How does someone living in the land of plenty end up living in squalor down by the river? How does a human being grow up only to be discarded, abandoned, invisible and forgotten? I took these photos of a small outdoor nesting place for a few homeless people in the city of Fredericton. Located down by the edge of the Saint John River, so close to the Delta Hotel that you could shoot your spit and it would most likely hit the bricks. Haves and Have Not's residing as neighbours. The Have Not's know it. The Haves are oblivious. The neighbour on the other side? The Lieutenant Governor's mansion. Nice......
The area is referred to by government and community organizations, and the media as "tent city." Its hardly a city when you compare it to the excessively enormous shanty towns and makeshift communities under overpasses in larger centres. But, it is what it is....a home for the homeless, the transients......the human beings who have either chosen to live outside rather than in, or who cannot and will not abide by the rules of the local Shelters.
If you were walking quickly, or biking leisurely along this portion of the Trans Canada trail, chances are you wouldn't notice the hidden pathways leading to small clearings where human beings have congregated. Summer fauna overlaps the entrances and keeps the secrets behind the leaves...... sort of. Attention has been given to the handful of homeless people by a locally formed committee that was set up to "deal" with the issue. Deemed as dangerous and unsafe due to mental illness, addictions, lawlessness, there is an urgency to rectify the "problem" by finding alternative living arrangements.
There are some who want to use strong tactics to get these "filthy dirty addicts..." out of the city altogether. Put them on a bus.... move them to another town. Get rid of the problem. Quick and clean...resolve the issue by pushing it on. This "approach" reeks of impatience and disregard. No time or interest in finding out why another human being has fallen so far down and away from "functioning in the community" or being "self-sufficiently independent," these strongarmed bureaucrats see them as an issue that needs to be managed. No time to be curious or to see how beneficial it would be to connect in some way with these Tent people in order to learn WHY and WHAT HAPPENED...... They probably spend more time discussing what colour their new office furniture is going to be than truly caring enough to take the time to understand the individual human beings who have fallen.
There are others who sit across from the strongarm types who are quick to say...... Give them housing. They bark out their politics to anyone who will listen .... the issue is not enough affordable housing. The government doesn't have enough affordable housing!! Oh yeah, if only we had a place to park them that would solve the problem, now wouldn't it? hmmmmm......... no. It's not that simple. It also isn't that simple just to pour money into a bottomless pit with no foundation either. Housing doesn't make a home.
If we had all the money in the world, would the issue of homelessness be solved?
Homelessness is a symptom of a much larger systemic problem where one social service department or agency works in a silo providing their goods, while another offers up another package of goods and no one communicates effectively. Communities don't get off scot free either. Its not just a "problem" for the public sector to manage! Everyone plays a role because it isn't an "issue" that has to be solved. It's not a "problem" that has an easy fix answer like some math equation.
A person living on the streets, or down by the river, or in a tent in the woods, on a park bench, in a car, under a bridge, may have a handful of people whom they receive some form of assistance from. Social assistance, food, methadone, addictions counselling, shelter options, medical assistance. Sadly, not one of those helping frontline people have the capacity within the confines of their job description to fully assist this human being. Why? Time. Work constraints. Designated roles and responsibilities don't allow for it. Lack of genuine political will. Lack of financial resources. Community fear. Bias.
So, the perpetual problem continues...... and every now and then when the neighbourhood raises their ire, or when the Queen comes to town the issue of homelessness hits the front page of the local newspaper. Then, it dies down.......... becomes invisible and the human being Have Not's are lost beyond the margins, away from any attention.
Autumn is now here...... and the nights are colder.