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About Down But Not Out, its beginnings, why it came to be and where it is heading

addiction is rampant in Canada. The primary contributing factor is disaffection with  a social system that has placed the accumulation of wealth ahead of any moral integrity.

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Freeman On The Land

A freeman on the land is someone in a common law jurisdiction who lawfully refuses giving consent to be governed; therefore no statutory obligations or restrictions apply to that man or woman. No statute or act of government applies to a freeman on the land. By not consenting to be governed a freeman on the land is no longer eligible for the benefits of being a governed member of society, things like employment insurance, vehicle insurance and registration, welfare, government health insurance, and any other government system do not apply to a freeman on the land, but the benefits are easy to see.

While I was homeless, I was a Freeman on the land. It was a hard life, but a happy one. Unfortunately as I got older my health began to fail and I was forced to give up that freedom and move into the apartment where I now reside. In a large urban environment it is impossible to be truly free unless one is willing to renounce the trappings of society, including having a home in the accepted sense of the word. I was never truly homeless as I always had a home base where I ate, slept and kept my belongings. We street people call these places squats and they take many forms, a tent, a shack we have built, a lean-to under a bridge or just a sleeping bag spread out in a sheltered place.

In a rural environment, it is much easier to be a Freeman on the land. My younger brother is nearly one and has been most of his life. When we were young and I was still embroiled in the rat race, I like most of society looked upon him as a failure, but eventually I came to realize that he was one of the few truly successful people I knew at the time. I now have nothing but love and respect for him.

I say nearly when I speak of my brother because it is almost impossible to be completely free. My brother accepted welfare and used electricity and drove a car on society's roads. These things limit freedom and must be renounced to be a real Freeman on the land. I and many of my homeless friends who refused the indignity of welfare were truly Freemen on the land.

Strange how slaves will look down upon those who have been strong enough to shuck the bonds and attain real freedom. People assume that because a person is homeless, he must be on social assistance, but there are lots of us who refused to submit ourselves to the control that accepting this pittance places us under. We chose to retain our dignity rather than submit.

You can comment on content seen on this page by going to the bottom of the page. Every page on the site will have a comment section at the bottom.

 
added Mar 12/13

Destined to be Homeless

It's kind of like I was always destined to be homeless. When I was just a kid in grade 4 or 5 our family lived on Silverbirch Av in the Beaches. Now this was before they built the Don Valley Parkway. In those days The Riverdale Zoo, Toronto’s main zoo facility was in the valley on the West side where the Riverdale Farm is currently located and most of the Don River Valley all the way north to the outskirts of the city was wilderness. A wide variety of wild creatures made their home there including ducks, geese, foxes, rabbits and deer. There was even a hobo camp there. In case you don’t already know, a hobo is what a homeless person was called in those days and although they were a rare species. There were a few living in Toronto. You would have to look hard to find them though. There were only a few of them and you’d never see them sleeping on the sidewalks like you do today. If a homeless person was to die of exposure because he was homeless and had no place to find shelter it would cause a widespread outcry of concern about this failure of our society to protect and nurture those who  are not as fortunate as the rest of us.  Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t because times were better back then. In fact widespread poverty was the prevalent economic status for the majority. What we didn’t have was the vast gulf that currently divides the population into an elite number of extremely wealthy aristocrats, a rapidly disappearing middleclass and a frighteningly large segment of the population that suffer extreme poverty.

If you are currently one of the middleclass who has managed to remain prosperous, have you ever stopped to wonder where all these homeless people are coming from? No. Well you should, for most of them are people just like you who until recently had a good job, a home in a nice middleclass neighbourhood and a wife and family. Then one day without warning his job disappeared, usually to be relocated to one of the developing countries where corporate costs are lower and labour will work for slave wages. At first he didn’t worry. After all, it should be easy for a man with his abilities to find a better job. Uh Unh, not any more. Whether it took a few months or a few years, eventually he came to understand that he would never find a decent job again. By that time he had lost all of his middleclass trappings and looked just like any other bum. His house and car and everything he couldn’t carry with him went by the wayside including his whole family. He had been transformed into just another homeless bum, too lazy to get a job.

But I digress. Sort of. I was talking about how I was destined to become homeless. Well as I was saying, there was a hobo camp in the Don Valley when I was in grade 4 or 5. I used to skip school to hitch hike down to the Don Valley to spend the day hanging out with these really cool hobos. There weren’t very many of them and sometimes one of them would just be gone or another one would be there who hadn’t been before. I didn’t understand politics or economics or psychology back then but I knew these people were always happy to see me and would take the time to tell me stories or answer my questions no matter how dumb they might have been. They were my secret best friends. Secret because I sensed that if I told anyone about them it might get me and even them in trouble. For some strange reason none of the adults in my life seemed to like hobos. In fact I could tell that they really hated them, but I knew better. These were my friends. Over time the residents of the camp changed but the mix was always similar an ancient old codger or two, several men in their middle years, one or two teenage boys and sometimes an old woman.

Little did I know back then, but I grew up to be very much like them.

The first time I was homeless was during the hippie era when I spent a few years hitching rides with truckers or salesmen, or hopping freights or even one time hitching a ride in a single engine Cessna airplane. I saw a lot of North America in those days and learned a lot about human nature and I even got to know who I was during that period. Some of the best times of my life.

After my Hippie period I tried to fit into regular society, but I just couldn’t force this square peg into that round hole. Each attempt I made to conform ended when I realized how miserable I was and rebelled, spending short interludes couch surfing or sleeping in my car before going back into the mainstream to try again. The currently accepted definition of homelessness means not having a traditional place to reside with a postal address and includes couch surfing and sleeping in a vehicle, so based on that I have been homeless probably more time in my life than I have been traditionally housed. The main difference between me and the majority of homeless people is the fact that I chose the lifestyle and preferred it to a more traditional one while the vast majority of homeless people today are forced into homelessness due to economic conditions, abuse situations, mental or physical health issues, or addiction issues. Those people DO NOT WANT THE LIFE that has been thrust upon them. They would do anything they possibly could to find a real home and introduce a little stability into their lives.

After bouncing from job to job and experiencing numerous short term periods of homelessness over nearly two decades, I came to a point where I was desperate to fit in so while I was on welfare I went to George Brown College and got my real estate sales licence. I was really good at it and I worked hard. It only took me ten years to go from a penniless welfare recipient to a millionaire. Then I met a woman who introduced me to Crack and I was bankrupt in less than two years and homeless within ten years. I was a homeless crack addict for a decade but other than the fact that the crack had taken control of most of my life and was slowly killing me those were happy years for me. But they had to come to an end. On March 2 2005 I came to the conclusion that I would not live through the month. I was Fifty Nine years old and weighed a mere ninety pounds and I was really dying. Once I realized this I had a dilemma to face. Did I want to live? A person can take that question lightly until the time comes when his answer would be final. If I answered no, all I had to do was go on the same way as I was already living and I would be dead in a month. If I answered yes, I knew what I had to do; Quit drugs and find a real home. It took a few hours that morning to make my decision, but the answer was yes. I called an outreach worker friend I knew and told her I needed help. She got me into a detox centre that same day and I haven’t touched crack since. I spent about six weeks at the detox centre eating sleeping and going to counselling sessions, basically working at getting healthy again in mind as well as body. From the detox centre I went to live at a halfway house for recovering addicts and while I lived there I took a once a week outpatient counselling and rehabilitation program provided by the Salvation Army.

I had been on a waiting list for assisted housing for over ten years by then. I had given up ever getting a place when I got speaking with a housing worker socially and mentioned I had just turned Fifty Nine years old on March 26. She told me I qualified for seniors housing at my age and suggested I come to her office to update my housing application. I went to her office the following day to make the updates to my application and within a month I received a phone call notifying me that they had an apartment available for me to look at. I moved in on October 1, 2005 and expected to spend the rest of my life living there.

In the spring of 2011 I got a puppy to keep me company because I was feeling the need to form a close loving relationship with a living creature other than a woman to alleviate my loneliness. Smokey is part Cocker Spaniel and part Chocolate Lab and he was six weeks old when I got him. There were several pet owners in my building so I didn’t foresee any problems. I didn’t take into account that Smokey would grow much larger than the rodents they call dogs that were living in the building. Although Smokey is a gentle and loving dog some of the tenants were afraid of him because of his size once he got older and began complaining to management. The management had no grounds to evict me as I had a legal right to have my dog there so they began a campaign of harassment and lies to file in my record with the strategy of building a case for my eviction. I saw the writing on the wall. I bought a 32’ motorhome and left my $139.00 per month bachelor apartment right at Yonge and Eglinton.  So now I’m homeless again and will remain so as long as my health will allow.

You may be wondering why I have opted to spend such a large portion of my life homeless. There is a simple one word answer that really says it all: FREEDOM!

added March 18

I am in full support of the recommendations listed below that are the work of stableandaffordable.com – an initiative of the Wellesley Institute and the Housing Network of Ontario.

I have one suggestion that would greatly improve the financial position of the housing providers of rent geared to income buildings.
The change I propose is to allow the housing providers to increase the rents of social assistance recipients to the maximum allowable rent provided by the social assistance programs.
The result would be a tremendous increase in rental income with absolutely no cost to the tenants as the tenant income would automatically be increased to the maximum allowable amount when the increase in rent takes place. This vast increase in revenue would ensure funding is available to properly maintain the buildings and even add to the funds for developing new housing units.

Here are the recommendations

HNO action alert! Help ensure Ontario's social housing system changes for the better!

From:

Yutaka Dirks (ACTO) <dirksy@lao.on.ca>

To:

Yutaka Dirks (ACTO) <dirksy@lao.on.ca>



Please forward widely:

The government is changing the social housing system in Ontario :

Let’s make sure it changes for the better!

 On November 29, 2010, the Ontario government introduced its long awaited Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy.  The government failed to make any new investments in affordable housing, but did agree to replace the troublesome Social Housing Reform Act, which sets out the rules for social housing tenants and housing providers.  The Government promised that the new Housing Services Act would make sure the affordable housing system ‘put people first’.  The new law does not do nearly enough.

If the government is serious about a housing program that focuses on positive results for low-income Ontarians, the new Housing Services Act must be changed to:

1. Prevent the privatization and sell-off of social housing:  

Affordable housing strengthens the foundation of communities and is an important public asset. The Housing Services Act should make it illegal for municipalities to reduce the number of units of social housing.

2. Restrict punitive rent-geared-to-income rules

Tenants on social assistance who live in social housing should not be worse off if they find a job. The Housing Services Act should protect tenants from rapid, unfair rent hikes if their income rises.

3. Improve fairness for tenants:

Tenants need an independent review process when disputing decisions made by housing providers, such as cancelling a rental subsidy.  The people reviewing the decisions should not be the co-workers of the people who made them in the first place. The Housing Services Act should mandate the creation of an independent panel to consider these disputes.

4. Introduce Inclusionary housing:  

One of the fastest and fairest ways to create stable, equitably accessible, affordable housing is to ensure that it is built into any new development.  The government needs to amend the Planning Act to allow municipalities to introduce inclusionary housing policies.

5. Social Housing providers need a fair appeals process:

Under existing legislation, co-ops and non-profits have not had the ability to seek an independent review of Municipal Service Manager actions or decisions that did not involve costly court proceedings. The Housing Services Act must introduce an independent, fair and transparent appeals process for housing providers.

Tell the government that this opportunity to improve Ontario ’s affordable housing system cannot be wasted.

Take Action NOW:

1. Copy this email and add your own reasons for the government to make these changes, then send it to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy , BEFORE MARCH 31, by emailing the clerk at: trevor_day@ontla.ola.org

2. Call/email your MPP and tell them that the new Housing Services Act, must be changed to better protect tenants and promote affordable housing.

Even with these changes, the Housing Network of Ontario knows that the Ontario government needs to meaningfully address the housing crisis by improving the long-term affordable housing strategy by introducing bold targets and timelines and funding for:

  • New affordable housing units and repairs to rundown housing.
  • A housing benefit and rent regulation to close the gap between low incomes and rising rents.
  • Supports and services to help people access and maintain housing they can afford, and to ensure equitable, inclusive communities.

You can view the proposed legislation at:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=2440&detailPage=bills_detail_the_bill&Intranet=

For more information on the Housing Network of Ontario visit:

www.stableandaffordable.com

or email: dirksy@lao.on.ca

added Jan 14

Comments

This section was originally at the bottom of the page, but the site has grown so large that I fear most people never find the form or see the comments. I’ll try moving the comments section to the top to see how that works. I really appreciate all of you who have taken the time to come to this site and hope that it has been helpful. Any suggestions or comments that you care to submit will be received gratefully and I promise to respond to each of them as punctually as I possibly am able.

The Comments section on the home page is not as far down, so I'll leave it as it is, but if you haven't seen the wonderful stories that have been submitted there you really should check them out.

Detroitlady Dec 23 /10

I was asked to come to this site and tell a little of my story. They call me the Detroitlady. I have been homeless and an addict, lost in my own mind. I never thought it would happen to me, but I know why it did now. When I was only 4 my dad would touch me, not like daddy's shouldn't. I was scared and did not come for a loving home, did not even know love if I saw it. I ran from my pain, but I learned I can't ran from myself. "I needed help." But, I could not see it for many years. So, on the street I pay a higher price. Now, I my brain is really a mess. My answer was Jail. Then AA, NA, and I opened my mind and started to listen or DIE! Someone in AA gave me a job, then a place to sleep. One thing after another. I have my own home, my own car now and a relationship with my family. I am clean and have been for years. But, it started by looking at myself and taking that first step and I work my butt off to have what I have. But, it is mine. I know there are people who care, if you go where they are. AA, NA. Hey, there is always free coffee and snacks there! I am praying for you my sisters and brothers... Peace and love!

Thanks for writing Detroitlady. I am profoundly pleased that you were able to overcome your addiction issues. It appears you have been able to find solutions to your mental health issues as well and that is crucial. Sorry it’s taken so long to reply, but life just got out of control for a while. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell your story. Seems we have quite a few similarities in our backgrounds. Although there was no physical abuse in my home life, the concept of love was a stranger to me until after I left home and began to see how other people lived. It’s strange, but I didn’t even realize that I was raised in a dysfunctional family until I got out of the house. Also, like you I was very near death before I finally decided to get help. Thank God for both of us there was help available once we realized we needed it. I have been clean for 6 years now, but I suppose I will struggle with trying to cling to my sanity for the rest of my life. I sincerely hope you are having more success than I in that area. When I think about the state of the world, I really doubt that anyone is actually sane.

Sandra Feb 24/10

I am so glad I found your site Ron. I have been an advocate for all those deemed "out-casts" by the status-quo. Having survived the streets and so much more, I cannot be silent while the propaganda machine's wheels continue to turn and the all out war against those who, have fallen on hard times, continues to rage. I am grateful to all of you blessed with the strength, fortitude and courage to take a stand against the injustice, the inhumanity.
~Sandra

Thanks for writing Sandra. The only reason that the propagandists are so successful is there are not enough of us telling the truth, but our numbers are growing. Our message

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Bright Beginnings Child Development Center NEEDS Walkers (and Donors)
to Participate in the Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon on
Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bright Beginnings is a nationally-accredited child and family development center that offers a bright start for homeless infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families in our nation's capital. Each November, Bright Beginnings participates in Fannie Mae’s Help the Homeless Walkathon - one of the largest fund-raising collaborations focused on homelessness.
Both individuals and businesses can help our community’s most vulnerable families by: designating Bright Beginnings as your beneficiary and registering as a walker or virtual walker, organizing a group of walkers from your business or community group or signing on as our sponsor. For our most committed supporters, there are also two other great ways to help: organizing a mini-walk on our behalf with your business, school, church or community group, and introducing Bright Beginnings to your social network and raising money on our behalf. Register on the Fannie Mae website if you are ready to make your commitment right now, or contact Joan Woods at Bright Beginnings at 202.842.9090 or jwoods@BrightBeginningsInc.org to learn more.
Last year, we raised nearly $30,000, and this year we plan to double that amount. Your walker registrations, donations and sponsorships will provide essential education, therapeutic and family services for nearly 200 homeless families. This is one of our biggest fundraisers, so please join us to raise awareness of homelessness in our region.

Bright Beginnings' Unique Approach to Ending Homelessness


Bright Beginnings was established in 1991 by the Junior League of Washington to address homeless families’ critical need for childcare. Our nationally-accredited child and family development center in Washington, DC offers a bright start for homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers and a safe, nurturing environment that helps homeless families focus on securing permanent housing and getting the education or job training they need to stabilize their families. During the last 19 years, Bright Beginnings has met the needs of nearly 1,700 homeless children and their parents.
Bright Beginnings serves 186 children annually whose families are living in crisis shelters or transitional housing. Through educational, therapeutic, health, and family support services, children prepare for kindergarten while their parents create more stable home environments by pursuing job training and education.
High-quality childcare is a high-impact intervention for young homeless children and their families. Quality developmental childcare strengthens cognitive and language development; increases school readiness and subsequent academic success; builds self-esteem and achievement motivation; and improves health, social-emotional development and behavior. Homeless parents who have access to high-quality child care are more likely to find jobs, stay employed and offer the stability their children need.

Facts About Homeless Families in our Nation's Capital

Families with young children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population in Washington, DC .

Washington, DC has the highest rate of child poverty in the United States, with more than 33 percent living in poverty.

More than 12,000 people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area are homeless.


How Bright Beginnings Spends Its Donations

$25,000 provides year-round educational and therapeutic support for one homeless infant, toddler or preschooler.

$5,000 provides a month of therapeutic services for 25 children.

$2,500 ensures 6 months of intensive case management for a homeless couple.

$500 enriches our curriculum with 3 months of art, music or science instructional aids.

$25 provides emergency food or diapers for one family.

 

 Ontario’s ‘affordable’ homes aren’t affordable to those who need them

More than half the new “affordable” housing funded by the Ontario government isn’t really affordable to the households that need it the most. That’s one of the devastating findings in the Ontario auditor-general’s latest annual report, released today.  “A provincial strategy is needed to define the Ministry [of Municipal Affairs and Housing's] roles, set measurable goals and program priorities, assess risks and options to manage the risks, determine the resources required, and measure the impact of the Ministry’s contribution to social housing,” urges the auditor-general

Auditor General on Social Housing.pdf Auditor General on Social Housing.pdf
Size : 0.262 Kb
Type : pdf

An attempt to discredit me

Clayton made the following comment about my article titled From Successful Businessman to Homeless Addicton the website Homeless Tales

·  I too have been addicted to crack cocaine for 25 years, although I have not touched it in 5 years. I recovered in the shelter system here in Toronto and I would like to clear one thing up. Most shelters are run as humanely as possible and with a fair bit of consideration towards their residents. I think that the author of the article should think about the task these places are trying to accomplish.

First of all, how can you honestly expect some place to allow everyone who is staying there to be able to eat whenever they want, sleep all that they want, pick the menu, etc. What I am reading here is an exaggerated sense of entitlement and an unreasonable expectation of service provision. On top of that , Toronto has a set of standards that shelters are supposed to adhere to and one thing that they do is to accommodate people with special dietary requirements, whether it is for medical or religious reasons.

My comment may seem trivial in light of the real issue at hand, but my experience (and common background with the writer) is showing me that this man is focusing on what he perceives to be wrong with everyone and everything else around him. The girl hooked him on crack, the city won’t give him a private room with a caterer, etc. The only way to get free of this shit is to focus on yourself and find your own way out.

Blaming everyone else is locking yourself in prison - healing yourself will set you free.

My reply

I suspect that Clayton is not who he claims to be. I wonder if in actuality, he ever spent a night in a shelter or was addicted to crack. Surely he has some ulterior motive for this dishonest attempt to discredit me and portray the shelter system as anywhere near adequate.

He is very adept at twisting my words to his agenda, but the truth is that I never suggested that people who rely on shelters should be allowed to eat whenever they want. It would be unrealistic to have them dropping by the kitchen for a midnight snack for instance. Nor did I suggest that they should be allowed to pick the menu, although I do believe that a wider variety of more nourishing and healthy meals would be appropriate.

I wonder why he believes that an individual should be deprived of the right to sleep when and for however long he needs to. Has he never needed to stay in bed and rest when his system is run down or he is ill as so many of the people in shelters are?

Is it an exaggerated sense of entitlement or an unreasonable expectation of service provision to expect a nutritious diet, sleeping accommodations that are free of infestations and provide personal safety and security and the ability to get the rest that is required to recuperate from illness or the harsh conditions on the street?

There is a common unspoken rule among most addicts that you NEVER give someone their first taste of an addictive drug. Those who do are not friends for they have only one purpose and that is to gain power or economic advantage over their prey. This was not the case when “the girl” introduced me to crack. Neither of us was aware of the fact that it is impossible to be a casual user. Crack use inevitably leads to addiction. I place no blame on her for my addiction, but I do believe that she was directly although inadvertently responsible. This is not to say that if she had not introduced me to it, I wouldn’t have started some other way. Who knows?

Clayton’s comment that I expect a private room with a caterer is irresponsible nonsense, but it is not irresponsible to state that with minor alterations to our social system, a person need never become homeless and could have a private room. The sad thing is that to ensure a person’s ability to maintain a private room would be far less costly to society than the expense that is incurred to society under the current circumstances.

The purpose of my article is not to lay blame. It is to point out areas where there is need for improvement.

Stop trying to misrepresent me Clayton. You will not succeed.

Metis Rebel wrote

Ronzig, I too must question Clayton's understanding of the shelter system and even more certainly must question his assessment of the REASON for them.
I was one of the people who as on the panel of the Shelter Inspection Report for TDRC [available on their website] and although some shelters were caring, used their food budgets wisely and had decent accommodations, that was *not* the case for far too many of them.
First off Clayton, not all shelters or services collect city money and therefore, do NOT have to adhere to the city guidelines. It is a major reason why the value of "Out of the Cold" programs are questionable in terms of reasonable service.
"I think that the author of the article should think about the task these places are trying to accomplish."
What tasks? Why are those tasks necessary? What are the long-term results positive and negative? What do the statistics show about success rates? [Damn low, actually]
Clayton I think YOU should think about what shelters are "supposed to be accomplishing". Why are there so many, for example? Why the increase since Harris gutted rent controls, welfare and disability payments? Why can so many people on minimum wage [fortunately it's gone up a bit now] cannot afford standard accommodation? Why is there a 14 year waiting list for housing? Did 10,000 people in Ontario suddenly go nuts or start smoking crack in less than 2 years after Harris gutted the province? A number that continues to increase daily? Why is OHIP money being used to create "mental health housing" our of desperation to get people housed, instead of being used on health care?
A decent shelter costs $40 per night and upwards to $90. Why not just HOUSE people because $40x30 nights=$1200 per month and that is a helluva a lot of RENT money! Most of the budget is spent on *salaries* not accommodations.
If the bed is empty--the shelter doesn't get the per diem. They have a vested interest in keeping the beds full.
How did substance users, the unemployed and the disabled have NO trouble surviving in the 1970-1980's yet become dehoused and starving starting in the mid 90's and continuing until the present?
"accommodate people with special dietary requirements, whether it is for medical or religious reasons."
Hardly. Most shelters simply don't force vegetarians to eat the meat [leaving them protein-less] and throw around a few pulses, or religious people to eat pork-- a bit of a joke, really since there's little high-quality meat anyway. And most shelters only feed one meal with the residents depending on drop-ins for the rest.
Which doesn't change a damn thing that there should be NO need for this massive shelter poverty industrial complex IN THE FIRST PLACE.
The "entitlement" problem isn't amongst the de-housed--it's amongst [some of] the workers, the managers, the bureacrats and the CEO's who feel entitled to collect salaries at the expense of their charges while exponentially increasing the poverty industry instead of fighting to solve the basic economic problems that create the need for shelters in the first place.
"Blaming everyone else is locking yourself in prison - healing yourself will set you free."
Here we see YOUR sense of entitlement. First off, it isn't about BLAME it's about political accountability and the reason this mess started in the first place.
Secondly it has nothing to do with "healing". Many de-housed people aren't "wounded"--they're simply de-housed. Your assumption that in every case it's a personal failing rather than a result of deliberate manipulation of economic factors, won't stand the test of evidence. 

Rev Cynthia wrote

~Ronzig, thanks so much for the clarification! By the way, hope all is well in your world...

~MR, Thought these two points were brilliant:

A. "A decent shelter costs $40 per night and upwards to $90. Why not just HOUSE people because $40×30 nights=$1200 per month and that is a helluva a lot of RENT money! Most of the budget is spent on *salaries* not accommodations." 
Yup, we could get some pretty nice digs here on the Central Coast of California for $1,200. a month.
B. "Many de-housed people aren’t “wounded”–they’re simply de-housed. Your assumption that in every case it’s a personal failing rather than a result of deliberate manipulation of economic factors, won’t stand the test of evidence." BRAVO, Sister!!!
Thank you so very much for making this point.Of course, we may not start out being wounded, when we lose our housing and land on the streets, but we sure can become wounded as a result of the degradation surrounding homelessness.
Once I had someone tell me that I was a "success story," as a result of having been homeless, &amp; then becoming housed.  This floored me, as I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary to become unhoused (SSI disability just wasn't enough to pay for rent and food) and I hadn't done anything extraordinary to get housed (except that thanks to an abusive relationship, I ended up in a shelter that then became an opportunity for transitional housing and eventually, after two years, my name came up for subsidized housing).  So my point was that there was neither "failure" nor "success" to my story.
The beat goes on...

My Reply

Hi Cynthia. Your comment about the system calling us A SUCCESS STORY when we get off the streets highlights the issue of success and failure. It's so sad that the system has FAILED so miserably that when the 1% of the homeless eventually find housing they call that a SUCCESS STORY. I've been labelled the same way and I resent it. It's the systems' tokenism to mask the huge FAILURE STORY of homelessness.

Metis Rebel wrote

You’re making a valid point of success vs. failure Ronzig.

Nobody considered me a “success story” when I had 2 jobs, went to college and was starving in my apartment.

Nor was I considered a success with a part-time job while building my own cabin.

Thrown onto welfare [for a few weeks] and forced into subsidized housing I was a “success” and later, when I got a job I was the poster child.

It’s about how social services *thinks*.

Social services are based on “crisis management” AFTER there’s a severe and publicly obvious problem–not crisis PREVENTION–which takes long term planning, political/economic understanding and the involvement of the problem solving skills of those who are at risk of a financial crisis occurring.

It means looking at employment trends, improvements to the minimum wage, disability, welfare, unemployment and pension systems or simply a Guaranteed Annual Living income.

To get funding an agency must “prove” there’s a problem.

Then it must be ‘proved’ that THEY have a *short-term* solution. Without rotating clients or repeating clients [in other words, the problem increasing, not decreasing] the funding won’t be long-term nor increase. This is why there’s a revolving door of getting housed by one agency, losing it, being housed by another, etc.

It’s also why supportive and rent-geared-to-income housing are run by bureaucrats and social workers. It is never co-op housing owned and maintained by the actual stakeholding residents who would need only maintenance funding for a building, if it was purchased, outright.

It means putting substance users, people with severe mental health struggles and the dangerously violent in the same buildings with the working poor and disabled population with families–to the detriment of all residents without the residents having any power to solve the resultant problems. This ensures a revolving door for all parties and absolute powerlessness for the “clients” no matter how ’sympathetic’ a given worker might be to their plight.

In other words–it turns the “housed” into bystanders and victims of “help” instead of active participants in control of their own lives.

I’d hardly call that “success”.

My Reply

Metis, my Rebel friend you make some extremely astute observations here. I’ll speak to them after I make one of my own.

The politicians, the bureaucrats and the social service agencies ALL act from the premise that homeless people are inferior. They believe that we are not capable of reasoned thinking or productive involvement in society, hence, they develop policies that are geared toward custodianship of our lives rather than toward fulfillment of our potentials. This type of policy suits their agendas perfectly, for each is building empires based on dependency and to sponsor fulfillment rather than dependency would be counter productive to this empire building agenda. It is crucial that we speak out intelligently to demonstrate that we are not inferior and that by advancement of current policies they are depriving society of our productive capabilities at the same time as they deprive us of our right to self actualization.

You point out that policies are designed for crisis management rather than crisis prevention. I would take it one step further. The policies are designed for crisis creation, for without crisis there would be no need whatsoever for the multitude of mini empires that have risen within the system. The people who run these empires enjoy their power over people’s lives and have a vested interest in increasing crisis, not ending it.

Your mention of the multitudinous programs that exist for the professed purpose of income supplementation of assurance is another case in point. A guaranteed annual living income would be far more effective and far less costly to implement and run than the existing overlapping and often conflicting programs of Minimum Wage, Employment Insurance, Welfare, (euphemistically changed to Ontario Works in my province), Disability Pension, and Old Age Pension plans, but the pseudo emperors that run these programs are the strongest detractors of the concept. They would lose their empires.

There is a simple solution to Revolving Door Homelessness that I propose on my website, Down But Not Out on the homelessness page, but it is being ignored because it would diminish the need for these empires.

Again, the lack of support for co-op housing in favor of government owned and operated housing programs with the resulting dependency that arises comes down to empire building. Government favours a system where people are dependent upon it rather than the converse of a government dependent upon the people

Toronto Housing Plan Supports Homeless Youth 

The Wellesley Institute reports that:

A long strike by city employees this summer didn’t stop Toronto City Council from strongly endorsing the Housing Opportunities Toronto ( HOT ) Action Plan 2010-2020 following more than a year of consultations. As part of those consultations, the city provided some financial assistance to 23 organizations and groups to consult directly with vulnerable client groups, such as victims of domestic abuse, youth, homeless people, incarcerated men and women, seniors, people with disabilities and newcomers. As a result the plan identifies specific recommendations to support homeless youth.

Containing 67 actions to be undertaken by the City of Toronto , along with the federal and provincial governments, HOT proposes new investment of $484 million annually for the next 10 years to help 257,700 households struggling with high housing costs or inadequate accommodation.

A key component is The Toronto Housing Charter – Opportunity for All, which will guide council and staff in their efforts to assist those who often face challenges finding affordable housing, from newcomers and youth, to single parents and those with disabilities. It states that “all residents have the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination” as provided by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The ten-year plan focuses on upgrading existing private and social housing, building 1,000 new affordable rental homes annually and making home ownership more affordable. A critical component of the plan is its housing-first approach, said Mayor David Miller, which is based on the principle that the best way to end homelessness is to assist people to find permanent housing and provide appropriate supports so they can remain in their homes.

A few highlights include:

·        Partnering with community organizations, labour groups, colleges and universities during the housing construction period to provide residents, particularly youth, with skill development, apprenticeship and employment opportunities.

·        Actively encouraging the provincial government to commit to implementing a fully-funded, long-term affordable housing plan, and to upload all costs of social housing.

·        Actively encouraging the federal government to commit to creating a National Housing Strategy with predictable, long-term funding for affordable housing and homelessness services.

·        Identifying at risk groups: In addition to those who are homeless, many other vulnerable groups require assistance to find suitable housing—people with mental health issues or physical disabilities, people with environmental sensitivities, Aboriginal people, immigrants and refugees, victims of violence, low-income families with children, youth leaving child welfare care, and seniors all have distinct needs for housing and supports, the plan states.

 

This photo of me is one of a number of such photos by Dan Bergeron that are part of his contribution to the Housepaint exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. Each photo is larger than life and each tells a story. The Housepaint exhibit is an exciting and innovative approach to art, society and homelessness that is definitely worth attending. If you come Wednesday 4:30 to 5:30pm, admission is free.

Ana is one of my street daughters. I've known her for 10 years and love her like she was my own. She's not doing too well right now, so if you would be so kind as to say a prayer for her I would appreciate it.

 The extent of the problem

This chart prepared by the Wellesley Institute in 2006 reveals the vast numbers of homeless people who sleep in shelters each year in Toronto. It does not take into account those who rely on couch surfing to find shelter or those who are unable to find acceptable shelter and choose to sleep rough which is a term used to describe sleeping outside.

Street Needs Assessment

The City of Toronto is preparing to conduct another Street Needs Assessment. Here is some information from the one that was done on April 19, 2006. This information was provided by staff at Street to Homes.
1) How many homeless people were interviewed in the last Street Needs Assessment?

1966 were interviewed, although 4629 people were encountered
2) The estimated total number of homeless people in
Toronto based on extrapolating this number. (The city’s estimate and the estimates of other groups.)

There were an estimated 5,052 individuals homeless in Toronto on April 19, 2006, comprised of:

·        3,649 (72%) known to be in shelters

·        818 (16%) estimated to be on the street

·        275 (5%) known to be in health care or treatment facilities

·        171 (3%) known to be in Violence Against Women Shelters

·        139 (3%) known to be in correctional facilities.

(Note: this is a point-in-time study and excludes hidden homeless individuals, e.g., “couch surfers”).
3) The estimated number of people sleeping in shelters. (Annually, monthly or nightly)

See nightly figures as of April 19, 2006 above.  We know that over 26,000 different individuals stay in the shelter system over the course of one year.

Justice and Injustice

This is a copy of an old report, but most of the information is still pertinent and the lessons are still important.

Homelessness, Crime, Victimization and the Criminal Justice System

 Presentation to the Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, City of Toronto, July 24, 2006

By Amber Kellen, The John Howard Society of Toronto

and Sylvia Novac, Centre for Urban & Community Studies, University of Toronto

Research funded by the

National Homelessness Initiative, HRSD

Why?

  1. Commissioned by the National Homelessness Initiative, HRSD u
  2. Little recognition of connection between homelessness and criminal justice system u
  3. Raise awareness of problems (e.g., increasing remand population, lack of service co-ordination, increasing criminalization of homelessness) u
  4. Identify existing programs and what works
  5. u Improve situation and promote systemic change

Research Questions

  1. How many homeless people enter & leave criminal justice system? u
  2. How many people go to a shelter from justice system? u
  3. What types of post-incarceration programs exist? Promising practices? u
  4. What is state of relations between police and homeless people? u
  5. Forms of victimization of homeless people? How to prevent? u
  6. What offences do homeless people commit? How does regulation of public space affect this? u
  7. How are homeless people treated in justice system?

Study methods & data

  1. Administrative data on shelter use; NFA admissions & releases from provincial correctional facilities u
  2. Interviews with 23 key informants, 1/3 working in justice system u
  3. Survey of 52 homeless adults and youth u
  4. In-depth interviews with sub-set of 22 survey respondentsu u
  5. Focus groups with homeless individuals and service providers on programs and services u
  6. Legal case studies of 5 individuals u
  7. Data on offences from 867 JHST client files u
  8. Inventory of programs & policies, with promising practices

NFA Admissions to Local Jails
(data from Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)

64% increase in number of homeless people admitted to jail from 2001 to 2005

42% repeat admissions of homeless people in a year (2004-2005)

NFA Releases in Ontario
(data from Multifaith Reintegration Program)

656 NFA releases from Ontario jails a  year (2004-2005), according to MRP u

414 NFA releases from Ontario jails a year (2004-2005)

Shelter use stats indicative, but not representative

Nearly 900 shelter admissions (by 635 people) were recorded as coming from corrections in 2003  

Everyone agrees that this under-represents the actual number, but by how much?

Mini-survey of shelter practices

u  29 shelters polled about:  

u 1) how they determine reason for shelter use  

u 2) under-reporting of admissions “from corrections”  

7 shelters responded

Shelter practices of questioning vary widely

  1. Some don’t even ask for reason; others ask a question, such as: Where did you spend last night? u
  2. Some avoid any question that may diminish trust; while others want to know for case planning u
  3. Some consider info useful for program planning and requests for resources; other don’t see the value in asking or knowing u
  4. Occasionally shelter staff already know u
  5. Under-reporting is the norm

Shelter users under-report, too

uReasons why shelter users do not disclose:  

u  1) lack of privacy during intake  

u  2) lack of trust  

u  3) poor staff training  

u  4) may not see any value in disclosing

Profile of Shelter Users Coming From Corrections

  1. About 825 shelter admissions per year by 630 individuals are recorded as coming from corrections  
  2. Virtually all are singles  
  3. Youth are over-represented; 33% of admissions from corrections are youth (vs. 21% of shelter users and 12% of general population)  
  4. Predominantly males (about 80% overall in 2003)  
  5. Proportion of female to male adults has increased since 1988  

Repeat Shelter Admissions from Corrections

  1. Repeat shelter admissions per year increased from 22% in 1988 to 28% in 2003
  2.  Among youth, the increase was from 29% in 1988 to 50% in 2003  
  3. Mounting frequency of cycling between jails and shelters suggests that it has become harder for individuals to break the trans-institutional cycle.

Charges against homeless vs. housed men
(data from JHS-T)

Based on the files of 876 men who became clients within the past two years  

Defined two groups - 308 homeless clients & 203 housed clients u

Compared the homeless group with the housed group, with a particular interest in their outstanding charges and past convictions

Clients’ Housing Status at Intake

More than one-third (36%) of the clients were homeless at intake u

35% gave a shelter address or reported having no fixed address; a small proportion (1%) said they were sleeping rough u

Only one-quarter of the clients lived in their own room or apartment

And …

  1. One-fifth of clients were staying with family, arrangements that may have been temporary or unstable u
  2. A small number were staying in a residential treatment program, detoxification centre, or halfway house u
  3. Issues of stigma and discrimination as issues affecting housing status

Programs & Policies

Types of Programs

  1. Alternatives that divert people from incarceration altogether
  2. uPolicies that affect access to housing for those in the penal system
  3. u Pre-release programs that help secure housing and resources prior to discharge  
  4. Housing for people being released from correctional facilities  
  5. Programs that offer post-release support u
  6. New and emerging programs and policy directions

Promising practices

uSelection criteria were drawn from literature and feedback from focus groups  

uThese criteria included:

  1. u u Continuity of service
  2. Network development and service/cross-sector co-ordination u
  3. uProvision of help for obtaining and maintaining housing
  4. u Specialized approaches for high risk populations, e.g., FASD, mental health problems, Aboriginal people, and street youth

Some examples

  1. Transitional Housing Management - Corrections Housing Pathways Initiative, Victoria, Australia  
  2. Nacro Supported Housing and Resettlement Services, U.K.
  3.  Housing Benefit for Prisoners, UK services, UK  
  4. Sarah Powell Huntington House, New York City, USA  
  5. Project Greenlight, New York City, USA  
  6. SPAN Program, Bowery Residents’ Committee Inc., New York City, USA  
  7. Community Residential and Reintegration Program for Adult Male Offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Westcoast Genesis Society, New Westminister, BC, Canada  
  8. Street Youth Legal Services (SYLS), Justice for Children and Youth, Toronto, Canada
  9. u Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, Toronto, Canada  
  10. The Tent City Emergency Homelessness Pilot Project and Toronto Rent Subsidy Program, Toronto, Canada

A Few Quotes…

u If jail and shelters got together, they could arrange to keep a bed when a person is released so that person doesn’t have to stay on the street and re-offend in order to survive. u

u Programming should be offered to people for life skills, anger management, and education; it’s offered now on an inconsistent basis. It depends on which jail they are in. u

u In detention centres, nothing is offered; in correction centres, what’s offered depends on where one is placed

u They should be housed right away, when leaving jail. That is the time when a person can be clean [drug-free], healthy, and keen to make changes. u

u That is the best time, when just getting out of jail, [when people are] more motivated to help themselves, to keep their housing, and look for work. u

u Otherwise, with no housing and support, people fall back into their old habits.

Have special advocates to work with homeless people when in contact with police, court, and jail. Provide interpretation of legal language. u

u Often you’ll give the wrong answer because you did not understand the intent of the question. Mentally challenged people do not understand their rights and have little support to get them through the system.

Profile of Survey Respondents

  1. 52 homeless individuals, aged 16 to 59  
  2. Included 18 females, 1 transgender; 17 youth; and 13 racial minority; and 17 Aboriginals

 uDuring past year:  

  1. 72% had slept rough  
  2. 65% had been incarcerated  
  3. 25% had spent 1 or more nights in hospital

Policing Experience

uDuring past year: u

  1. 86% had been stopped by policeu
  2. 42% had been stopped more than 5 times  

uDuring past month:u

  1. 49% had been stopped by police
  2. u 9% stopped 5 or more times

During Past Month

  1. 39% had been warned by police  
  2. 32% searched  
  3. 20% detained  
  4. 18% ticketed  
  5. 14% arrested

Views of Policing

23% agreed or agreed strongly to:

 uIt is rare for an innocent person to be wrongly sent to jailu  

35% agreed or agreed strongly to:

 uPeople criticize the police too much  

46% agreed or agreed strongly to:  

u            Everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead in Canada

53% agreed or agreed strongly to: u

u            The police treat males worse than females

 60% agreed or agreed strongly to:u

uThe police treat young people worse than older people  

92% of racial minorities & 39% of Whites agreed/agreed strongly to:

                       uPeople from my racial group are more likely to be unfairly stopped and questioned by the police than people from other racial groups

90% agreed or agreed strongly to:  

u            We need police in this country to keep law and order  

90% agreed or agreed strongly to:u

uThe police treat people from some racial groups worse than people from other racial groups  

90% agreed or agreed strongly to: u

u                       The police treat wealthy people better then poor people

90% agreed or agreed strongly to:  

u            We need police in this country to keep law and order  

90% agreed or agreed strongly to: u

u            The police treat people from some racial groups worse than people from other racial groups  

90% agreed or agreed strongly to: u

u                       The police treat wealthy people better then poor people

Victimization

Experience of Abuse During Past Year

  1. Due to prejudice against homeless, 56% were verbally abused and 31% were threatened
  2.   Due to racism, 42% were verbally abused and 33% were threatened  
  3. Due to homophobia, 20% were verbally abused and 8% were threatened

Theft

  1. 85% had something stolen during past year  
  2. for 60%, money was stolen  
  3. For 56%, ID was stolen  
  4. usually didn’t know who took ID, but 3 people said it was police

Sexual Assault

  1. 23% were sexually assaulted during past year  
  2. 9 females, 2 males, and 1 transgender were sexually assaulted  
  3. 6 of the 12 should have seen a doctor, but only 3 of them sought medical assistance

Assault (Non-Sexual)

  1. 54% were assaulted during past year, usually on the street  
  2. For 9 out of the 28, a weapon was used  
  3. perpetrator was equally likely to be a police officer, stranger, or acquaintance  
  4. 14 should have seen a doctor, but only 8 sought medical assistance

Some Recommendations

  1. The Government of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and community agencies work together to build supportive and transitional housing for homeless persons leaving the criminal justice system; such housing to include rent subsidies and 24 hour, on-site support.u 
  2. Government of Ontario to provide funding to community agencies to employ transitional or resettlement workers at all jails, detention centres, and courts. Workers to connect homeless persons with vital services, including housing; provide referrals; community accompaniment; information; transport assistance; and landlord & tenant mediation.
  3. Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto jointly share in funding ongoing education of shelter employees, front-line community workers, and housing providers on the special needs and experiences of persons who have been incarcerated.  
  4. Government of Canada to renew resources for programs, services, and initiatives that pertain to building affordable housing until the homeless crisis is relieved; and the City of Toronto to implement an effective advocacy campaign for these resources.

The Final Word

u Being homeless means having no say, no voice in society.  

u When you’re homeless, you don’t feel that you belong in the community.  

u It makes a homeless person feel very isolated, with no recognition of being an individual who has an opinion.

 

Rebecca’s Story

A tale of child abuse, addiction and lost hope that turned into a wonderful success story. Here are some excerpts. You can read her whole story at…

http://www.homeless.org.au/people/rebecca.htm

"Two things happened when I turned 12, my Father who used to beat the hell out of us left home and the other thing that happened is I started using drugs... One of my friends said 'Here try this it will make you feel better', and it did. When I turned 13, my Mum found a new partner who lived at home with us. He raped me regularly and abused my younger sisters as well. I was only 13. The cuts all up my arm are from slashing up. I slash myself to turn emotional pain into controllable physical pain. It's not usually to kill myself, just to help cope with the pain of the past. Just to know that someone cares is the main thing I guess. Most of the people on the street don't have anyone. We end up with no one when we come out here and you think that no one cares no one worries about you and no ones willing to listen to what goes on in your life… what problems you have. Then I meet Dominic and Gerry and the volunteers, they are willing to give up their time to come and see you and worry about you personally and take the time out to listen to what you have to say, it's great.”

Rebecca was the inspiration behind Rebecca’s Community.

"We named the organisation Rebecca’s Community after Rebecca because throughout the time she was on the streets she would put her own needs on hold to be there for others. Our volunteers need to be like Rebecca - by being generous with their time and being there for others. Young people like Rebecca need friendship, the kind of friendship that is offered genuinely by people who are not paid to care. It is one thing to offer people a handout and quite another to say I will be there for you as a friend. This friendship must be a commitment; they need to know that we will continue to be there for them and that our friendship will be a home base they can return to. This is how we rebuild the confidence they need to take positive steps forward."

Chrystal is my other street daughter. She's on the road again. Not sure where. When we travel we get wrapped up in the now and forget about connecting with the past.

A conversation with Mike

Mike contacted me after reading some of my articles about homelessness and addiction and told me his story. He has graciously agreed to allow me to post it here and I believe it is both inspirational and enlightening. Mike, you are a perfect example of why we need to work harder to bring others out of the darkness.

From Mike

Hello Sir,

Best wishes to you and good luck with your Art! Maybe fortune will be yours again.

I have had a good many people I have known have had ended up in the streets or in prison because of addiction. Even I now barely seem to always seem to be one step from homeless. The US treats their homeless the same as in Canada. It always has bothered me to see some folks overseas getting help when we have people right here with nothing and nowhere to go. The shelters here are the same as you described. If you don't sleep on your stuff someone will steal it. I struggled nearly 25 years with alcoholism that destroyed everything in my life and preferring death over the thought of having to sober up. I looked gray and dead as I felt inside the only thing I felt was the buzz of alcohol. I feared being sober I didn't think I was strong enough to hack life without alcohol but....

I started my life again at 40 with only the clothes on my back. As I was reading how you was talking about while trying to quit drugs you have to alienate yourself from your past life and everyone you knew.... My journey took me from Oklahoma into British Columbia and aimlessly wandering for a bit until as the effects wore off it was like waking from a long sleep.

Even now it seems I slept thru years of my life....Kinda like a time machine thing I guess.

Really strange...I guess the reason I'm writing to you is to say I can relate. Some days the cravings can be almost unbearable and Ive not really gotten drunk in almost 9 years. Now I'm disabled and going blind. People ignore the homeless and look down their noses at them not realizing how easily life could leave them in the same boat. The world revolves around the rich,the rest of us are in their way. My sister is quite wealthy yet won't help because of the past I don't think she would allow me to pitch a tent on their farm. Funny how folks turn away as you fall and not even look back. Friends, Family even past bosses ...You see pity in folks eyes.

At any rate life is good now. I rent a decent home and have food to eat. My kids live with me. I have a wonderful wife! Life is strange....

Best wishes to you Sir!

                                    Mike

 More from Mike

 Hello again,

 If you feel my story might help someone...Please do use it! Your story is an inspiration to me also!

I live in a small country town now....Its cheaper! But when I go into the city I so want to help folks with nothing. So many people hurting! My wife also was homeless for awhile while evading an abusive relationships but was taken in by some kind people. Life can be hard and un-forgiving but there is always hope! It's a hard road back but it's not hopeless!

It's really great to hear from you!

I hope maybe if your not too busy maybe we could talk again!

I'm still trying to get my life in order. I'm financially ruined at least for now, earning trust back from my family has been slow but it is coming around. I'm not pushing religion thats a to each his own kinda thing but it has helped me alot. I attended AA for months and had luck with that at first but my sobriety was pretty fragile at that point. Meetings began to become negative and I was told I would never quit drinking and would only resume drinking harder each time I tried to quit. I caved to it and did just that. The biggest thing that helped was the thought of my kids hateing me and meeting my currrent wife. I knew I had to tow the line or I would slip back. My life was coming around with her and I couldn't bear the tought of losing that! So here I am....I had tried to get the nerve to kill myself for years before her sitting on my bed every night staring at the gun. At my last attempt, though only in my mind, I heard my son cry "Daddy No" that pretty much ended that, tough enough or not I had to carry on.

My childhood was pretty abusive, as if that is any excuse for my alcohol...I was given beer at six months old and was allowed to drink whenever I wanted. So alcohol was my only friend all my life it made it easy to abuse it. I started getting drunk as a toddler. As a teen and into my twenties I was introduced to drugs,but I was happy with my alcohol so I only smoked weed with my friends. Later, a friend wanting to get  him some more weed for the party that night...long story short the joint was passed around and I didn't want to start mixing stuff that early, I refused to hit it..I knew better..but I refused and instantly found myself looking down the barrel of a gun with the dealer freakin thinkin I was a cop, I hardly helped the situation being suicidal already telling him don't miss because you won't get a second chance. I didn't care then but now it scares the heck out of me!...Lol! I continued to become more violent and frequently picked fights with the biggest guy I could find.I'm 5'6" 135 lbs kinda light! They were never up for the challenge.

Now my life is good and as I look back...often...my life then was so surreal. I have set  some goals. I want to get a small acreage and a horse, Grow a garden veggies and flowers and get old there with my wife. It's a ways away but I won't let go! All good things happen in time. Being retired gives me alot of time to think, Sometimes not always the best thing. Like you said about the need to stay busy...Lol I try not to let my thoughts become too negative tho.We rent a 4 bedroom brick home...the nicest thing we have lived in yet! Social Security pays higher benefits to blind folks. Life is good! Amy and I have 4 kids living with us, We have 3 dogs and 8 cats a ferret, and a hamster we are thankful for what we have and I think our past is a caution note to becarful not to repeat our pasts. I feel rich but I'm broke...Lol!

                                                                 Mike

P.S. If it would help,if someone wants to talk they could contact me here.

I don't mind you passing my email along...but thats your call!

Ronzig’s reply

First, please clarify, is your name Mike or Dennis? Also, no need to call me sir. We're all in this boat together. Ron or Ronzig will be much better. Thanks for letting me publish your story. It makes what I went through seem pretty tame. You have my respect and I'd really like to talk with you often. I envy you rural lifestyle and your family. I live alone in a bachelor apartment in a seniors building that is quite nice. You'll be interested in knowing that I grow my own vegetables in a garden I created on my balcony, but there are no pets. I never know when I'll be away for a day or two and I don't like imposing on others to take care of them when I'm not home. It would be nice to have a dog though. Maybe some day.

I also have a strong belief in God, but I shun organized religion.

Like you I went to a few AA meetings at first, but to be honest, they seemed like a cult to me. After I quit going, I ran into someone I met at a meeting and he told me I wouldn't last a year without AA. I thought, "How arrogant."

Having once been a millionaire and a very unhappy person I have come to recognize that as long as there is enough money to be able to eat well, pay the rent and have a little left over to see a movie once in a while, life is much better than it was when I was a slave to the money game.

Wake Up I'm Hungry! How can you sleep so late in your nice comfy bed ?
 

What It Is

This is a true story for many young girls.

The heat of estrogen startles them. At 12 the daughter burns. The mother, periomenopausal has had her fill. Daily affirmations spoken into the mirror, Come back as shrieked and sobbed accusations. The fecundity is too much for the father, He resorts to fists and drinking. Their hopes to tame the girl with long tangled hair founder. She lopes off to the hills to be with her pack. Living in woods, at the edges of fields, sleeping Under signs on highways, In boxcars they bring each other up. Old man, who works at the bottling plant, Thinks the way she rounds the corner at 13 is beautiful. He lets her and a friend sleep together In a single bed in his walk-up flat. He feeds them white bread, cheese whiz, and coke. In stores, pale orange tomatoes sold in cellophane packages Find their way into coats in the middle of winter. The shopkeepers extend Kindness toward hungry girls with no homes. The guy who owns the pool hall lets her vacuum tables after hours. And she picks up tricks to keep safe. A few brothers accumulate around her. Love and hate tattooed on knuckles, so cool. Makes a family to live in the woods. The church choir is distant. The dream of a father and mother is quit. This is what it is.

By:

Nancy Viva Davis Halifax

Nancy Viva Davis Halifax, the author of "What It Is"

Professor Nancy Viva Davis Halifax was the leader of a project entitled "Asleep in Toronto," funded and hosted by Street Health, an organization dedicated to dealing with the health issues of homeless people.

Her blog, documenting the group's exploits is here:

http://anagraphia.blogspot.com/

Professor Halifax directed the group, assisted by Fred Urichuk, an amateur photographer, educator and multimedia artist of strong ability. They did a similar project the previous year funded by the Toronto Arts Council.

There were about a dozen homeless and previously homeless people, including myself participating in the project. Because homelessness erodes reliability, all of the participants are seldom present at any given time, but there were 5 or 6 of us present during Nuit Blanche where we did a presentation of our work.

The scope of the project was to build a collection of photographic images of living conditions of homeless and recently homeless people with a focus on their sleeping situations and to document the stories of some of these people.

This is Bill O, a good friend. He's the author of "Me" "First Day of Summer" and "Depression". I added the images for him.
How Much More Can We Take?

IT'S TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE before it's too late.

DEMAND THAT HOSTEL SERVICES OPEN MORE SHELTERS NOW! By the first week of April, most Out of the Cold (OOTC) Programs will have closed their doors. This will mean a loss of 130 beds on average per night. The City has already shut down over 300 shelter beds. The system is full, and is about to get even worse. Every spring the Out of the Colds get shut down and hundreds more people are forced onto the street. Add to that the extra 300 beds the city has shut down plus the cuts to services and an agressive influx of cops into poor neighbourhoods. All this adds up to a vicious attack on homeless people that will not stop or even slow down--unless we stand up for ourselves and each other and make the city back off. PROTEST THE LACK OF FOOD AND SHELTER! Sunday April 6, 2008 - OCAP Overnight "Out of the Cold" 4pm – 7:30am -Central Neighborhood House (349 Ontario St.) Monday April 7, 2008 – Breakfast and Press Conference 9am – Breakfast - Friendship Centre (323 Dundas St. E) 9:30am - Press conference – please attend. For more information contact OCAP 416-925-6939, ocap@tao.ca

A Free Lunch. Protesters at City Hall have a meal supplied by OCAP
Cold And Lonely. Mat is at home drinking coffee to keep warm on the corner of Bay and Queen.
Evicting Chris. The authorities destroy our shelters in an effort to drive us out, but where can we go?
Invisible Man. Asleep on a bench he is everywhere but nobody sees him.
On The Move. Exploring and learning the answers to What is Canada and Who are Canadians?
Never Give Up! Living in rags but determined to keep on keeping on.
Mourning Our Lost Friends. At a monthly vigil to remember the ever increasing number of homeless people who die each month unnecessarily because of policy at City Hall and Queens Park.

Index of Ronzig's web pages

Website:

Down But Not Out

As well as Ronzig's Gallery, Ronzig built and maintains Down But Not Out, a website dedicated to social activism and providing information about many of the current issues that threaten to destroy our planet and the social structures we have developed. This link will take you to the Home page of Down But Not Out which was recently ranked as the 12th best website about homelessness on the internet and the following information will explain each of the pages on the website. You will have the opportunity to comment on what you learn here and read the many comments of other visitors to the site.

Learn more about Ronzig and why he created Down But Not Out and why it began as a website discussing the issues of poverty, homelessness and addiction and how it evolved into much more, encompassing issues a wide ranging as politics, war imperialism, conspiracy, economics, health, the environment and more.

Having been a crack addict for nearly 2 decades, during the 2nd of which I was homeless, I have acquired an in depth understanding of addiction, how & why it begins, what it does to a person, what is involved with getting free of this curse and the social implications of this ever increasing plague on civilization. I disclose some little known and often ignored information and insights that will assist you in coming to a better understanding of what addiction is all about.

I have created a page where visitors to Down But Not Out can contribute by telling their story about how the issues discussed on the site has affected them or someone they care about. I encourage you to read what others have to say and please tell us your story. You can remain anonymous if you prefer.

There is an extensive examination of the economy on Down But Not Out with discussions about the recession, economic collapse, the increasing disparity between the rich, the poor and the middle class. I delve into the phenomena of the shrinking middle class and the emergence of a 2 class society where an economic elite rule and the rest of us are rapidly being relegated to economic slavery.

Whether you call it Global Warning, Climate Disruption or choose to adopt one of the euphemisms that opponents to addressing this impending disaster use to seek to reduce the significance of the crisis to protect their ill gotten financial profits, it is a scientific fact that our global environment is on the brink of collapse. If meaningful and immediate action is not taken the human race along with almost all other forms of life on the Planet Earth will soon face extinction.

Whenever I have time I try to post notices of significant events that you may wish to attend including rally's, protests, political meetings, or other relevant items here. I also use this page to post notices of upcoming art shows where my work will be on display.

The social, economic and political issues revolving around health and healthcare are currently creating an environment where universal healthcare in Canada is under attack. It is evident that the elite no longer wish to ensure adequate health services for an aging population. They see no need to preserve individual health when there is no shortage of replacement economic slaves to step in when one of us succumbs to preventable illness and dies.

There is a worldwide epidemic of homelessness that has emerged in the past couple of decades to plague society and the wealthiest nations, ones with more than sufficient resources to provide housing for their populations are the worst at addressing the situation. Having lived long enough to realize that even when our society was steeped in relative poverty compared to today's situation, homelessness was never a significant problem until recently as the elite grab more and more of the world's wealth and resources, leaving the rest of us to struggle just to keep a roof over our heads.

With the advent of the internet, hope for a just society has been restored, yet there are sinister powers threatening to crush that hope. Just when internet should be reaching the point of universal global access, these powers are forcing an increasing internet divide, where surprisingly millions who once could afford access are being economically deprived of this crucial commodity, for a commodity is what it has become and it is for sale at price not reflective of costs, but of what the market will bear. Perhaps we should be considering defining internet as a Necessary Service that is available to everyone at affordable rates of free of charge.

With the corporatization of mainstream media, it's difficult to find any honest reporting in this media, as they tend to stick like flies on flypaper to the elitist party line. However even the most cynical of these outlets of information are forced to include a modicum of honesty in their reports when faced with the vast amount of conflicting evidence distributed freely on the internet. It is beneficial also to be up to date on what they are saying in order to point out the inadequacies and outright lies that they distribute.

Over the years, Ronzig has been in the news on several occasions, both as the subject of articles and as interviewee. Of course I've commented on many news items as well. you'll find some of these pieces on my news page.

There is a disturbing trend in politics that is increasingly threatening the very fabric of Democracy, or the sorry excuse for such that we have  adopted. I'm speaking of the merging of the Capitalist manifesto into the political agenda to the effect that today's politicians see their job almost exclusively as serving the requirements of capitalism and corporate profits rather than the needs of the citizens who are the true backbone of any nation.

Ever wonder how it is possible that in the richest civilization that has ever existed on the planet, extreme poverty is reaching epidemic proportions?  The answer is obvious. Every single year for the past 3 decades the wealthiest 5% of the world's population have taken control and ownership of a greater proportion of the world's resources leaving less for each of the remaining 95% of the people who have to live on this planet. In every industrialized nation the middle class is under attack and is shrinking annually as people are forced down the economic scale into the burgeoning poverty class. The truly terrifying aspect of this is the fact that the members of the middle class which is the primary target of this attack believe that when the middle class is eliminated they will be part of the elite upper class of rulers rather than economic slaves of these rulers. Because of this the middle class votes consistently for politicians who serve this elite ruling class and don't even realize they are voting for their own destruction.

In a society which professes to be primarily Christian is it not a paradox that we have created such an un-Christian attitude toward our neighbours? By assuming the philosophy of "Looking our for number ONE", we find it easy not only to allow our brothers and sisters to suffer and actually perish because they can not afford to pay for the basic requirements of survival, nourishment and shelter, but many of us are arrogant enough to hate them for their predicament. How are we to overcome this tide of apathy and animosity which in the end will destroy us if we fail?

If you group is interested in Ronzig's experiences and philosophies, I do speaking engagements and will talk on any of the topics covered here. I have had great success with audiences while speaking about homelessness & addiction, Democracy & politics as well as photography & art and would be pleased to accept a request to speak to you group.

Primarily because of American Imperialism the world has been in a constant state of war for the majority of the past 6 decades. Isn't it amazing how we can call making war on another nation a Police Action or Peacekeeping Action to camouflage the fact that we are invading a nation to seize control of its resources or to use it as a staging zone for our aggressive moves on its neighbours, yet we call defensive retaliation Terrorism? We call the slaughter of innocent civilians Collateral Damage to hide the fact that more than 80% of the people we kill in our wars are civilians primarily women and children. I find it disturbing that Prime Minister Harper has eagerly jumped into bed with the Americans and is arming Canada to fight along side our neighbours to the South as we seek to seize control of far off nations. We stand idly by and allow Israel, the puppet state of the Americans which exists solely because of American arms and financing to commit wide scale genocide in its attempt to eradicate the legitimate population of the region from the planet.

Website:

Go to Ronzig's Gallery digital photoArt, photography,  video, photographic & video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto, Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images and art on ceramic tiles top home page.

Learn about Ronzig and Ronzig's Gallery: What is digital photoArt? Ronzig's guerrilla photography and video. Art on Ceramic Tiles. Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images, Mini Video Tours of Toronto. And photographic and video recording services.

View some of Ronzig's best work in a slideshow or individual images from Ronzig at Ronzig's Gallery of digital photoArt and photography.

You can contact  Ronzig's Gallery by email, telephone or by snail mail to his address to inquire about Ronzig's digital photoArt, photography, Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images. video, photography & video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto and art on ceramic tiles or to purchase his products or services. You will also find numerous links to other websites where Ronzig has a presence.

Read the Legend of Ronzig the Wizard and his battle with his evil twin brother Ronzak the Sorcerer in the story of the ongoing struggle between good and evil that has been going on since the creation of the universe.

This is where you can order  Ronzig's products and services from Ronzig's Gallery such as digital photoArt,  photography & video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto, art on ceramic tiles & Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images.

Ronzig creates spectacular panorama works either as photographic images or as Digital photoArt that are available in standard sizes up to 44" x 13" on either canvas or archival quality photo paper (larger sizes available by special order).  Ronzig's Gallery will also embed a panorama image into the glaze of a series of ceramic tiles to create a unique wall or floor covering surface to your specs.

Ronzig's Digital photoArt & photographic images from Ronzig's Gallery cover a broad array of subject matter and themes resulting in highest quality art works to suit any preference. These images are all available on ceramic tiles & Collector Series Postcards as well a more traditional canvas and archival photo paper in a wide range of sizes to suit your requirements.

All of Ronzig's best work is available on Collector Series Postcards on archival photo paper, suitable not only for mailing a unique greeting to friends and loved ones, but also for framing as a group to hang on your wall.

Ronzig has done work for a wide range of clients from law firms to developers, health services facilities and the City of Toronto, all of which would certainly provide excellent references to Ronzig's Gallery.

Most of Ronzig's best work, be it video, photography or Digital photoArt is available as stock video clips or stock photo & art images at extremely reasonable prices for royalty free applications that you are producing.

Most of Ronzig's best work can be embedded into the glaze of ceramic tiles, resulting in virtually indestructible art works suitable for architectural uses such as surfaces for walls, floors, counter tops, back-splashes, fireplace surrounds or mantlepieces. As home furnishing uses they provide unique surfaces for tables or any other flat surfaced furniture. There is a series of 4" x 4" tiles with a protective backing designed for use as coasters that are bound to intrigue your guests as you entertain. Of course they make timeless stand alone art suitable for framing or placing on a stand for display.

Ronzig produces a wide range of videos, including Documentary works, event recording such as children's birthdays, activism and social protest works, art films, Mini Video Tours and special effects clips. Ronzig's Gallery is fully equipped and has access to support professionals to create original works with multi-camera filming, still photography and custom music for any production. He is presently working on a special fx movie, The Legend of Ronzig the Wizard, for which he the writer, art and costume designer, producer director and star

 

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