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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.

best is a random selection of my best photography & art that can be viewed as a slide show

contact Ronzig by email or visit Ronzig's other web pages or explore related websites.

contribute Do you have a story about poverty, homelessness or addiction that you would like to share? This is the place to get it off your chest.

economics The financial cost of ignoring moral integrity is reflected in the precarious state of the world economic system.

environment Global environmental issues, Climate Disruption, Right to Water, extraction methods used by the Mining and Oil  Industries.

events Rallies, protests, symposiums public forums and training sessions that you may wish to attend.

health  homelessness is synonymous with disease and premature death. Denial of the right to housing is a death sentence.

homelessness a view from our perspective

internet   The internet is our best hope to take back control from the power brokers.

media coverage by mainstream and independent media sources of current events & issues that are of concern as we enter the 2nd decade of the new millennium.

new content recently added to this site.

news Ronzig in the news

photoArt is a selection of my art organized by subject

politics How the government is addressing the issues we must deal with to move towards a more just and sustainable society.

portfolio Ronzig's portfolio site where you will find a large selection of photography and art created by Ronzig.

poverty is the main cause of most of the problems that our society struggles with, including homelessness.

society   how we think, feel & act as a society will determine how history judges us.

speaking Ronzig will speak to your group about social issues, art or photography

videos by Ronzig about homelessness & other important issues that are contributing to the malaise we live with every day.

war  Canada's role in promoting Imperialism

home back to home page.

Digital photoArt by Ronzig depicting Homeless people plus examples of speeches I have given.

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.
I do public speaking engagements on the following topics.
Each speech is accompanied by a video relating to the topic
1) Art: The importance of art in our society
2) Poverty: Why it is so predominant and what can be done?
3) Homelessness: Why is it happening and who is to blame?
4) Addiction: What are the causes and how can it be prevented?
If your group would like me to speak to them please contact me at ronzig@rogers.com

Speaking reference from Eden Community Homes

I am delighted to give Mr. Ron Craven a reference for speaking at public events. Mr. Craven came to our Annual General Meeting for Eden Community Homes and gave a very heartfelt well received speech.

This was a special Annual General Meeting as we were also celebrating the opening of our Art Studio for adults who have mental health problems.

Mr. Craven shared his own personal experience and talked about the importance of art in helping people overcome adverse experiences. Mr. Craven is a talented photographer and has many shows in Toronto documenting the plight of homeless people and also cityscapes.

Mr. Craven is very well organized and did everything in a timely fashion including sending me a copy of his speech.

We had a wide variety of people at our meeting and Mr. Craven was able to connect with the audience in a meaningful way. Mr. Craven speaks from the heart and is a strong advocate of people who are homeless in Toronto. He also is able to convey a strong sense of hope to his audience.

If you have any questions further to this letter please contact me at 416-977-3655.

Sincerely,

Margaret Lynch

Executive Director

Eden Community Homes

People from many cultures call Toronto their home

Reference from Toronto Alliance Church

Please be informed that I am personally acquainted with Mr. Ron Craven. I have seen his art work and found it most impressive. I have also requested him to speak to our volunteer ministry team, and he has done this with good result. Ron speaks clearly and directly. He speaks specifically to the point of homelessness, poverty, and addiction. His own personal experiences validate what he has to say. He speaks with authority, keen insight, passion and strategic information. He is lively, expressive and passionate in his delivery. I highly recommend him for speaking engagements.

Doug Wiebe

Pastor of International Ministries

Toronto Alliance Church

602 Queen Street West, 2nd. Floor

Toronto, ON , M6J 1E3

416.703.8211 Office

416.703.2508 Fax

You can take my picture, but don't show my face

I gave this speed to a group of addiction workers on Feb 13/09

The unaddressed cause of addiction

There are many reasons for homelessness and addiction, but the primary cause has not been addressed because it would shake the very foundations of our social system.

I never met anyone who woke up one morning and said to himself, “What’ll I do today?”

“I know, I’ll become an addict.”

There are many reasons why people become addicts, such as falling into addiction from using drugs as a social stimulant, but the underlying cause of addiction is far more pervasive and is rarely perceived on a conscious level; a deeply rooted disaffection with our modern society.

I was once a millionaire and deemed by my peers to be very successful in my life, but I was a very unhappy human being and I didn’t know why. I had everything our society tells us we should desire, a nice home, a fancy car, fine clothes, travel, you name it, but I was an economic slave, serving the master of monetary gain.

I became a crack addict and lost everything, but I found happiness. I was homeless for 10 years and I was happier than I had been for most of my life.  The only major cause for concern in those days was my dependence on drugs. I had broken free of one master only to serve another. How is happiness possible under such difficult circumstances? Over the past decade, I’ve asked myself that question many times and only recently have I been able to find an answer.

When I was rich, I had lots of friends, but once the money was gone, so were they. I never see any of them now. When I was a homeless addict I made new friends and I began to realize that they were my friends in spite of the fact that I had nothing to offer them but friendship. After freeing myself of my second master by quitting drugs and finding housing, many of my best friends remain homeless addicts, but they remain friends.

There are two communities in our culture today. The predominant one is divided into classes where the upper class rules and the lower classes serve as economic slaves who are given only enough to keep them in line, serving the powerful. The second community is the disaffected community that opens its arms to those of us who have rejected the first and is made up of a high proportion of addicts and homeless people. It is expanding at an exponential rate and it is not exclusive of others. You will find many who remain linked to the dominant community and work within it that are more attuned to the second. Although I am no longer an addict nor am I homeless, I fit into the second category. There are countless others like me who have come to the realization that the system is ailing and will collapse if it doesn’t evolve.

Contemplating this, I came to the conclusion that true human values have no relationship to the money, career and possessions that we are taught to pursue as a gateway to happiness. I look around and what do I see? This society we have created is immoral and can only lead to decay of the human spirit. We have learned to put aside our natural instinct to work together so that all members benefit from each individual’s good fortune and all members strive to overcome the hardship of the individual. We have attempted to alter the very human nature that has provided mankind with the evolutionary edge we needed to survive since the dawn of time, the unity of the tribe. Even cave men understood the value of every individual member of his society and strove to share the benefits and burdens equitably. The me generation chases a dream of wealth and power, rooted in greed to the exclusion of the values that can lead to happiness until many of the more sensitive people lose heart and withdraw.

I say more sensitive because I have come to the realization that most homeless or addicted people have an ingrained need to portray their feelings through the arts, be they visual, written or musical. A generation of our best artists have been lost due to their inability to cope with this crude social structure. I am a case in point. I spent 20 years as a crack addict, 10 of them homeless instead of pursuing my artistic inclinations. During the lunch break I will run a slide show of some of my art.

I know homeless addicts from all levels of society, from 3rd generation welfare families who never had much hope of anything better to new immigrants who could not assimilate, to once successful businessmen such as me who left it all behind. You may be surprised to learn that although the percentage of addiction among the homeless is significantly higher than those who are housed; it is a carefully kept secret that many of these homeless addicts had never done drugs until they were forced into homelessness due to economic or health circumstances. Once a person becomes homeless, the only comfort available comes from escaping the pain with drugs.

Many addicts either didn’t know how or were unwilling on a subconscious level to commit their energy to the pursuit of a goal that consciously they believed they wanted. Either way, the fact remains that as the number of people who reject our social values and immerse themselves in drugs continues to escalate the authorities are not capable of recognizing the cause and therefore can not begin to understand how to correct the situation. Their frustration becomes hostility and the split in the fabric of society is widened resulting in brutal confrontations where police and citizens beat and murder people whose primary sin is a rejection of the prevailing value system.

They have been sold the lie by the politicians that hostility is an answer. Why by the politicians? It is in the nature of those who seek election to glorify in their power, yet they are powerless in the face of homelessness and addiction and the resultant hostility this creates is translated into increasing numbers of useless laws designed to force homeless people to submit to the political will. Such laws are scorned by the homeless community for their naivety. Instead of offering incentives to help draw us back into the fold, these laws seek to punish us, imposing meaningless penalties. A homeless addict is by definition broke. He has no money. A court ordered fine is a great source of humor. Here is a powerful person sitting high above me at a bench telling me that I am required to pay a fine for asking people for financial help. He’s supposed to be of above average intelligence to sit in judgment of his fellow man, yet here he is acting like a fool who actually expects the fine to be paid. I audibly laugh at him as I leave, wondering how wise he can be if he can’t see the obvious. I’ll never pay that price for my freedom; it’s in a coin I don’t recognize. The next time I come before him he imposes a jail term. Again I laugh. It’s 20 below zero and I’m cold, hungry, tired and in need of a rest from the drugs. Most of my friends are already in jail for the crime of being poor. A holiday visit with my friends is perfect. And so, another confrontation by the power structure has failed to force me to yield.

As reports of my laughter reach the idiots who wrote these severe laws to force me into the desired mould, the anger and hostility reaches a peak and word is quietly passed to the police that there will be no reprisals for harassment and brutality against the homeless or the addicts. A police officer threatens to kill me by throwing me in front of an oncoming streetcar. I say, ”Go ahead mother fucker, I’ll take you with me,” and I grab him and start pulling him onto the tracks. Now we have reached a point where illegal tactics are encouraged by law makers to force us to submit. But we will not submit. We may fight back though. As citizen and police brutality escalates, I am seeing an increasing degree of anger within the homeless community. Beware the consequences of aggression. It spawns aggression in return.

I strongly advise the citizens and politicians to abandon the tactics of confrontation and turn to a more conciliatory approach. Instead of writing laws that effectively make poverty or addiction a crime so you can include them in your “War on Crime,” you would be wise to offer some incentive to encourage people to return to society, i.e. a decent home, a living income, a first-rate education and a sense of community. With these incentives in place, many who are presently lost to your society would once again become contributors.

But you say,” My hands are tied. What can I do?” In the short term there is only one answer.

For people in the field of social work, the answer involves risk, but the only social workers I ever met who were worth the time of day didn’t hesitate to take that risk and continue to do so to this day. Homeless people and addicts aren’t fools. They realize that the system is designed to appear to be helping while doing absolutely nothing. If you want the respect of these, your clients, you must be willing to seek out the loopholes that will allow you to make an end run and actually get something accomplished. There are ways. I know because I have seen it done. When a client says something that will harm his cause, you suggest that what he means is this and you go on to show him how to get what he needs. In other words help to the extent that you can.  When you are told you can not give a warm coat or a sleeping bag to a homeless person because you are enabling him to remain homeless, Just do it quietly because you know that without your help he is at risk of death from exposure.

For people in health services the answer is similar. Without ignoring the physical evidence, you must interpret it to the best advantage of your patient. No one expects you to lie, but by putting the best case forward you will achieve much. Helping someone to get O.D.S.P. or to get a special diet allowance will go along way towards enabling him to maintain himself without the necessity of resorting to real crime.

For those of you in political science, yours is the greatest challenge, for you are the people who will have access to the practice of lawmaking and it is you who by insinuating your thoughts into the process can be an influence for improvement. We don’t need government to build assisted housing. That only creates a dichotomy at the bottom of the economic scale. There are the poor who live in assisted housing, that great kingdom of the power barons that will never and can never accommodate the need. These people are the well off poor. Then there are those who do not have assisted housing who must choose between eating and shelter and ultimately lose both to homelessness and addiction. These are the truly poverty stricken. What is required to level the playing field is a guaranteed minimum income for every citizen regardless of his circumstances that is high enough to allow him to live with security and dignity, above the poverty line, but low enough not to remove his incentive to improve his lot in life.

Everyone in this room and in society as a whole has an obligation to speak out in support of the changes that are necessary to accomplish a more equitable society where people will no longer feel disaffected and seek escape through drugs. You must be vocal and persistent in demanding a more realistic distribution of resources so that no person will be forced into homelessness because of lack of funds to pay the rent, so that no person will ever again need to rely on the demeaning use of food banks to feed his family, or clothing banks to clothe them.

Until this is accomplished stop gap measures will continue to help a few while the majority in need go on ignored as usual. Stop gap measures are the politicians trick to fool the public into believing that all that can be done is being done. It is dishonest and it is inadequate.

If you see homelessness and addiction as problems instead of merely symptoms of a far greater problem, you will waste your efforts applying band aid solutions instead of seeking a cure. Instead, guide your clients towards empowerment. Show them the tools, the internet, networking, political activism, education, conferences, petitions and the media and how to use them. If they feel empowered, they will do the rest.

Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

 

The Waverley hotel is a well known haunt of addicts and prostitutes

I Gave This Speech at the 2007 Annual General Meeting For Eden Community Homes

Hi folks. I was an alcoholic and crack addict for 20 years and homeless for 10 years. I now live in a nice apartment and have been clean and sober since March 2, 2005.

I am now a digital photoArtist and was recently honoured to be invited to put on the first art show at the Van Duzer Art Studio. It was a great success and the studio is an excellent venue. 

I met one of the residents recently and took an interest in her and her boyfriend. I arranged to meet them here to take some photographs and interview them as part of a recent homeless photography project I was involved in. When I showed my portfolio to the staff, they invited me to do a show and that’s how I came to be speaking to you tonight.  

What I’d like to talk about is the healing power of art and the vast wealth of talent which is lost due to marginalization in our society. 

Since I became homeless over 12 years ago, I have been astonished at the multi disciplined talent possessed by people with no access to any other means of expressing themselves. I have met and been fortunate enough to experience the work of many people who draw or paint; write poetry, short stories or music; sing or play whatever makeshift instrument they may create. Let me tell you that given the right opportunity, many of them would draw a world wide audience, but due to economics, afflictions or addictions, they remain undiscovered.

Why do they create when they have no audience? To externalize their suffering and to find a moment of joy in a cruel life. Most are not aware that they possess a unique talent and they are surprised when someone tells them that they are good.  

That’s how I got started. 

When I quit using drugs and alcohol, I started taking a whole series of courses to keep myself occupied so that I wouldn’t be tempted to relapse. Among other subjects I studied Adobe Photoshop and digital photography. I really enjoyed taking pictures and seeing what I could do with them on my computer and my new hobby was instrumental in my being able to remain clean and sober. When my friends saw my work they told me I was good, but at first I thought they were just being kind. Eventually I started to believe them and began showing my art publicly. I now have 2 major corporate clients for my photography and have sold numerous pieces of my digital photoArt. 

I am currently attending an introductory art workshop and we start each of our meetings with a single word to express our feelings at the moment. We close each session, with a word to describe our feelings at that point. In every case at the end of each session the words are exceptionally positive whereas the opening words are more than 50% negative. The experience of spending a couple of hours working at art has without exception improved the state of mind of every participant every time. 

I dedicate a lot of my time to encouraging others and trying to educate the public about homelessness. At present I am working at helping the extremely talented Ana Crisan launch her photography career. Ana is the young woman who I invited to join my show at your wonderful studio and I’m proud to say, she stole the show. I met Ana over 10 years ago when she was 15 and we were neighbors living under the same bridge and I adopted her as my street daughter. Her photography and her 7 year old daughter are the only things that keep her from suicide at present. I’m hoping that her photography will lead her away from drugs and off the streets, but it’s a long term project and I expect to spend many years on it. Quick fixes just don’t work, but art can be a great healer. 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

If you would like to see some of my work, take one of my cards. My portfolio blog will lead you to my Flickr photo gallery where you can see over 12000 of my pieces. 

Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to read a poem that a homeless friend gave to me yesterday. This poem expresses the feelings of most addicts.

 

“Me?”

Here I sit under a truck

First night out, very down on my luck.

All the bottom feeders no where in sight.

Just me and two raccoons I feed at night.

I lost my place, but only one to blame is me.

My bad habit got out of control, which was meant to be.

Now at 50, I have to start anew.

Way out there I haven’t got a clue.

It’s even brought me to court after 18 years.

I’m getting too old for this, time to change the gears.

Sad and lonely and don’t want to die alone.

At least not outside, but in a place called home.

Not being a hermit, boned and weary,

Not hearing all noises, it’s a little bit eerie.

Everyone’s bottom is not the same.

Mine is gone, sorrow and pain.

Stepping in quicksand, up to my neck.

My boat is now a shipwreck.

Now that I’m here, there’s no looking back.

I have to go to Detox to get back on track.

But this is only talk until I do it.

Only I can and no one else can make me go through it.

Why can I help others and not myself?

The first step is the hardest to do, but best for my health.

It’s hard to be down so deep in the gutter.

Time to wake up and open the shutters.

New friends, new life is what I have to choose,

Starting to win and not always lose.

Now it’s time to look out after #1.

Call out an old friend to help get it done.

So to all you who think about it, give your head a smack.

If you don’t want to look or feel like me,

Don’t start smoking CRACK.

- Bill O

 

Another poem by Bill
Bill O, the author of "Me" and "Depression"

I gave this speech at the Toronto Alliance Church

If you would like me to speak to your group, please contact me at ronzig@rogers .com

I will speak on specific areas of interest to your group relating to homelessness and/or addictions

I’d like to talk about God miracles and religion first.

Since I was very young, I desperately and unsuccessfully sought God. As a child I attended Sunday school religiously. As a young adult I attended numerous churches and investigated many cults. I prayed incessantly. But all my efforts came to no avail. At no time did I get the feeling that God was within me. I got mad at God and denied him, vowing atheism or agnosticism.

Eventually I just stopped thinking about it all together. I just gave up.

Once I had become homeless, I slowly became aware of a strange phenomenon which I thought was just good luck. Anything and everything I needed was there for me instantly.

For example, once, on the first cold day of the season I began thinking that I would need a warm coat. Less than 5 minutes later I found a new down filled coat just laying there waiting for me. On another occasion, the sole of my shoe fell off and I was thinking that I needed to get new shoes. Less than a block further, I found a brand new pair of shoes MY SIZE lying on the sidewalk. I was at a movie showing at the Scott Mission when one of the other homeless people there asked me if I knew where he could get a sleeping bag. I told him to try Street Help and went outside for a smoke. While I was out there a stranger came along and gave me a new sleeping bag. Imagine the surprise of my new friend when I handed him his new sleeping bag. These are only 3 of dozens of similar miracles that I have experienced over those homeless years. I didn’t recognize them as miracles at the time.

I honestly didn’t give it any thought until one day I was walking along and God touched me. It was like He was saying, “wake up man, do you really think that all that good luck was just an accident?” At that moment I realized that God had been taking care of me all along and my life has never been the same since.

It’s strange that our society as a whole, even people who profess to be religious, don’t believe in miracles. They just don’t happen any more. As I see it the reason they don’t see the multitude of miracles that happen to each of us daily is they are looking for the biggie. You know, something like a giant billboard sprouting up out of the pavement right in front of them saying SEE, I DO EXIST. That kind of miracle truly doesn’t happen for one simple reason, “God will not be tested.”

Once God came into my life I have to admit that I do not have faith. Faith is something that makes you believe in something that otherwise you are not sure of. I am sure. Faith is unnecessary now.

It is common among homeless people to hate God for putting them there, but many others like me have come to know God as a result of being out there. They realize that they could never survive that life without Him.

And what is that life like?

First and foremost it’s rejection desolation and despair. When a society as a matter of policy rejects a human being and leaves him homeless and hopeless it is easy to become bitter and enraged. Eventually self esteem becomes eroded to the point where they believe in their worthlessness.

Homelessness is a death sentence. Every week a homeless person dies in Toronto. From exposure. From drug overdose. From violence. From disease. And from just giving up. Every month there is a vigil at the Trinity Church behind the Eaton Centre to remember our lost friends. The names of the known victims are posted for public viewing outside the church.

Have you ever wondered why drugs are so prevalent in our society. I am convinced that it stems from an ever widening dissatisfaction with the moral values that have become prevalent. Greed is good. If it makes money it is good. Now both of these statements are true if they are tempered with JUSTICE. The only valid reason for government is to ensure justice for all. Unfortunately, our politicians have sold out to the forces of greed. Justice has become a moot point. The war on poverty is more like the war on the poor. When our politicians are no longer concerned with ensuring justice to those who do not have the power to ensure it for themselves the only alternatives are escapism or revolution.

Many people say that homeless people arrived in their situation because they are addicts and that is true for many of us. But that does not address the fact that there are countless homeless people who had not used drugs before becoming homeless, but are now addicts. These people were evicted from their homes because the welfare system does not allow them to afford a home, or they suffer from mental disabilities which cause them to become financially irresponsible, or they were in the hospital or jail and found that when they got out they no longer had a home. When a person is homeless, drugs are the only thing that is left to turn to for comfort. I’ve never met anyone who woke up one morning and said to himself, ”What’ll I do today? I know. I’ll become a drug addict.” That’s not how it happens. They just got bit on the ass by a beast that won’t let go as a result of making a bad decision.

On the streets, I was known as Pops because I made it my responsibility to keep an eye on the kids out there. This means that I made sure they had shoes and clothing and something to eat whenever I perceived a need. I taught them how to build shelters that we called squats and did my best to ensure that they were safe from harm.

I have 3 street daughters. These are young girls that I took under my protection and friendship. When my first street daughter was leaving the province to avoid prosecution on drug charges, the last thing she said to me is ”Pops, you really are a Pops.” That was the nicest thing that anyone has ever said to me. I haven’t seen her since, but I pray for her. I have known my other 2 street daughters since they were 15 or 16 years old, almost 10 years ago. Both of them, I am proud to say are still close friends with me.

One of the most prevalent threats to the safety of street people comes from bullies who wear badges. Not all cops are bad, but there are far too many for it to be a coincidence. I honestly believe that illegal and often brutal treatment of homeless people by police is if not encouraged by their superiors, at least ignored. I have been threatened with death by the police. I watched as a sergeant from 14 division along with another officer poured gasoline on my squat and burned everything I owned in the world. They then proceeded to burn 2 other squats. Once when I overheard a cop tell a friend of mine that he was going to plant drugs on her and bust her, I had to step in and say, “No you won’t.” The power and authority with which I voiced my opposition caused the cop to leave with no further harassment of my friend.

I never relinquished my dignity for a moment. When someone, even a cop treated me without respect I made it clear that I would not accept their disrespect. I spent a lot of time teaching my street kids self esteem and self respect. It is the hardest task I ever set for myself. They have spent most of their lives having their self esteem crushed by people with more power than they had.

I was a binger. I would wake up and immediately go out to make some money to get high. I would stay high for 6 or 7 days without any sleep until I blacked out from sleep deprivation. I’d be unconscious for a couple of days and when I woke up I’d stuff myself for a day or 2 then I’d go on another binge.

When I finally quit drugs I weighed less than 100 pounds. Every time I took a blast of crack I fully expected it to kill me. When it didn’t kill me I did it again. I became certain that I would not live through the rest of the winter the way I was going, so I called my friend who is the most caring and understanding outreach worker I ever met and asked her to get me into detox. That was March 2, 2005 and I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol since.

I’d like to say that people who think that giving money to a homeless person is only enabling his addiction are missing the point. The truth is that when an addict needs drugs it’s the same as a starving man who needs food. He’ll do whatever needs to be done to get what he needs, even violence. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but he will if he has to, so you see you are not enabling his addiction so much as you are enabling him to survive without hurting anyone.

I am now a digital photoArtist and spend my time representing the city as I see it in my art. I have several websites dedicated to my art and to homelessness. If you would like to take one of my cards, you can see my work on the internet. If you follow the link to my blog about homelessness, you will find links to over 2 dozen sites dealing with the subject that will serve as a good resource kit for your information.

What can you do?

First, give a loonie or toonie. It will help ease the suffering and it doesn’t all go to drugs. Even addicts need more than drugs to survive and you will be helping to prevent crime.

Next, tell all the politicians at all levels of government that the situation is intolerable and demand that they do something to help the poor. Specifically, a decent minimum wage that will allow a working person to support a family AND a liveable level of social assistance for those who can not work.

The government can not and will not build enough assisted housing to solve the problem. The only real solution is to ensure an adequate income to ALL CANADIANS to be able to afford to pay market rent for their homes. Is it just that so many have to sleep on the streets in a city where there is an unending market for million dollar condos?

 

 Young girls attend housing protest meeting at City Hall
Jesse is usually at the park by 519 Church

I gave this speech at a C.A.S.T. Canada seminar

My Homeless Experience

If your group would like me to speak to them please contact me at ronzig@rogers.com

Hi. My name is Ron. Craven. I’m 62 years old and I was an alcoholic since I was a teenager, a crack addict for 20 years and homeless for 10 years. I’ve been clean and sober and off the streets since March 2, 2005. I made it through my addictions with no criminal record. Unlike most homeless people, I was homeless by choice. I preferred the freedom.

On the streets, I was known as Pops because I made it my responsibility to keep an eye on the kids out there. This means that I made sure they had shoes and clothing and something to eat whenever I perceived a need. I taught them how to build shelters that we called squats and did my best to ensure that they were safe from harm.

I have 3 street daughters. These are young girls that I took under my protection and friendship. When my first street daughter was leaving the province to avoid prosecution on drug charges, the last thing she said to me is ”Pops, you really are a Pops.” That was the nicest thing that anyone has ever said to me. I haven’t seen her since, but I pray for her. I have known my other 2 street daughters since they were 15 or 16 years old almost 10 years ago. Both of them, I am proud to say are still close friends with me.

One of the most prevalent threats to the safety of street people comes from bullies who wear badges. Not all cops are bad, but there are far too many for it to be a coincidence. I honestly believe that illegal and often brutal treatment of homeless people by police is if not encouraged by their superiors, at least ignored. I have been threatened with death by the police. I watched as a sergeant from 14 division along with another officer poured gasoline on my squat and burned everything I owned in the world. They then proceeded to burn 2 other squats. Once when I overheard a cop tell a friend of mine that he was going to plant drugs on her and bust her, I had to step in and say, “No you won’t.” The power and authority with which I voiced my opposition caused the cop to leave with no further harassment of my friend.

There were lots of really good cops too. They gave me clothes and even money. They would check on me when it was -25 out there and offer to take me to a shelter.

That was long before the bedbug epidemic, but I had spent a few nights in a shelter and would never consider going back to sleeping in a room with 50 other men in beds or cots only 2 or 3 feet apart. The snoring coughing and farting were the least of my worries in a shelter. You can be robbed in your sleep, physically attacked or infected with any number of communicable diseases there.

I always lived in a squat or tent or found an empty garage to sleep in and I taught lots of others how to set up a squat for protection from the elements. It was rare that anyone could live in a squat for more than a few months. Once the authorities found a squat, the city would send in a crew of men to destroy it and take everything to the dump. I never saw tent city. I preferred setting up in a hidden location away from others. Some of the unruly members in a group would bring the heat down on everyone.

I rarely ate in soup kitchens. I had a camp stove and got food to cook from the food bank. I met several outreach workers over the years. Most of them seemed more interested in making me conform to society’s idea of what I should be like than in helping me. I met 2 who tried to get me to go with them to a shelter. When I told them that I would never live in shared accommodations, they told me they could get me a private room. They drove me from Spadina and Lakeshore up to somewhere near Dupont and Lansdowne and then tried to tell me that I would have to live in shared accommodations for at least a year before I could get a private room. I left and walked for over 2 hours to get back to my squat.

There were other workers who really understood. They knew that I would never accept what they could offer in housing so they just did what they could to make life out there easier. Unlike many outreach workers they were discreet in their approach and didn’t make my location obvious to police. Those people understood and we existed on a level of mutual respect.

I never relinquished my dignity for a moment. When someone, even a cop treated me without respect I made it clear that I would not accept their disrespect. I spent a lot of time teaching my street kids self esteem and respect. It is the hardest task I ever set for myself. They have spent most of their lives having their self esteem crushed by people with more power than they had.

I was never into crime out there. At first I made my money panhandling, but one of my squeegee kid friends told me I could make more money that way. He invited me to work at Spadina and Lakeshore with him. I tried it but wasn’t any good at it, so I invented asking the drivers for change with a cup rather than a squeegee. That was how I made my money for most of the time I was homeless.

I was a binger. I would wake up and immediately go out to make some money to get high. I would stay high for 6 or 7 days without any sleep until I blacked out from sleep deprivation. I’d be unconscious for a couple of days and when I woke up I’d stuff myself for a day or 2 then I’d go on another binge.

When I finally quit drugs I weighed less than 100 pounds. Every time I took a blast of crack I fully expected it to kill me. When it didn’t kill me I did it again. I became certain that I would not live through the rest of the winter the way I was going, so I called my friend who is the most caring and understanding outreach worker I ever met and asked her to get me into detox. That was March 2, 2005 and I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol since.

I am now a digital photoArtist and spend my time representing the city as I see it in my art. I have several websites dedicated to my art and to homelessness. If you would like to take one of my cards, you can see my work on the internet. If you follow the link to my blog about homelessness, you will find links to over 2 dozen sites dealing with the subject that will serve as a good resource kit for your information.

Thank you for hearing my story. I would be happy to answer questions now.

Comforting contact from a friendly soul

I Gave This Speech at a Recent CAST Canada Seminar

My Road to Addiction & Recovery

If your group would like me to speak to them please contact me at ronzig@rogers.com

I’d like to speak to you today about how I drifted into addiction and in order to do this I have to look back to my early childhood. Our household consisted of my father, my stepmother, although I wasn’t aware of this until much later, myself, the oldest, my step brother, one year younger, and my half brother, the youngest. Also present was my stepmother’s mother, my grandmother, who took on the responsibility of baby sitting and trying to raise 3 unruly boys. There where 3 factors which affected me during my childhood years which pretty much set my course.

1) My father was a real estate salesman who used to supplement his commissioned earnings by purchasing cheap houses in need of moderate repairs or decorating. We would move into the new house while he worked on it and a few months later he would sell it and we would move into another one. Sometimes we would move 2 or 3 times in a year.

Prior to attending school, I didn’t find this a problem, but I never went to the same school for a whole year. I began to make friends and then we would move to our next house and I would never see my friends again. After a few years of this I came to a decision. Since friendship was so transitory and leaving my friends behind was so painful, it would be better not to make friends. I became introverted, anti social and rather sullen. I had a dog who was my only friend and I would spend all my free time with him.


As a result of this situation, I failed to develop any interpersonal skills and once I decided to attempt the formation of a friendship, I just didn’t know how.

2) My parents were both heavy drinkers who loved to party. They had several parties every month at which the booze flowed freely. I found a new way to feel good. After a party, when the guests had left and my parents were asleep, my dog and I would roam the house and finish drinking the booze that remained in glasses and bottles everywhere. I began smoking the left over cigarette butts around the same time. Then I would teeter off to bed with a big smile on my face.

As a result, I became accustomed to drinking at a very early age, would probably be classed as an alcoholic by the age of 12 or 13 and have smoked pretty much ever since.

3) There was very little love in our family. My father provided adequate food and shelter, but had very little time or inclination to nurture us. My stepmother was a party girl who showed no interest in the kids. My grandmother was the only one who actually showed any love to us, although I didn’t realize this at the time. I didn’t know what love was, although I could sense that there was something missing. I had never been aware of love until after I left home and began a relationship with a girl who brought me to Sunday dinner at her parents’ home. There was so much love at that table that I broke down and cried.

I’d finally realized what had been missing.

When I left home, I was full of ideals and believed that if you worked hard and did a good job, you would succeed in the work place. I took a job in a large financial services office at Bay and Richmond where I put these beliefs into practice. I did an excellent job and even took responsibility for doing the work of any employee who was absent. I learned every job in an office with over 200 employees and eventually was assigned the job of indoctrinating the new manager into the procedure of each department. In spite of this, after 2 long years I was still classified as a mail clerk, living on a salary which was below subsistence. I had to work part time as an usher in a theater in order to pay rent and eat. At this point I realized that the system was just a form of economic slavery and I walked out and never worked in an office again.

My disaffection with the socio/economic system resulted in my becoming a Hippy in the mid 60’s. I began smoking Marijuana and doing LSD and experimenting with all the other forms of drugs that were available then. Now, acid for many people can drive them mad and really screw them up, but it saved my life. I still hadn’t been able overcome a severe inferiority complex and was struggling with learning interpersonal skills. I didn’t like myself, much less love myself and often contemplated suicide. Then I began doing acid and this changed almost immediately. I opened up and found it easy to communicate with people and realized that I was a pretty good person after all. I began to love myself and life, so you see; I figured that if acid could do that for me, other drugs may be able to do even more. Besides they made me feel good and where fun. I tried them all. MDA, Mescaline and Peyote I liked. Heroin I didn’t like, I didn’t realize until later that I gravitate towards uppers, and away from downers.

I was living in Rochdale, a high rise apartment on Bloor St that was developed during the Trudeau years as an experiment in alternative learning. It turned into the LSD capital of Canada with 2 on site chemists formulating and manufacturing some very potent concoctions. Our security was the Vagabond motorcycle club. I began dealing LSD and importing Marijuana to sell all over Northern Ontario. I was making buckets of money and having a ball. I made more in a month than I did in the whole 2 years I worked as a slave in the office. My disaffection with the system never escalated to activism. I was having too much fun to get involved with the social upheavals of the time except for a couple of noteworthy tales from the Vietnam War era.

This was before Big Brother had computerized, but he was in the process of preparing for that eventuality. Social Insurance numbers had been assigned and it was not possible to get a decent job without one. At the time they were being introduced into society, the government swore they would never be used as identification. What a lie that was. Try to get a bank account or cash a cheque without one. Well, I thought I had an idea how to defeat the Social Insurance concept. I invented a name and a complete family history and sent in an application for a new card. Much to my surprise, the card came in the mail and I was in a new business selling id’s to draft dodgers. I created quite a few new Canadians that way.

The other thing that happened was the murder of a group of American students by the National Guard at Kent State University. As I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t bother with activism, but this event changed all that. I was so infuriated with a system that would condone this slaughter that I joined a protest in front of the American Consulate on University Avenue. There were a few hundred protesters there with anti war placards, but it was a peaceful protest that was limited to people yelling out their outrage. But that soon changed. The riot police rode in and began backing their horses into people, crushing them against the iron fence in front of the Consulate. Well, the authorities wanted a riot and they got one. People at first panicked and then they became furious. The crowd ran across Queen St and up Yonge St, smashing store windows and doing whatever damage they could. I went home when that started and the next morning the headlines were HIPPIES RIOT. No mention of the fact that the police deliberately caused it.

My disaffection with the system from that point on was more active than my previous policy of withdrawal. I was no longer satisfied to withhold my services from the system’s masters. I wanted to change it, although I was never a radical and still naively believed that change could be accomplished peacefully.

Eventually I tried Crystal Meth. WOW, it made me feel like a God. I began shooting it daily, going on runs that lasted weeks at a time. Runs are periods of staying high every waking hour. My friends were all doing it too and eventually I realized that many of them had died of overdoses or were in jail for major crimes such as murder and robbery. I was lucky enough to realize that the side effect of paranoia combined with the huge expense of maintaining an ever increasing habit was just too dangerous and I quit using before I became fully addicted. Speed as it was called is still my drug of choice and if it was innocuous, I’d probably still be using it.

Eventually I quit using all drugs except tobacco and alcohol and tried once again to integrate myself into the social structure. I started selling real estate and became a millionaire within 10 years. As you can see, I had learned a few things over the years, but in spite of my financial success, I was not happy.

When I was 40, I met a girl who introduced me to Crack. You couldn't buy it ready made then. You had to buy Cocaine and cook it into Crack yourself. It was almost as good as Speed and at that time it’s nature was not really known. The government said it was addictive and dangerous, but they said that about Marijuana long ago. Who can believe a government that never tells the truth? Within 1 ½ years I was bankrupt and a full time addict. It took 10 years of graduated decline before I became homeless. I remained a homeless addict and alcoholic until March 2, 2005. I weighed about 90 pounds and was near death when I decided it was time to get help. I asked an outreach worker I knew to get me into a detox centre. From the detox, I went to Matt Talbot House a half way house for recovering addicts and began attending outpatient rehab treatment at the Harbour Light Centre. I have been clean and sober ever since. While at Matt Talbot House, I turned 59 and a housing worker updated my 10 year old housing application now that I qualified for seniors housing. I moved into my present bachelor apartment on October 1, 2005.

My activism has taken a more positive direction since I got off the streets. I now divide my time between Digital photoArt; photography based and digitally altered art work, an ever expanding website dedicated to educating the public about homelessness and addiction and a series of video documentary interviews with homeless people and addicts. What you saw preceding my talk was a 10 minute clip taken from a 40 minute audio interview that I did before I purchased a video camera and graduated to doing full video interviews. This is an ongoing project and I plan to do about 20 more before the project is complete. If you take one of my cards you will find the URL to my photography site. From there you will find a link to my homeless site. On both of these sites you can view my videos. I believe that you will find both sites well worth exploring.

My story is a Recovery Success story, mainly because I was fortunate enough to have experienced an alternate life which I could recover parts of. Many addicts don’t have this advantage. They have never had or even been aware of any lifestyle other than addiction. Telling them to imagine a life in recovery is tantamount to imagining a life in Heaven. They have no reference points to make that leap. This afternoon you will hear from people who instead of achieving Recovery, had to achieve Discovery.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have and there is no question that will offend me. I promise to answer all related questions honestly and to the best of my ability, so please don’t be shy.

 

His look of stern determination says it all

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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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