Friday, January 19, 2007

Victoria Forum on Homelessness

Well, I'm freshly back from an encouraging and discouraging night spent with 800+ people at Focus Magazine's Forum on Homelessness. I hardly ever give a good rant on this blog because I'd rather champion and encourage the good that's out there. But tonight's attempt at an open-mic discussion about homelessness had me heading straight for the doors for a number of reasons and I feel the need to blow off a little steam.

But first, let me hit you with the good stuff. I won't bother going into all the actual details about the presentation because there was a lot of press at the forum and I'm sure they're better at that kind of thing than I am. So...

THE GOOD

1. Some people challenged other people to do something for people with less (ie. those people with no homes).
2. Some people responded to that call and spent 3 weeks throwing together an unbelievably thorough (considering the time-frame) IDEA about how these people with less could find themselves with a roof over their head for a substantial amount of time at an affordable cost. These people deserve our thanks.
3. 800+ people showed up to hear about this plan and it seems as though there may be sufficient will, resources, and wit to pull the thing off.

Expect more GOOD news as the plan rolls on over the next few weeks.

THE BAD
Focus People, Focus!
Tonight's discussion was primarily set out to investigate solutions to "homelessness." Not poverty. The two are intertwined for sure*, but what we had on stage and available for our questions was nine people who have created a practical, flesh and bones plan for physically housing 2000 people who currently have no roof above their head.

As part of said plan already includes a whack of public input and discussion, we don't need to quibble about the minutia.

What would be helpful is pledges of support, praises of encouragement, thank-you's for trying, and genuine concern for potential oversights. And by this I mean, if you've got a beef, feel free to let it out, but don't use the mic to chastise the government (who wasn't on stage) or lack of public will (you were preaching to the choir).

*A simple way to understand this is as follows:
a)Poverty is often a result of homelessness.
b)Homelessness is often a result of poverty.
Therefore:
c)"Poverty" cannot be solved by building homes alone, but "homelessness" can be solved by building (affordable) homes.

THE UGLY
Sit Down and Shut Up?

No matter how much you disagree with the person at the mic, have the common decency to let them speak without yelling "shame," "sit down," "my dad is stronger than your dad" or any other such juvenile evidence that supports the fact you're a complete and utter idiot yourself.

3 comments:

chris said...

That proposal is quite something. I mean for a group of people to believe that this calibre of a project is possible...doable even.
Now I just have to ask myself, would I freak out if the plan was to build this development in my neighbourhood? Or could I have the vision to see beyond my own comfort zone in terms of social justice and compassion

ron said...

Hey James lets pray the good was heard over the bad...and love the image. Some folks just shouldn't be aloud microphones...to often it amplifies stupidity.

Heidi said...

I was there too, and also got really frustrated with the very unhelpful comments at the open mics. If the moderator had been more experienced and assertive, things would have gone much more smoothly. I think that for an open forum like this (particularly one on homelessness), we have to expect some unintelligent comments and rants. But if they had been limited to the planned 2 minutes each, things would have been much more edifying.

I actually found the "shame" yells amusing, and unoffensive because they were encouraging to the commentator (not degrading anyone in particular, but the state of society). Isn't that what Canadian parliament is know for--cat calls? (Did I get the term right? My political ignorance is revealed...) However, the "boos" were aimed at particular people, and were unacceptable.

As to the actual project, I also applaud the winning panel for putting together a great, thorough proposal. Many things need to be fleshed out (for example, ways to avoid ghetto-creation and to integrate the inhabitants in the rest of society). As far as the project being in my neighbourhood, if they're properly integrated, there shouldn't be a problem; I welcome diversity in the city. The problem is if the inhabitants, in their fragile state, feed eachother's weaknesses and problems compound themselves.