More Than Change

An extension of Link Magazine’s “Begging for Change” (January 2017 issue, page 20)
Words & Photos: Selenna Ho

Anyone can be affected by homelessness, given the circumstance. But it’s hard to imagine ourselves in their shoes… It’s too terrifying.

Having a secure, liveable home is a human right. But with BC’s homelessness crisis, shelters are overflowing, and streets that previously held marginalized persons are gentrifying faster and faster (matching the speed with which the housing market is growing). It’s no wonder some vagrants lodge in public parks and store doorways for a night’s rest.

But as the hours tick away, less and less people seem to engage in humanizing the homeless experience. Each footstep that passes by marks a moment a homeless individual can no longer count as being human… Until their humanity seems to have completely vanished.

After all, isn’t it true that we “citizens” prefer bird shit on our public benches more than we do homeless persons?

We are no different. Circumstances such as politics, economics, and sheer luck are what make one person secure, and another homeless. But it’s scary to admit to that. After all, isn’t it true that we “citizens” prefer bird shit on our public benches more than we do homeless persons? Seeing vagrants in a space that the public shares, forces us to acknowledge how similar they are to us. And that’s terrifying. I mean, who really wants to imagine themselves in the shoes of those shoeless? No one. So logically, no one should have to live that reality, right?

The dehumanizing experience of homelessness starts when we refuse to acknowledge their faces; their very existence.

Maybe it’s because of our fear of identifying with the homeless that many of us refuse to take action for change (other than donating our spare change). But now is a more desperate time than ever to face our fears. According to the Union Gospel Mission’s annual report, shelter occupancy is at 97%, with the number of women users having grown at 32%. Although the number of people using homelessness outreach programs have increased in the past five years, income assistance has not increased in nine years.

Your voice matters… often times, more than those of the homeless. So use it.

How can we go about reversing those de-humanizing moments, taking each footstep and pushing them to face each other –human to human? In other words, what can YOU do? Lots. Educate yourself, volunteer your time, donate to homeless initiatives, and spread the word. Your voice matters… often times, more than those of the homeless. So use it.

Below are a list of major Greater Vancouver organizations that work to end homelessness in the city and province.

Megaphone Magazine

Megaphone is a magazine dedicated to bringing a voice for the marginalized. Vendors are low-income and homeless entrepreneurs. All profits go straight into the pockets of the vendors. The magazine is written by marginalized individuals, and published by professional journalists and designers.

Street to Home

Street to Home believes in a housing first approach, which ensures secure housing with support for those chronically homeless. The organization develops long-term plans, as well as immediate implementations. In this link, you can learn how to get involved with Street to Home and various related organizations.

The Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness

The Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness (RSCH) is a coalition comprised of local organizations and governments of all levels. In this link, you can learn how to address government bodies with homelessness issues, and get involved with various related organizations.

Selenna loves creating change through written media platforms, and is thoroughly enjoying her experience with Link Magazine. She has also worked for the publishing organizations PRISM Magazine, Surrey Women's Centre, Her Campus, Sojourners, and McCreary. Selenna has been published for her creative, academic, and journalistic writing. Selenna can be found travelling, doing ballet or yoga, and watching "Daria."

sho@bcitsa.ca