Squeegee Attack: Follow-up

I spoke to Joe Elkerton, the Director of Project417 – Ekklesia Inner City Ministries ( project417.com ), regarding the recent assault by a homeless squeegee person. According to Rev. Elkerton, the squeegee person in question was known to police and has a history of mental illness. These are the most vulnerable on our streets – and we need to take that reality into consideration when dealing with them. Ever since the de-institutionalization of mental health treatment, there has been a huge and widening chasm between the treatment of the average person and at risk people like the homeless, especially those with concurrent disorders, such as drug addiction and mental illnesses. With respect to physical health, it has long been known that the homeless are under served. According to a St. Michael’s Hospital survey, male homeless street youth have a mortality rate seven times higher than the general population, while homeless adult men are four times more likely to die than the average rate.

From a report published on Canadianchristianity.com “There are “hundreds of thousands of people” with mental illness who are “doing just fine,” said Tobias, such as university professors on Prozac or bipolar businessmen receiving regular medication. However, Tobias said he routinely encounters problems “where mental health and poverty intersect.” Chris Summerville, a member of the Commission’s Board of Directors and an ordained Christian minister, said about a third of homeless people have “a diagnosable mental illness” and about half of hospital stays for the homeless are due to mental health issues.

So it’s a good bet that many of the homeless, including sgueegee people, are suffering from, or are at risk of developing a mental illness. We need to take this into account when we are dealing with them – that is we need to engage in non-confrontational, non-violent behaviour, including, and perhaps specifically, verbal communications.

I would assume this would pre-clude the use of the “F” word when dealing with squeegees, panhandlers and other street involved people. Hopefully it would also extend to those we deal with on a regular basis amongst family, business and our own circle of friends. I feel that, as Kat has commented on my previous post, violence and confrontational behaviour are becoming the norm. The incident with the squeegee is not unique to the homeless, but a growing problem in society at large.

For example, when we do our Project417 sandwich runs weekly, taking bag lunches to the homeless street people, there is one woman who has been living next to the court house for several months, I approach with special care. She obviously is suffering from mental illness, and challenges us if we offer her food, asking dozens of questions – “Who are we, what organization authorizes us, why does the city allow us, why should she accept food…” and so on. If you try to respond to each question, or remind her that you have met before she becomes increasingly adjitated, angry and confused. Most of her verbal attacks are personal and abusive in nature and she will follow us and pursue us across the square if she doesn’t feel satisfied with our answers. I recognize the source of her abusive and violent behaviour and do all I can to calm her if we inadvertantly disturb her. Mike - Homeless on Queen

Check the links to the right of this post for further articles on the subject.

Squeegee and Panhandling

No Violence!

Well I was shocked yesterday when I heard about an alleged assault of a driver in a convertible by a squeegee kid.  I remember the news reporting the details as “the squeegee kid offered to clean the drivers car windows and the driver said No and an argument ensued. The youth climbed into the passenger side of the car and proceeded to assault the driver. Police are investigating”.  So the first thing that comes to my mind is that there should be ZERO TOLERANCE  for any type of violence out on the streets, and no excuses for street people assaulting anyone regardless of antagonism, with the exception of self-defence.  The second is – These are my people, some are my friends, I know most of them by sight and many by name. What are we going to do? It’s like they’re committing hari-kari.

Obviously this is a very large issue and I’m going to be commenting on it extensively over the next few days.  Councillor Casey Ootes is renewing his call for a complete ban on panhandling in Toronto. Do you agree or disagree? Here’s some insight ito the news reports:  Quote”…the driver said no and an argument ensued…” .  Common sense tells us that the driver said much more than “no”,  he probably made good use of the f**k word and may have followed it up with the “get-a-job” epithet or some other pithy and , only to him, witty remark designed to hurt.  He may even have challenged the youth – thats for the police investigation to decide. I won’t say you get what you deserve, because there is no excuse for violence, but who is the first to have escalated the violence?, the driver or the squeegee kid? Is violence and assault only physical? No, of course not. Look into the issues surrounding violence against women and the first symptons are always “verbal abuse”-  Using violent hurtful language is a form of assault. And I can tell you from experience that these street youth face that violence hundreds of times a day.

Panhandling also comes under attack again, with the reminder that a “gang of panhandlers” murdered an innocent visitor to the city just last month. I’ll discuss this more in the next post. Just suffice it to say, the attackers were NOT a “gang” of panhandlers, they may not have even been from Toronto and just in town to visit, party and cause trouble…

Canada’s Injustice to First Nations

Canada votes against UN declaration on aboriginal rights

From Yahoo! Canada News & CP

By Steve Lambert

(CP) – Aboriginal leaders, human rights groups and the opposition blasted the Conservative government Thursday after Canada voted against a United Nations declaration on aboriginal rights.

They accused the government of trying to sweep aside an important show of support for aboriginals that took 20 years of negotiations among UN countries.

“By opposing this declaration the Conservative government has signalled to aboriginal Canadians that their rights aren’t worth defending,” Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said in a statement.

“This is a stain on the country’s international reputation,” said Phil Fontaine, head of the Assembly of First Nations.

“It is disappointing to see this government vote against recognizing the basic rights of Canada’s First Peoples.”

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed easily Thursday, 143-4. Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States voted against and 11 countries abstained.

Canada said it could not support the document because its broad wording appeared to give native communities sweeping powers that could contravene existing law.

“It’s inconsistent with the Canadian Constitution, with Supreme Court decisions and with our own treaty negotiations and obligations,” Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said from Ottawa.

Among the many problems with the document, Strahl said, are sections that say laws that affect aboriginals should only be passed with the prior consent of First Nations.

“We’d have to consult with 650 First Nations to do that. I mean, it’s simply not doable,” he said.

Another section of the UN declaration says aboriginals “have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.”

That is also unworkable, according to Strahl.

“Some people … say that means we can have our own legislatures, our own council in our own language,” Strahl said.

“But no one’s quite sure, and that’s the trouble with language like that.”

Critics argued the UN declaration is not binding on any country, and is more of a symbolic commitment to aboriginal rights.

“It’s an aspirational document…it wouldn’t contravene laws that are in place,” NDP Indian affairs critic Jean Crowder said from Nanaimo, B.C.

“I think (Canada’s vote) is a very cowardly and, I would say, un-Canadian approach to human rights.”

Aboriginal leaders, however, felt the document was more than just a vague expression of support.

“It recognizes who we are, that we have these fundamental rights,” said John Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress, which represents 35 aboriginal communities

“To us it’s like the U.S. Declaration of Independence, because it lays out a number of inalienable truths about us as aboriginal people in the world.”

Visit Project417 to help

Mission_log: New Site about Poverty and Homelessness

Hi everyone. This is a new site (thanks to wordpress blogs) to update and replace my old yahoo! geocities site. I’ll be migrating over most of the information and links from the old mission_log site to this new one, but will probably leave the existing stuff there as well as archives and so on. The site — http://www.oocities.org/mission_log/ — (geoCities closed down but has been archived by oocities.org) will primarily refer readers to this one.  Here I’ll be posting updates about my mission to help the homeless in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – also around the world, like New Orleans post Katrina, and neighbouring cities like Hamilton, volunteer opportunities, poverty relief training, harm reduction, etc.

Feel free to send me feedback. We all have an obligation to make poverty history as the saying goes, including homelessness and to alleviate the shameful conditions of the homeless, low income families, at risk street youth, and the working poor. I’m a hands-on street outreach worker with the homeless. I’ll give you the straight goods about issues like panhandling, squeegee kids, drug abuse and more. For more organizational stuff, click on the ABOUT link above.  The official site is still Project417.com — Talk to you all soon.

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Andy Coates

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