Wednesday, August 3, 2016

G.I.A. an idea whose time has come.

      The “Angels of the Road” website has been getting a lot of attention this week, I have no idea why but I am hoping it is coming from the shelter industry and human services workers. It would be nice think that what we do has an impact on the ways housing and shelter programs are being planned. The fact is we have been clinging to the delusion that the affluent 1950 will live again…. Times have changed and as a society we need to change also. In the 1950 there were more jobs then workers to fill them; now every job posting has from 50 to 300 applicants.  Yes you will occasionally read a headline; northern Alberta or Saskatchewan begging for workers. They are begging for skilled labour and professionals. Industries rarely train workers any more (they did in the 50s). To get a job requires one get an education… in Canada colleges can cost $5000 per year, universities more than that per semester. With 60% of Canadian families living paycheck to paycheck… who has money to put their kids through school?  So 60% of our work force is unskilled labour and we love and need our unskilled workers. They serve our coffee at Timmy’s; they show us where to find the coffee at our supermarket and they clean the coffee stains out of our silk blouses. God bless the service industry and all the beautiful people who stay on their feet 6 hrs at a time for minimum wage…we need them and love them. What would life be without drive-thru coffee?  So when the other 49 to 299 applicants remain unemployed can we please stop drowned them in shame and guilt. We need to rethink social supports.
     When I mention Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI is a program to give every Canadian a modest income which was first introduced in the 1970s) I am confronted with “how are we going to pay for that?” We will pay for it with the money currently being spent to administer social support systems EI, CPP, WCB, GIS, OAS, OW, ODSP (all other provincial counterparts) the list goes on and on. The government also pays for advocates to help you navigate a complex system of check balance ultimate design to judge who is and is not deserving of assistance. Those whom we determine unworthy of assistance then become clients of the shelter system and now starts costing the taxpayer (who pays for all the above as well) $100 per day per person. AWK we are spending BILLIONS to support a system set up in 1950s which is no long valid or workable in today’s economy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

we don't deserve to live in a MERITOCRACY

          It has been a very long time since I have blogged on this site. I confess to getting caught up in my own life. I guess it is simply easier to work within my personal sphere of influence and trust the universe to ripple (as it is inclined to do) that small good into the world. So never lose sight of the incredible impact you have as you go about putting your time energy and love into your communities. Thank you …on behalf of a grateful and changing world.
          So what brings me back to this forum?  I have been giving much thought to the affordable housing models which are being used today. Bearing in mind that we were many decades without any affordable housing initiatives, since the failed city housing ghettos of the 60s and 70s. Hooray for social consciousness and what we do have…. but as with all things it is growing and hopefully evolving.
          The problem most cities have with ending homelessness is that access to housing (as with most of our culture for thousands of years) is based on a meritocracy. The idea that one is more worthy then another….that each must earn the right to x y or z.  I am not here to argue against or for the validity of meritocracy….there are examples in human and animal kingdoms which support both positions. I am simply saying that in ending homelessness, meritocracy does not work.
          A person is not an addict because they love the taste of a smooth malt on the back on their throat, or the sensation of needle piercing their skin.  They like being some place besides awake in their reality. As harshly as society may judge, we all judge ourselves more harshly. Now imagine having NOTHING; being NOTHING in a meritocracy where worth is rewarded. You have no value…. Why would you deserve a better life…a home… a job, the love and support of a family and/or a community? When someone has reached that point they cannot be motivated by rewards because they do not believe they merit a reward. When we start valuing people just because they ARE PEOPLE we will see a little less self-loathing and more aspiring from them.
           Everyone deserves a place to call home. It can be done …Utah was the first to eliminate homelessness and one major Alberta city has followed their example. It does not matter why we give housing to anyone/everyone; maybe we are motivated by compassion or by the cost effectiveness of affordable housing ($20,000 per year against the cost of providing support services to the homeless ($100,000 per year) the result is the same. Better quality of life for every member of our community.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sure but what have you done for us lately?

As most of you know for various reasons I have not returned to my work in the shelter industry. I do still very much care about the issues around poverty and homelessness, so I continue to serve by volunteering. For several months I have been working at the Men’s Centre in Nanaimo BC… which provides counseling, referrals, and programs for men with various issues from family to self-awareness. Sometimes men are forced from their homes because of economic crisis, marriage breakdown or being the victims of domestic violence. When I was on the road I learned that there are many psycho-social issues involved in becoming homeless and also recovering from homelessness. Often men still cling to outdated images of machismo… and refuse to acknowledge the need for help. The multifaceted approach of the Men’s Centre allows a person to find the right fit for their needs (whether practical, psychological, emotional or peer support).

As an aside to the practical supports the Men’s Centre (Nanaimo) has a free clothing room and accepts donations of clean clothing.  If you wish to donate clothing to us (or any other agency) please note these guys need casual clothing Jeans / Khakis and T-Shirts / Sweatshirts / Hoodies and Sport Socks and Runners and New Underwear. That is my wish list, Thank you so much for all that you do.

Most recently I have begun volunteering with the Victoria Human Exchange Society (Nanaimo branch). This is the most proactive community minded housing program I have come across; it is entirely volunteer run. Meaning that every dime which is donated goes to helping these men move forward with their lives.

Human Exchange is providing refuge / transitional housing and supports across Vancouver Island to recovering addicts re-entering society. The people coming to us are 90 days clean (and hoping to stay that way); usually they are just getting out of corrections or hospitals or treatment programs. If you read the Report of Findings   from my research you will remember I discussed Refuge Shelters. These are highly controlled environments with zero tolerance for substance use on or off premises. Our guys are coming from places where almost every move is controlled into an environment where 50% of their movements are controlled. This is a step-up program leading away from an often lifelong cycle of recidivism. It is a chance to develop social skills, self awareness and life skills in a safe nonjudgmental space. I am very excited to start my service to these men and to VHES. So that is what I am doing these days.

Have a joyous month… winter will be over soon.   


Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Whatever..."Joy to the World"

Yesterday I saw a Facebook post that said, “Mery CHRISTmas”.  A young, man whose writings I often find quiet insightful posted a blog titled. “Who needs Santa when you have Jesus?”  If these people and millions like them knew anything of history and the evolution of Christianity they would not be claiming exclusivity over the Holiday Season.
But it does remind me that I should say something about this time of year. I am not going to tell anyone what to believe or how to celebrate. My pagan friend is having Christmas dinner with her Mormon family; my Wiccan friend will have ceremony on the solstice and attend chapel on Christmas day. My reformist /protestant Christian friends will celebrate with family and not see a church. More orthodox friends will be at mass and my Asatru (ancient religion of northern Europe) friend will have 12 days of celebrations.  Even diehard atheists will have a celebratory dinner and gift exchange.

Whether a person chooses to celebrate Jesus or Santa or the flying spaghetti monster really isn’t the important thing from the standpoint of spiritualism/ energetics.  At this time of year the vast majority of the world’s population finds some reason to come together in love and gratitude. There is more kindness pouring into our communities then at any other time. My friend Brenda volunteers as a driver for food distribution and she has been run ragged for the past month. That increased vibration (good vibes) makes the whole planet better then it was.

This morning someone pointed out that not everyone is happy; that holiday season has a very high suicide rate. If a person chooses not be grateful for the gifts of this life, of this world; that is not something we can fix for someone else. There are so many reasons to be grateful for this Holiday.  I am grateful to have people who love me and know that I love them, without the need for “proof”’ (i.e. gifts). I woke up to snow today, wet but still fun to see. And today I discovered that the 7-10 (soup kitchen) will be having a Holiday breakfast on the 25th.  My kids won’t be here for Christmas but I will spend a beautiful day listening to music, maybe writing and relaxing between phone calls from family and friends. My big Holiday plans are fasting and meditation over the solstice this weekend. I am saying choose to be happy! This may not be the best Christmas/ Holiday you have ever had or ever will have; but it is the only 2013 Christmas you will ever have.  It is hard to not be happy when you are feeling grateful.

Now about the Santa (lie) thingy. If your kid is old enough to ask, “Is Santa real?” then he/she is old enough to handle the truth. Until then let the kid enjoy the fantasy or folktale, either way the old guy is a vibrant part of cultural (albeit recent) tradition. When I was 5 my Grandmother told me that, Santa is the spirit of giving that we all feel at Christmas time. So in reality we all get to be Santa. That spirit of generosity is shared across the board this time of year; from atheists to the most devoutly religious… we have a shared sense of gratitude and that is what I am celebrating this and every Christmas.  

Have a joyous holiday season.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Again heads up on the new web address being

These days I'm volunteering at the Nanaimo Men's Resource Center and a few weeks ago I was able to attend my first annual general meeting.  After the business portion of the meeting was finished each person was asked to introduce themselves and share how they became involved with the centre. My final thought and bottom line was men need to catch up… the feminism bus pulled out of the driveway and men were left standing there looking like Macaulay Calkin in the “Home Alone” movie.  And like Macaulay they stood their ground assuming the family would return.  
Feminism spent the past 50 years evolving women into whole beings… we left behind oppressive stereotypes and kept the things that were working for us.  Were mistakes made? Hellz ya! First we wasted way too much time in a gender war, before recognizing that patriarchy was the enemy. The women who came into political power in the early days focused on insignificant crap like semantics instead of important issues.   Getting women into good jobs like the post office is far more important then whether you were called a mailman or mail-woman. After women started taking those job the titles change to gender neutral words like letter carriers.  One of our biggest mistakes was not bringing men along for the ride. We could have found the best from their world and shown them the best from ours as we all moved forward into breaking free from the shackles of patriarchal social convention and into living as whole beings.
Now guys… you can’t entirely blame feminism for not letting you on the bus, some (enlightened) guys drove themselves to the party.  Even without the feminist movement gender roles were changing as we moved from an industrial society into a technological society; the employment landscape was leveling. So let us not waste anymore time in a new gender war as we address the need for a Masculinity Movement.  For those of you who want to say the whole world has always been about men, it is NOT about today’s men.  The patriarchal privilege we fought against in NO way serves or represents the 21st century male.  It is for us who have fought this battle before (and did well) to share what we have learned and help men to vanquish the patriarchal dragon once and for all.
Before patriarchy and the self-serving empire building models grew; humankind lived as tribes with all its members (male and female) living in service to the community. Women never really lost that; even as we moved into the breadwinner / powerbroker roles, we remain skilled at connecting with each other and building support networks.  Men need to re-establish that skill. Men’s Centres (there aren’t nearly enough of them) provide a safe place for men to get together in supportive groups. Usually there is a purpose in the agenda (anger management or parenting etc) but the most important thing being learned is (I hope) how to get support and be supportive.      
The biggest hurdle for men is redefining their roles. “Man-Up”… WTF does that even mean any more.  It is just another example of patriarchal oppression squeezing the human-ness out of men. The true purpose of a place like The Men’s Centre is to help men become happier healthier people; who will then be better husbands, fathers and members of our community (tribe).
I’ll probably talk about this and related issues again but for now have a joyous day my friends.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear Friends

I just wanted you all to know that the website which supports this blog has re-opened
as The banner is the Vancouver skyline which I thought was fitting since the DTES (Down Town East Side) provided some of the most indepth and enlightening experiences during my journey.

Thank you all so much for your support over the years and for doing your part in the fight for equality and social justice.

Have a joyous day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In a Just Society

As you know this (Angels of the Road) blog site has shifted focus to anti-poverty and social justice issues. Nowhere in Canadian society is social injustice more prevalent then when it involves our Native citizens. Last night one of my Tweeties (Twitter People) posted the link to a very articulate article titled, First Nations won’t “get over” your ignorance by Chelsea Vowel a M├ętis woman from Alberta. The salient points for our discussion are held in the following excerpt. You can link to the full article through the title.
Canadians who do recognize historical injustice seem to understand it in this way:
1.    Bad things happened.
2.    Bad things stopped happening and equality was achieved. (Though I've yet to see someone identify exactly when this happened.)
3.    The low social and political status held by indigenous peoples is now wholly based on the choice to be corrupt, lazy, inefficient, and unsuited to the modern world.
In this view, there is no history of colonialism and systemic racism that informs the modern view of indigenous peoples, because that problem was solved at some point in the past. The real racism is in conflating legitimate dislike for indigenous peoples (based not on race or ethnicity but rather on the bad choices we make) with historic colonialism/racism which is over. In continuing to discuss colonialism and racism as a present-day concern, we are engaging in reverse-racism and oppressing blameless settlers.
Let me begin by saying racism is alive and flourishing in Canada. I visited my home town last year… and the racism was palpable. The Whites believing all Natives are lazy drunks and the Natives believing all Whites are arrogant bullies. I have encountered similar beliefs everywhere I have travelled but more so on an individual basis. In my experience racism (or any other ism for that matter) is far more likely to come from a place of ignorance than from a place of hate. Ignorance can only be eradicated with information / education. When someone makes a statement in front of me that is wrongheaded, I take the time to provide them with the truth related to that misperception. The usual response is, “I didn’t know that”, or “I never thought of it that way”. Maybe I have only influenced that one belief but it is possible that their mind is now a little more open to examining their other beliefs.

The best way to change this is by dialoguing, informally and formally with each other. When my nephew was in grade 4 or 5 his school partnered with the local band to have a Native Awareness program offered after school.  The biggest problem was the program was open only to First Nations students. We can’t legitimately blame people for being ignorant if we refuse to educate them.
The general public thinks equality has been achieved because Apples (fully assimilated Natives) do have equality. I mean no disrespect by that term. An Apple can play golf at any country club in the nation; skin colour is not an issue. If he parks his Lexus in front of the cop-shop to report his 15 year old daughter missing from private school, I am pretty sure the police will be all over that.  The prejudice has less to do with skin and more to do with ignorance about Native culture and the effect the Indian Act has on development for indigenous nations.
Ms Vowel is correct that media carries a large responsibility for the problem. I would suggest that they could be a large part of the solution. When I had television I watched 2 news broadcasts CTV and APTN seldom did significant stories running on APTN get so much as a mention on mainstream media.
Feminism did not make any real strides until we made patriarchy the enemy not men. And in the past 40 years (I know firsthand) much has changed for women. To make those kinds of strides for Native rights we need to stop making the rhetoric Us Against Them. We need to discuss how the Canadian establishments (courts, social agencies, business models etc) were designed from a European perspective and do not fit with Native cultural norms. Many successful, sustainable, environmentally sensitive businesses are built around Native cultural models. And we will be seeing more and more integration of that business model into the Canadian economy over the next generation.   
This blog has gone a little long and the discussion is far from over; so one last thought. Colonialism was bad (not just here, everywhere), we cannot waste our time feeling guilty or angry about a past over which we have no control… we must take responsibility and action to change the future. Learning from and respecting each other, is where we start.
Have a joyous day.