Under the Bridge
By Jerry Aulenbach
While I was waiting to meet another Realtor at a condo, I decided to go take a few photos under the bridge on Jasper Ave and 90 Street. I knew there were homeless people under there often, not because I'd ever seen them, but I just knew. While I was down there I spotted one guy, but left him alone. I continued down the ravine, and he came down and asked if I was with National Geographic. I told him no, and tried to reassure him that I hadn't taken photos of him. He then invited me to check out his tent. I asked if I could share his story online, and he was ok with it.
With this story, I hope that we will be reminded that the homeless are not nameless or faceless. I wish I knew how we could help them all become self-reliant and take care of themselves, but I don't know of any magic formula. I do know that some of the ingredients are charity, compassion, understanding, and a commitment to making change. The homeless also have to be willing to make changes too. That won't be easy at all, especially when they have grown accustomed to their miserable lifestyle. Anyway, this wasn't intended to preach, but just a few thoughts on the matter. I do hope that Edmonton's commitment to end homelessness is effective. It's a huge goal, so I hope that progress is being made.
An Update from Edmonton's Committee to End Homelessness
A Place to Call Home - Edmonton's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness is barely a year old, but already significant progress is being made. The Plan is centered on the Housing First principle. Simply put, the first step in solving the problem of homelessness is to find people permanent homes. Then provide them with the support they may need to be successful in their homes. The target for the first year was to house 150 people through this approach, but by the end of December 2009, 500 people had already been housed.
It won't be easy and it requires change. It has required a change by the funders - away from funding more and more shelter beds to funding housing and supports. It has required a change in approach by some of Edmonton’s social service agencies, away from attending to the immediate day-to-day needs of the homeless to supporting them in their journey to new homes. And it requires those experiencing homelessness to also accept a change. Living on the street or in our river valley is all consuming. It requires those experiencing homelessness to accept that they can survive in an apartment. Lastly, it requires communities to change, to accept and welcome these urban refugees in to their midst.