The Scourge of Homelessness

There’s An App For That

When I first saw the release about this app, tears actually came to my eyes – “WeShelter AppTap To Help The Homeless.”

My love affair with the Internet started many, many years ago and as I shared on my former blog, my “first” was a massive desktop – laptops were not even conceived yet – with a black screen and orange typeface. It was an hand-me-down computer from my then partner’s sister. The love was instant and hardly anything could drag me away from it.

As the technology evolved so too my love. It is hard for me now, at 50 years old, to fully appreciate the reluctance of many my age and younger to embrace the World Wide Web and all the technologies that allow us to interface with it. “Apps” such as this one that WeShelter launched recently, helps to enhance our connection to the world and the people around us.

Homelessness – A Brief But Personal Experience

Homelessness is something that I have experienced along the way. Not for very long, thankfully, but it was nerve-wracking nonetheless those couple of nights that my bed was a table in a Toronto Tim Horton’s. Snippets of that story have been shared and maybe one day the “full bill and receipt” will be disclosed. What is important, is that when I speak on the subject, it comes from a place of knowing and feeling. It also comes from having sat with homeless people, incarcerated people who were at one time homeless and listened to their stories.

One night, several months after my fortune had changed and there was a “roof of my own,” over my head, well a rented one, a homeless man and I got into a conversation as I waited at a bus terminal.

It was a rainy night and the air had a snap to it. Not wanting to miss my bus, I stood outside of the terminal and the rain pelted me. Pushing his shopping cart, laden with his belongings, the gentleman was clearly making his way to shelter. He paused as he came by me to check on my welfare. What struck me was his concern for me although it was obvious that “lady,” as he called me, was heading for home.

I am somewhat of an introvert but only in large groups and crowded places. I rather stay home than attend the most glamorous affairs no matter whom I may meet and their potential to advance my interests. Small talk about nonsense is not my way, so even in a work setting and at lunchtime, you will almost always find me with my eyes fixed on the computer screen, typing away as I eat.

Yet, a conversation with a stranger, even a homeless, battered and bruised one, I welcome with open arms.

Responding to his “howdy, are you okay,” I asked after his own welfare. Let us just say that my bus almost left me. Later that night when I reported the encounter on Facebook, I asked whether this man, whose name I did not get, was the Christ. His warmth, affection, and openness – sharing his umbrella, his life story to that point and his farewell to me as I ran to my bus – touched me.

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I recall thinking and later writing that “by the Grace of God go I.” It is something that I say just about every day when I am reminded that my life could be very different except for that Grace.

Homeless In Canada

It is indeed by that same Grace go all the people who have no set or physical place to call home, or at least by societies’ standard of a home. Yesterday, the prescription drug problem in the United States was my reference point in our wellness feature. Today, it is Canada’s turn on the subject of homelessness.

“Canada is nearing an important crossroads in our response to homelessness. Since homelessness emerged as a significant problem – in fact, as a crisis – in the 1990s, with the withdrawal of the federal government’s investment in affordable housing, communities have struggled to respond. Declining wages (even minimum wage has not kept up with inflation in any jurisdiction in Canada), reduced benefit levels–including pensions and social assistance—and a shrinking supply of affordable housing have placed more and more Canadians at risk of homelessness. For a small, but significant group of Canadians facing physical and mental health challenges, the lack of housing and supports is driving increases in homelessness. Prevention measures – such as ‘rent banks’ and ‘energy banks’ that are designed to help people maintain their housing – are not adequate in stemming the flow to homelessness. The result has been an explosion in homelessness as a visible and seemingly ever present problem.”

That excerpt is from the website of The Homeless Hub and it gives a great summary of the situation in this country.

Writing this post was painful. I must admit that. As I read and poured over the various reports and research papers out of Canada, my temper was rising.

Reflecting on how close I came to being one of the statistics – due to my own decisions – it struck me that many people are homeless as a consequence of choices that they made. Yet, there are many others who find themselves homeless due to reliance, trust and dependence on others, systems, economies and governments that fail in their stewardship.

Personally, I blame no one for my nights in Tim Horton’s. In fact, I blame no one for homelessness across this country. What I do is question their will to make a change, a real and lasting change. This blog’s and my life’s focus is women and those who love them. Consequently, my eyes turned to the information about this segment of the community of homeless people.

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The Impact of Homelessness On Women

How does one honestly draw comparisons, measure and try to quantify who suffers the most out of a situation like this? Yet, the facts are that women do experience a deeper level of vulnerability when they are homeless. Read this 2008 report from the Ontario Women’s Health Network (OWHN) and you will see what I mean.

Back to the WeShelter App. Why does this matter so much?

Not all of us can help financially or even give food to someone in need and/or sleeping on the streets. Most of us, however, have a phone and a smart one at that.

“Put simply, WeShelter’s mission is to use mobile technology to allow everyone to contribute to ending homelessness.”

How it works, according to the information obtained through my source BlogsRelease, is:

  • See someone in need? Use the app
  • “Tap the big green button and unlock a donation from one of our sponsors. The donation will go to homeless services organizations in the city.”
  • Tap to dial 3-1-1 to get direct help for a homeless individual.
  • WeShelter will you updated on the good work being done by organizations you’ve helped out.

For now, the city is New York. If you are living in New York or frequent that city, get the app – well if you have an iPhone. Sadly, I do not – Android is my game – so I hope they will be launching a version for us soon. I also hope that this app and service will spread like wildfire and help more people, in more cities and in more places across our world. It is an easy way to help, costs you now more than what you already pay for your phone services.

Do spread the news by sharing this post with your friends, family and just about everyone you know living in New York. Remember, corny as it may sound, sharing is caring. Let us together help to rid our communities or at least greatly lower the number of persons living on the streets. It is another great start in a new way – this WeShelter app – and my hope is that it will be available soon in other cities, including Edmonton, Alberta.

Before you ask, no, I am not paid to endorse this service or app – at least not monetarily.  This is  heart thing.

Have a great rest of the Wednesday and do subscribe and let us bring you more stories that touch the heart and move your feet and fingers into action. When you sign-up, you will also be first to know when our short story – The Unfortunate Life of An Interesting Woman, posts this afternoon.

Catch you tomorrow.

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