While many among you will be on theme
and follow in with tales of warm and lavish homes from your childhood and such,
I took the opposite road!!
What about the homeless?!?
Let's go back in time,
thanks to the Archives of the McCord Museum,
"Burning of the Hayes House, Dalhousie Square, Montreal, 1852".
(Painting by James Duncan).
The flames burned for two days,
leaving 10 000 people on the streets.
Becoming homeless may be due to tragedy or poor choices in life.
In either case,
the situation requires a helping solution.
"Old Men's Refectory, Grey Nunnery, Montreal, 1890".
(Photography by James George Parks).
The two main communities in Montreal had a different approach toward charity work.
Anglos tended to take matters in their own hands in a private endeavor
while the French tended to rely on religious orders to take care of that,
though one doesn't exclude the other,
But there was/is certainly a different mentality.
"Soup Kitchen [possibly] in a Church Basement, Montreal, 1930".
The English elite often got involved to finance various projects
and Women's organizations took care of the details
to provide some comforts to the needy.
"Monks Giving Shoes and Clothes to Old Men, Montreal, 1930".
If it hadn't been for the presence of many religious orders involved in this,
so many destitute would have been even far worse than they were.
Those were dire times and the need far exceeded whatever was available...
I recently took a few pictures of the better known refuges in the district,
because some things remain a sad reality:
There will always be poor people,
there will always be those who fall through the cracks of the system,
remaining in a state of isolation and starvation [among other problems].
our government decided to empty the institutions that catered to people with psychiatric problems,
leaving them to wander the streets.
Plus drugs and alcohol further compound the problem,
making these cases difficult to deal with
and provide for them rehabilitation and a safer environment.
Often they end up with a criminal record
due to violence, stealing and other misdemeanors.
Hardly anything to help the situation here.
Some willingly commit an offense just so they can go to jail and be taken care of,
something they are unable to do for themselves...
How sad is that?!?
It just proves our system is failing lamentably those most fragile among us.
But one must applaud the efforts deployed by those who work in those refuges,
employees and volunteers alike!!
First established as a soup kitchen in 1889,
it quickly expended and now offers 488 beds
for a capacity of over 145 000 nights and 260 000 meals yearly.
A hot meal, a shower, fresh clothes, a safe night in bed,
barely enough to give a man back his dignity,
but they also have supervised apartments and psychiatric follow-up
to possibly afford a chance for some to find a bit of normalcy in their life.
This is a private shelter,
the largest [private] one in Canada,
now with five pavilions with each a different purpose/mission.
The result of the actions of laymen, Sulspician priests and Grey nuns
with the St Vincent de Paul Society
to create in 1877 a shelter for those in need back then..
Sister Rose de Lima Bonneau served from 1909 until her death in 1934,
becoming a legend for her kindness and generosity.
This refuge has since developed workshops among other activities
to stimulate the creativity of their clients and help find validation through their accomplishments.
I remember hearing years ago their choir who did find some notoriety.
They recently also held an auction to sell artworks done by their clients.
For the homeless,
going to Bonneau's means going to a place where they will find
compassion, generosity, understanding and comforting,
and a chance at re-evaluating their situation and perhaps make the necessary modifications
to embark on a different journey
rather than one of isolation and misery.
I don't recall the explosion as such even if I lived nearby back then,
but I remember the sound of sirens rushing by and I quickly heard the news
that there had been a gas leak at L'Accueuil (back in 1998).
I went to see my colleagues at the E.R. to know
if they needed me to come in earlier than my evening shift
but against all odds and while most tragic for the dead and the injured,
fatalities were not as high as one might have expected in such circumstances
and those injured were not all brought to where I work
but also to other hospitals in the area,
so the situation was quite manageable for us.
Much like a phoenix,
it was reborn from its ashes
and is now stronger than ever in the belief of its mission.
"La Maison du Pere".
I learned today who was "le pere":
who meant to be a missionary in Argentina
but was offered in 1969 to help instead those we have here.
Thus it began in 1970 with only sixty beds,
welcoming the homeless men and involving them in the process of the organization.
This has remained true as men are offered the opportunity to help their brothers
and feel like a valuable part of the process.
These are only a few of the resources aimed at the homeless in Montreal.
I know of a "few" more and I'd like to mention a couple more,
if you don't mind.
Now 25 years ago,
I remember seeing the caravan at night
where the cold and hungry gathered for some food
and perhaps some clothes.
Young kids living aimlessly on our streets
and finding there the closest thing to a father figure,
Father Emmett Johns,
better known to all as "Pops",
a most engaging and respected figure in the cause of the homeless,
a voice for those who have none.
Dans la Rue is an organization geared toward our youth that finds itself at risk.
They also have a day center since 1997 to cover the kids' basic necessities,
like food, hygiene, clothes, and a support staff for counseling and such.
There are also art workshops available.
I went with a friend a few years ago.
A moving experience as I saw the talent of some,
the humor of others,
despite their circumstances.
You may be interested in reading this post,
(lots of pictures, few words, much food for thought though... Promised!!)
There is also another group I am somewhat familiar with,
a magazine sold on the street by people
who are facing these difficult problems of poverty and social isolation
to help them reconnect with people and find value in their work.
They also contribute to the content of the magazine.
L'Itineraire also acts as a community center,
offering an array of services and referrals to other services
for what goes beyond their mandate or resources.
I first knew about that magazine because I knew his director,
(we used to be neighbors...),
and on those occasions when we discussed his work,
he spoke about it with passion and dedication.
Poverty [and the injustices related to it] has always existed
but there are just some people who are unwilling to give up
and keep on fighting for the rights of the destitute,
giving them a voice.
He's that kind of guy,
The guy you see in the picture above is my Itineraire guy, Joe!!
I've known him for many years now.
A kind soul.
I know others but he's my favorite.
We give each other updates on our respective lives
and bid each other farewell 'till the next time.
Poverty is not scary,
it is sad.
It is not airborne either,
you won't catch it.
Be kind the next time you come across a less fortunate one,
and perhaps you could even listen to what he/she has to say
instead of avoiding to look at him/her.
They have a name,
they have a life [or the right to one].
Home is where the heart is,
and if your heart has a place to call home,
find yourself fortunate!!
Not everyone has that privilege,
even in the civilized world...
Time for you to go "home", meaning
Thanks for dropping by!!