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Free Essay on Homelessness

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When I first heard that for our grade twelve retreat we would be going on an inner street walk I dreaded going. I thought it would be kind of cruel to walk around the streets of Toronto and stare at homeless people all day. But that was not what this retreat was about at all. It was about learning what those less fortunate then must us go through every day to survive. It was about realizing that we are very fortunate to have a roof over our head and food to eat each day. It was an amazing, life changing but also sad experience. I learned some things from our group leaders that I will never forget.

Scooby and Kiesha were the leaders of the group I was with. We walked though the Aids memorial and read all the names of the people who had died from the disease. It was sad to see that even babies had been killed by Aids. Kiesha explained how easily Aids can be spread among street kids. Kiesha told us that many people are walking around Aids and do not even realize it. Others who know they have the disease refuse to tell the people they are sexually active with that they have contracted Aids because they are afraid of being alone. We talked about the park in which the Aids memorial was in and how common it was to see people dealing or doing drugs there. Scooby showed us where he used to sleep and we watched the people stare at us as we pretended to sleep in a doorway of a building. We went to a community centre where they give out free clothes to those who need them. The lobby of the community centre was filled with pamphlets on aids, homosexuality, drug abuse, child abuse, and assault. We discussed why we would not find any of these pamphlets in any Ajax community centres. We went into the man’s washrooms and saw that there were needle disposals in them and again discussed why we would not find them in an Ajax community centre.

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We walked to the edge of Boys Town where male prostitution occurs. Scooby made us close our eyes and imagine that we lived there and that we needed to prostitute ourselves to survive. We went to a dumpster behind a restaurant where many homeless people go to get food. Scooby and Kiesha also took us to a bookstore that was specifically for gay and lesbian people. We looked at the children’s section of the store where we found many books for children growing up in a gay or lesbian family. Scooby asked us to panhandle for fifteen minutes to experience what street kids go through daily. We were ignored, given dirty looks and even yelled at by the people we asked for money. We did not end up getting any money. We later learned from Patrick that Scooby is homeless, lives under a bridge and still panhandles. All the members of my group were shocked to learn this about Scooby; we never would have guessed that he was homeless himself.

Even though I did not panhandle for very long, I learned a lot from the experience. I learned how if felt to be regarded as disgusting and a burden on society. Some people I asked for money gave me the dirtiest looks; others just ignored me and kept on walking by. I learned how it felt to be totally stereotyped and looked down upon because I was begging for money. Kiesha and Scooby told us how a lot of people think that the homeless are just lazy; drug addicted, bums, which is definitely not the case. Most people who live on the street are kids who have run away from home because they were being abused or mistreated. However, Scooby and Kiesha did agree that about ninety-five percent of people living on the streets do use some sort of drug, such as alcohol, marijuana, crack, ecstasy, etc. Often times they use drugs to get away from their past or the pain they feel inside. They use drugs to get away from reality, so they do not have to deal with life. Unfortunately the idea that people on the streets are too lazy to get a job is not true. Most people on the street cannot get a job because they do not have a fixed address, and they cannot get a fixed address because they do not have the money to pay for one.
When we returned to Sanctuary it was moving to hear the experiences of the members of other groups. Many of them shared the stories of the group leaders and their experience of being homeless. I thought it was amazing that all these homeless and former homeless people came together to created Sanctuary and teach other kids about life on the street.

I think that there are social sins at work here. We cannot ignore those who need our help especially if we are in a position to aid in some way. As Christians we should be following the Corporal Works of Mercy and feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. We should be giving those less fortunate then us the dignity and respect they deserve. The scripture passage (Mathew 25:31-46) reveals that when you are kind and helpful to someone less fortunate you are kind and helpful to God; when you are cruel and hurtful to someone less fortunate you are treating God in the same way.
There are many agencies in our community that deal with poverty and homelessness. The Salvation Army and The Goodwill sell used clothing and furniture to those who are in need. St. Vincent du Paul collects clothing blankets and food for the homeless and also runs a soup kitchen. There are many shelters for women and children who come for abusive households. The kids help line is there to offer any advice or aid any child who needs help. Local schools, churches and businesses run food and clothing drives during the holidays for those needy families in our community.

I think that this retreat was a good experience for all. I was able to see the challenges people on the street face day after day. Although I did not experience the full extent of the difficulties street kids must over come, this experience still made me greatful for all the things I have.

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