I DO NOT, HAVE NOT, WOULD NOT ever suggest throwing money at a problem. I am a REALIST, believing in examining a problem to understand what the situation IS. I am not an Ideologue who, wearing the blinders of ideology, looks at a situation and sees what they want to see, not what really is. There is NO perfect solution. A system dealing with people demands flexibility and denies neat, easy answers. Rigidly applying Ideology guarantees failure. How I came to homelessness: click Backstory below.
It did not look it, but my old VW was a lot roomier on the inside as a place to live than my current home, my ’87 Duster. I do count my great blessing that although cramped, it is dry.
The new month of October has found me once again homeless in abbotsford. High housing prices, tight housing market and the limited funds available to be spent on shelter defeated my efforts to find suitable accommodation to move into before October 1. At least this time I do have experience with the organization and planning required to at least have a chance to continue to search for a healthy place to live.
The next time you see a homeless person do not be quick to assume they are living homeless because they choose to – it just may be me and it certainly is not my first choice to be living in my car on the cold, wet streets of Abbotsford once again. It is just the reality of affordable housing in Abbotsford and cities across Canada.
Making my current homeless state more frustrating to me personally is that outside of housing my life was and is in many ways, starting to come together with some very interesting and challenging opportunities on the horizon. However it is now going to require a great deal of effort just to continue to move forward rather than just giving up in defeat. I have no desire to join the ranks of those beaten down to the point they have moved from homelessness to hopelessness.
There are some places that would fall within my limited budget had they been able to meet my one must requirement for a place to live; with my one requirement for housing for myself being that it be healthy. I have had the maddening and sad experience of watching those striving to get their lives back that made the mistake of thinking that having a roof over your head was worth living in an unhealthy environment.
I would see them come out of treatment or off the street full of energy and plans to get back their lives. In their desperation with the lack of affordable and healthy living space they would take whatever they could get. A few weeks (or less) later I would see them again – back into addiction, mental illness, despair and hopelessness.
My mental health and wellness is far to important to me, having taken years of hard work, to put it at risk in an unhealthy environment. I know from previous experience that I can maintain my mental health better living in my car than in the unhealthy housing situations so many of the homeless are forced to accept and then regret. What good is a place to live if it is going to rob you of your mental health, your future and dump you hopeless into homelessness.
City hall, city councillors, our mayor and the social development committee may be comfortable speaking so glibly of years before we can get anything concrete accomplished on the affordable housing front. This was an unacceptable attitude to me last month and the only difference this month is that the need for affordable housing NOW is more urgent to me in a personal manner.
So if you see someone who is homeless do not jump to the conclusion it is by choice. It may well be a reflection of the economic reality of prohibitive housing costs making healthy, secure affordable housing a dream to be chased for the poor and homeless. At least until people demand politicians act, not just flap their jaws in dealing with the affordable housing crisis before it becomes a disaster.
I know for myself that if preserving my mental health and getting more stability and control of my life requires another stint of living in my car for a period of time I will do that. I just hope it proves much shorter than the near two years of my last character test by homelessness.