke this morning with damp covers. I was dry but the surface of my bedding was damp. This morning after breakfast some of us went up and took down my cardboard condo. There was an emotional twinge as I watched my shelter being flattened and put in the recycle bin. As we were taking it down I noticed that the cardboard was not as rigid as it was Tuesday.
So, what did I learn from this experience? I will reflect on it for days to come and new thoughts will come to me through those reflections. For the immediate, these are the issues that come to mind. I believe that vulnerability is a big issue for the homeless. They are subject to the weather and need to adapt to any changes that might occur. They are at risk of intruders. I pulled my ladder up each night to eliminate the possibility of any unwanted visits. People living in the park, under a bridge or even in a vehicle will have a more difficult task warding off any unwanted attention and potential harm or loss. I wonder how quickly despair would overcome a person having no place to go, not seeing any hope of change in sight. Privacy came to my attention. As I got out of my shelter I could see all around. I don’t know how well seen I was when standing on the roof but I felt everyone could see me. I had the comfort of access to a bathroom for toileting and changing clothing. This morning I woke up feeling hungry and within the hour had access to something warm to eat. I also had access to a shower so my being near someone else did not bring offense; at least due to odor! My experience brought me kind words and encouragement (remember, I made the front page!). No one wondered when I would quit being a bum and get a job. No one avoided me for fear that I might steal or pass on some weird disease.
My experience drives me to seek better ways to serve our less fortunate helping them no longer be “less fortunate.” The start of this may be in showing a little more compassion, in being willing to offer an act of kindness to demonstrate the love that Jesus so readily gave to the less fortunate he met. This is the start, not the end.