What do kicking someone out of their halfway house-type accommodation, calling emergency mental health services and then having someone forcibly removed from the premises by police, and finding a dead body have in common? Apparently they are all in a weeks work when you work at the largest emergency shelter in town.
But that isn’t what I came here to write about. I had wanted to write a story of happiness, of Christmas spirit and Christmas joy at work in the emergency shelters.
We are all familiar with the story of two young people travelling a long distance, one preggo, only to find there is no where for them to stay when they get to their destination. I don’t know if I’ve ever stopped to think about whether or not they had money for a place even if there was one to be found, but like it or not, they were homeless.
How might that story translate to 2011?
It is Christmas Eve and this young family with three children under six finds themselves unable to sleep in their car as they have been for the last while: it is raining and the back window is broken. Not only that but they have no food. Alone and strangers in town, they make their way to the emergency shelter.
Sorry, we can’t take children. We are a 19+ shelter only.
But what about families? Where are families supposed to go?
We’ll call the Ministry and see what they suggest … They are closed until Tuesday, there is nothing we can do … We’ll check with the Housing workers at the Community Centre that administers our family units … Also on holidays … Well, we just happen to have one of our family units vacant at the moment. It isn’t large, in fact there is only 1 bedroom for the five of you, but it is warm and dry and you can leave your small car in the parking lot …
And so some staff members went grocery shopping and then shopping to get Christmas gifts for three youngsters who’s parents were afraid to tell them it was Christmas Eve for fear of disappointing them with another year of nothing.
While it isn’t much, it is five more people out of the cold with a dry roof over their heads and a stable floor below their feet. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.