Faith in Action: Teachers helping the homeless

Good morning, I’m Ms. Dachuck, an English teacher here at Carter.  I wanted to share my experience of our staff’s Faith Day on Monday, September . Because of the tireless efforts of Ms. Gagliano and Mr. Lambropolous our staff had a first-hand experience dealing with Toronto’s most vulnerable population, the homeless.

Walking through the streets and parks of areas downtown which most people avoid, for the purpose of interacting with homeless people, was different from anything I’ve experienced before.

The thing is, it’s tricky to try and determine who’s homeless and who’s not. I looked for people dressed in ratty clothes but looks can be deceiving. I was afraid that I might offend someone by offering something they might not need, but it turns out it was pretty easy to spot those who wanted our help because many of them approached us. Smiling faces, worn out faces, tired faces, so many different faces asked us, “What do you have?” And what I admired most was their willingness to ask for what they wanted and what they needed. I guess sometimes when you have little, you take hold of opportunities that come your way.

As we walked along George Street, we passed by Seaton House, Toronto’s largest shelter for men. An overpowering black metal fence separated us from the inhabitants who were sitting on the grass or at picnic tables. We passed our goods to them through the bars, the bars that seemed to me a lot like jail bars. It’s not a prison I reminded myself, but looking at the men on the other side of the bars I wondered do they share the same freedoms I take for granted? Do they have the same opportunities I do? Do they see life the same way I do?

When I looked across the street, sitting on the curb of the driveway only a few feet away from the road I saw a man sleeves pulled up, lighting the underside of a spoon. I knew what he was about to do. I wondered how many times has he done this already today, how many more times will he do this tonight? I thought about him all night long. I wondered if he injects himself in order to forget something that happened long ago or to remember something that happened long ago? What is he doing right now? What is he thinking about? I don’t know him or anything about him, but I do know that I will never forget him.

For those of you who’ve read Shattered by Eric Walters, you’ll get it when I say I felt like Ian doing the rounds with Mac. Even though I didn’t talk to him, that man on the curb is my Jacques, he’s the one I will picture forevermore when I think of homelessness, when I try to wrap my head around what has happened to these people to bring them to this point.

For those of you who’ve read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury you’ll get it when I paraphrase Faber who said that in order to achieve happiness what we need is 1. Quality of information – well I got that on Monday. 2. Time to think about it – well I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And 3. The ability to act. This is where I’m at now. I don’t yet know how to process the people who joyfully took the lunches we had to offer, I don’t yet know how to process the people sleeping or passed out in the parks, I don’t yet know how to process the man shooting up. But I do know that I have to do something.

This day gave me different perspective, and isn’t that what we all need.  A different perspective. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not everyone has had the same family support that I’ve had. Not everyone has found a way to face the obstacles, the bullies, the disappointments, the hurt, and the anger.

We can’t solve all of the problems but we can work together to be part of the solution. Here at Carter there are three social justice groups who work tirelessly to Be the change. We have Legacy, Project Luke and WE Carter. Whether you join one of these councils or support our initiatives or find a way to create change in your own way never doubt that you can be a part of the movement to change the world we live in. You are powerful and able. You have the ability to make a difference. There are others here who feel the same way. Find us. Join us. And help us try to make this world a better place for eveyone.