This article about homelessness was written by Avrum Rosensweig, and appeared in the Canadian Jewish News (cjnews.com) on December 24th.
In recent weeks, a number of people have died while living on the streets of Toronto. Tony passed away at 44 years of age in early December.
Tony was created by parents who, for some reason, had no intention of being around, and he was therefore without a home from very early in his childhood.
Childhood homelessness does occur in Toronto. Kids frequently go from foster home to foster home, run away and get tossed into juvenile detention, are released without sufficient support or assistance and end up on the streets again. It’s a vicious cycle from which it can be almost impossible to escape. Throughout Tony’s life, which ended tragically in the grip of HIV/AIDS, this eternal orphan never had a home. Being confined within walls made him feel claustrophobic, and so he would always return to the cold and lonely streets. They were safe and familiar. Strange to believe, eh?
But Tony was not the only “homeless” Torontonian to die in early December. Have you ever heard of Spring, a young native woman who secured housing after a long struggle to do so?
One night, Spring invited a homeless man to sleep in her home. There was nothing sexual or lascivious about it. She was hospitable and empathized with the man knowing the frigid chills that would run through his body if he were to sleep on the ground wrapped in a cheap sleeping bag. She went to sleep and so did her guest. At some point in the night, he slipped out of bed, grabbed a weapon and bludgeoned Spring to death. That was it. Her murder was brutal. It affected the homeless, especially the natives on the street, in a very powerful way. They did not take the killing of their friend lightly. Grudges can last forever out there. Some tears flowed at her memorial. Anger, though, was everywhere.
Homelessness is complex. Those we call homeless suffer terribly. Many are gracious, generous and highly charitable and they need our help.
With this knowledge, it is crucial that we also recognize that the freezing cold winter is back. This season prompts us to consider the amount of of snow that has fallen so that we can ski. It also might compel us to consider the tragic reality that human beings, community members, are sleeping in parks tonight, or are huddled in parking garages to stay “warm,” at least until they get booted out. Our community members on or near the street ask that we become conscious of their plight so that they are not alone. As survivors, they want us to be cognizant of the reality that dozens of men, women and teens will die this winter outside our homes, some of them in dumpsters meant to protect them from the snow and wind. (Imagine a Torontonian, someone’s child, dying in big, green garbage bin.)
Please post this article and refer to it when it’s cold out there. Many of our shuls conduct Out of the Cold programs; Mazon Canada provides funding to organizations that assist the hungry, many of whom are homeless. Donate. Ve’ahavta has vans on the street helping the homeless. Volunteer. Google this information or call Jewish Information Centre (416-635-5600). Take a homeless person for a meal, buy them a coffee, or stop and ask about their welfare. Ask them what they need the most.
In Genesis, Abraham left God in the middle of a conversation to feed “strangers.” We could do the same. Homelessness really sucks!