Monday, January 21, 2013

Country First - The Poverty Crisis

Those who know me personally are aware that I grew up in downtown Toronto. As a result, I have seen a lot of things in my life. homelessness, crack heads, prostitution, crime.. so much in fact that I had become desensitized to it.  Seeing it without really SEEing it.

Living away from the downtown core for the better part of the past two decades, I had not seen crack heads and prostitutes or even homeless people every time I stepped outside of my door.  Eventually I became accustomed to not SEEing. Certainly it was not a case of forgetting about the problems, which are in your face when living downtown - but I suppose it was a case of 'out of sight - out of mind'.

I suppose the same can be said for the politicians. It is very easy to forget or overlook a problem when it is not in your face each and every time you leave your home.  Yes, it is true that the majority of the law makers and those who work 'for the people' do work downtown. However, the fact is that the underprivileged do get lost in the shuffle and hustle and bustle of the busy city. Particularly in the downtown core of a big city. And for the most part - by the time those who 'work for the people' head home at the end of the working day - and the downtown core empties ... this is when all those who do not have a home to go to become visible.  The ones who are left behind.  The truth is that they were there the whole time - they just blend into the background while the suits race up and down the streets plugged into their smartphones.

Having moved back downtown a year ago, I admit was sort of culture shock.I was reminded how sad downtown can be. There is a distinct shift in the energy when you come from a quieter community to the downtown core of a metropolis. And your energy begins to match that of the environment around you. Your frequency changes. The only difference was that I did not have blinders on. I was returning and the only change from when I had left so many years ago is not that the problems had gone away - but in fact they have magnified.

How can this be? Why is nothing being done?

Each day and night when I walk my dog, or run errands etc.. I see it.  Am I the only one? I see the lines outside of the homeless shelters.  I see the homeless sleeping on grates.  I see the lines at the soup kitchens. The lineups at the food banks - people waiting to take home that jar of peanut butter and dented can of chick peas.

Over the holidays, my daughter volunteered at a drop-in - serving Christmas dinner to the homeless.  She was surprised at home many people were in need of a home-cooked meal.  A hot plate of food.

Two or three times a year we see on the news that the Daily Bread Food Bank is having another food drive. The local media sets up camp at a random grocery store and they do the drive for the day.  Attempting to reach goals of food and monetary donations to last for the next couple of months.  And each year the demand increases.  Each year the need is more. Year after year after year.  Nothing changes.


Since the weather has shifted and the nights have gotten cold, I see homeless people in my building ... hiding in the move-out rooms ... you can see them praying that you do not SEE them.  Hoping to fade away into the background as they huddle in a corner - thankful to be in a warm - dry place. Until. security or the police kick them out.


When I returned home this evening from walking my dog, I tuned into the 11:00 news ... I sipped my tea as I listened to the reports on the homeless during the frigid weather.  I listened to the Beat the Street people and how they make their rounds handing out survival packages consisting of hats, scarves, mittens, sleeping bags and some food.  I listen to the accounts of three local shelters being packed to the rafters.  I see footage of people sleeping on mats on the floor of churches and displacement centers - waiting for a bed to become available for them.  There is no room at the Inn.


In the same breath - you see reports on the news about agencies collecting for overseas missions.  You read in the newspapers about how Canada is donating $50mil to this 3rd world country ... or $100mil to that hurricane / tsunami / earthquake / (fill in the blank) ravaged country. Aide for people on the other side of the world when citizens are starving and dying on the streets of the homeland.


People who know me, know that I am a giver by nature. I will give you the shirt off of my back if you need it.  There are many occasions where I have helped this person or that person with food or money or whatever.  And I am happy to do so!! With that said, I always kept in mind that I am running a household. I had a child to feed. And with that knowledge I made certain that my home was taken care of first. I made certain that my child or any assorted pets - lives which depended upon me - were covered first. Then I would assess what 'extra' was available to help someone else who needed the help.

Why does the Government not work this way?  Let me be clear that because I am Canadian, I am speaking about Canada.  However, I am more than aware that this goes also for the U.S.A. and many other countries with ass-backward ideas about sense of obligations towards everyone else ahead of their own citizens.

I am certain that President Obama, or Prime Minister Harper would not allow their children to go without food, while handing out donations to a charity.   So, why is okay to do so on the larger scale? The fact is that if you are the leader of a country - the citizens are your children. Your dependents. And just as in a home - one child may need help with math and another child may need new shoes. Citizens have a variety of needs - be it health care - or the basic needs of food and shelter. No need grater than the other - all needs are required to be met.

Let me pause here and acknowledge that what I am saying is what many people are thinking but what nobody is allowed to say.  Let me also be clear in saying that absolutely less fortunate countries should be helped. Dying children in Africa should be fed and medically treated and housed.  Yes, the people in Haiti need help to recover from the most recent Act of God.

With that said - I am also saying that you take care of your own house first! When there is not one Canadian citizen living on the streets - not one Canadian citizen missing a meal ... THEN you see what is in the reserves and help other countries who need help. The same can also be said about taking on more citizens when you cannot keep up with the demand of those who are already living here. If you cannot adequately feed, clothe and shelter the children in your home - do you bring more children in? Does that make any sense?

So what happens in the meantime?  Well, in my opinion it is down to the people who make such exorbitant amounts of money to do something. I feel like if your annual income is that of a medium sized country - it is incumbent upon you to make sure that you do something for the earthly community.

How many times have you seen the annual lists of CEO's and celebrities raking in tens of millions of dollars a year?  Is that really necessary? Actors making tens of millions to star in a movie.  Really? When there are people starving on your streets?

I'm sorry, but I do not believe that you need to earn $50 mil a year in order to survive.  Or even to maintain any sort of extravagant lifestyle.  That is just ridiculous.  It should be mandatory that if your estate is in the tens or hundreds of millions - you should be automatically made to give half to support 3rd world nations.  To feed the starving children in Africa. To rebuild Haiti. And so forth.

If every celebrity, rapper, or otherwise gave half of their annual income to 'the cause' - in a decade the world would be a completely different place.  And believe me, if the majority of people can live at or below the poverty line - the celebrities can certainly survive on $25 mil a year instead of $50 mil.

In the meantime, countries such as Canada and the U.S. can focus their resources on the people who struggle to survive within their borders.

The year is 2013, how is it that people are dying on the streets? How is it that people are starving? How is it that people are killing themselves to escape the extreme suffering? How is it that crime is on an up-rise because people are desperate? Yet, people are living way - way - way beyond what is necessary?

Governments and Celebrities should be ashamed.

It is criminal and should never have been allowed to get to this point.

"If you do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got."