Lazy, and obdurate. Masochists. Filthy, greedy, animals. We are feral. Cunning and vile. We simply do not know what’s good for us.
These are the terms City of Toronto applies to the homeless, discreetly.
Watch the news, and you’ll see reports featuring public servants, credible people society relies upon — Firemen, Police, Paramedics, speaking about what they’ve found.
The Mayor, a press conference. One step away from a scolding, an attitude of firm, tough love. During Christmas holiday season you’ll find a note of compassion. Elsewise, it’s ‘beware the menacing homeless.’
City Hall wouldn’t write any of those words into a memo or policy. They’re people. They don’t want to appear unkind. Instead, they push the concept, the facade. It’s the lightly crafted use of a half-formed idea. A tweet, or a look. A photo, an article. Bias and stereotype do the rest.
Words, barely formed, surface in the public mind. The shadow of a thought. You needn’t think too hard on it. They’re dirty. They’re thieving away your hard-earned tax money. Don’t give it another moment, we’ve got this. It’s only common sense. We’ll take care of it. It’s what you’re paying us for.
You’ve seen us on the street, in the park, on TV.
We’re a threat to ourselves. We nest, unwanted and uninvited. We set fires. We are criminals. We invade City property. We make a public space unsightly.
Coming away from a story on homelessness you carry that message with you. The seed of an idea, already rooted. You nurture it every time you see an encampment, an addict, or a panhandler. It’s not your fault. Soon enough, you’ll see another story about a fire, or statistics about overdose deaths.
Once a year, you’ll hear about a serious crime involving a homeless. You’ll see the grainy videos of shit-throwing vagrants, angry beyond proportion over a closed bathroom, or some other nuisance.
What’s it all about?
Why don’t they just go to shelters? Why do they refuse to leave the parks? It’s a shame. The help is there, why don’t they just accept it? Make everybody’s life easier.
Milk or cream? Sugar or sweetener? Coffee or tea? We all make decisions. When last did you refuse something? It was something you didn’t want, probably. Why? Why do people refuse things? Any number of reasons. You don’t simply accept anything offered to you.
Who did you answer to for your refusal? Maybe you’re a bit wild and answered to a judge. No? A bureaucrat. A security guard? Your mom.
More than likely, you only answered to yourself. Your partner, your children, your loved ones, if the decision was contentious.
Did you question yourself? Your right to decide? Your ability to make a decision? Your faith in yourself, or your legitimacy? No, probably not.
Were you made to feel less than a person for saying no? Look at the image below. The title, in particular.
‘Homeless… refusing outreach.’
You already know what I think.