Local political platforms on homelessness

How the homeless can suffer without the simple gift of second-hand shoes.
A homeless man and his shoes without soles. @ Zora Zebic 2018

At, what seems to be my usual these days, I wake at 3:30 am. I don’t look at the clock, thinking I had somehow slept until morning. The thing is, the sky just doesn’t look as dark as it usually does, “Why?” I wonder.

I start to rinse the electric coffee pot and realize it is still quite full of yesterday’s coffee. A little startled the coffee pot shakes in my hand drenching the white t-shirt I’d just donned. “Crap!” I exclaim as I pull my top off to scrub it with tap water and dish soap. The stain remains, so I spray it with laundry pre-soak. It is the middle of the night, and I don’t want to wake the downstairs neighbours, so I leave the top to rest in the machine.

I pour a mug and add three lumps of brown sugar and cream. There is something so inviting about the smell and taste of the golden hot drink. I think of the commercials I used to hear when I was young. Coffee was touted as one of the world’s many wonders, and at this moment I tend to agree.

Sitting down at my laptop I read the news, and yet another story is being told about a candidate running in this year’s municipal election. Of course, that brings me back to biased and, in my opinion, cruel negative stories told by our local media.

It seems any more sensationalism is all that counts. What caused our reporters and editors to deviate from telling it like it is, using old-fashioned integrity and sensibilities? I suppose the tried and true Canadian style has just gotten too boring for them.

I’ll make my point with three stories told so far this year, all stories casting horrible aspersions on my homeless centre. With the upcoming municipal election at least three of the incumbent politicians needed to grasp onto something, anything to keep their names out there. It is no secret most people vote on name recognition.

Attack a small homeless charity and paint them as villains, now that might get you elected! The unpopularity of homelessness is a comfortable skirt to latch onto and hide behind. Get the public in an uproar, excite the haters into frothy-mouthed campaigners for you.

Rino Bortolin dramatizing

In the story published by CBC on January 7, 2018, (link above) Rino Bortolin is theatrically melodramatic. He makes claims of rules, yet did not explain what they were. He also spoke of his worries “if a fire had started.”

There was no risk of fire! The Fire Department responded to an anonymous caller who claimed Street Help did not have a working fire alarm system. Concerned, they did what they are mandated to do, they responded to satisfy themselves all was okay.

The only immediate request by the Fire Department, after their very comprehensive inspection, was that we install push bars on the entry/exit doors of The Stone Soup Kitchen, which we had recently taken over! All of our other doors in the centre had push bars!

Bortolin, who has never stepped foot in our centre, used our small agency to get and keep his name in the news. He continues to bash our agency with his falsehoods. In another of his addresses to the media he claims Street Help is not a licensed shelter, yet there is no such law as a licensed shelter. Not any shelter in Windsor, or Ontario are required to be licensed, no such law exists.

Bortolin has run on City Councils decision to hire more police and social workers. This is not his brilliance, nor is this a solution. Without offering a place for the homeless to go, what are these social workers to do?

Rino Bortolin’s platform is grandstanding on the homeless, without offering any real solutions. He has nothing otherwise, and he has sat as one of the “opposition” on city council thus far. Behaving as a schoolyard bully does not make him a reasonable choice for election.

Chris Holt joining the police and media circus

In the article published by the Windsor Star on August 25, 2018 (link above) Chris Holt accused Street Help of allowing drug use.

Holt clearly stated Street Help has “certain latitudes” that are not permitted by downtown homeless services, and goes on to claim homeless service providers downtown have stricter rules about drug consumption.

Holt later denied he accused us of allowing drug consumption; however, he has not asked the media for retractions! Holt is another who has never stepped foot in our centre. His remarks are words of malice and fabrications.

Chris Holt is another who has sat proudly on city council like the other “opposition.” He desires to sweep the homeless issue under the rug. He has no plans to address the issue. Is this a good reason to elect him?

Drew Dilkens’ election platform against the homeless

Blackburn News posted on September 13, 2018, a story where Dilkens denigrates the homeless and lumps them into a category of people who just don’t want to follow the rules.

Unlike his companions Chris Holt and Rino Bortolin, Dilkens has actually stepped foot into Street Help. He failed to find anything out of order. He certainly didn’t see any drug use. Instead, Dilkens witnessed a group of orderly people in fellowship, dining and enjoying the comforts we give.

I asked Dilkens about the date of a meeting to come up with solutions to house the homeless. One of his higher-ups in the Windsor Police had told me this meeting was to take place. Dilkens response was “I’ve never heard anything about a meeting! But I think this meeting should take place.”

A week later Dilkens called to ask if I could attend the meeting he arranged for at 9 am the next morning. I was overjoyed, believing he actually cared about helping the homeless. Little did I know Dilkens was using me, Street Help and the Homeless for his own political gain.

At the meeting, many ideas were bantered about. Some examples of the discussions were about a new temporary shelter for this winter, a tent city, a campground, using abandoned schools, asking local churches to offer accommodation, and that a lot of investment needs to be made into the mental health and addiction services,

The media, with their zeal for tabloid journalism, latched onto the tent city idea only.

Professionals in the field advised Dilkens mental health services are utterly inadequate and underfunded. They told him they are unable to provide services to many of the homeless with mental health issues.

Professionals in the field of addictions told Dilkens much the same. There is no help for the homeless who are desperately trying to get help to get off drugs. People are left without the resources urgently needed, and many are dying due to lack of treatment programs.

Most in the field of sheltering the homeless told Dilkens they don’t have mental health or addictions professionals.  They are overwhelmed and cannot keep the homeless with these issues in their shelters.

Drew Dilkens, with his flair for the hyperbole, press-released his election platform against the homeless. Completely ignoring the advice given him by mental health and addictions professionals and shelter providers. He insisted there will be no accommodation, of any kind to house the homeless with mental health and addiction issues.

How many of us have a family member or friend who suffers from mental health issues or addictions? To cast aspersions, the homeless are all rule breakers or criminals is a heartless debasement.

Isn’t it a tad bit odd all three of these men have chosen to surf a wave to criminalize homelessness? How very alike they are, and it is a wonderment Dilkens would entwine his platform with his “opposition.” It is my opinion, Chris Holt, Rino Bortolin and Drew Dilkens are not good candidates.

© Zora Zebic 2018

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