A picture may be worth a thousand words but this morning tears filled my eyes and my heart ached deeply for another human being.
It was a beautiful morning, around 5:15 a.m, and we were driving through a downtown Vancouver Island community. It was quiet as most people were still sleeping at home in their warm, cozy beds. As we drove along what my daughter pointed out to me shattered the calm of the morning. I was not prepared to see the body of what looked to be a woman laying on the floor of a bank, curled up facing the wall. It took a few seconds to comprehend what I was seeing, and I can’t describe what I was feeling, but a wave of emotions overwhelmed me and I did my best to keep from crying in front of my daughter.
Only one other time have I felt similar and that was in downtown Calgary back in the early 90’s when, for the first time in my life, I watched a homeless man eat food straight out of a dumpster. Somehow this situation was a bit different. Maybe it’s because this is a woman. Maybe because I was almost there, having been homeless for a short time a few years ago. And I have seen countless images and videos depicting the plight of homeless people, but nothing hits home as much as seeing this woman lying there in a bank of all places. This was real, this was not an image.
I was thinking about my youth and do not recall ever seeing a homeless person in my town, nor do I recall seeing one in the city. So much has changed over the years and homelessness is a growing concern. My community alone has numerous homeless and it has reached a crisis level. The numbers are only going to go up as the rental situation across Vancouver Island worsens. It’s not just single people, it’s families. This is Canada, a rich and prosperous country! Why? I have a hard time understanding how we treat our own. The homeless are shunned and demeaned and they are all someone’s children.
I am not going to mention the community where this poor woman sleeps on the floor as I do not want to endanger her safe harbour. We feel she is at least safe in the bank entry where video cams are watching over her as she sleeps, and it’s warm and bright, unlike the back alleys were some homeless sleep. I do want to thank the bank for not forcing her away as I am sure they could. Please, if you happen to know where this is, or who this poor woman is, I ask that you do not divulge her location for her safety sake.
Why has no one helped this poor lady? I was told she has been living like this for at least 3 years and she is here year-round. She is likely in her mid 50’s and her face shows a hard life. Her dress is modern and you likely wouldn’t know she was homeless to meet her on the street. I want to speak to her, to learn more about her. What is her story? Does she have family? If she lived in my community I would have connected with her long ago to see if there was something I could do for her. I feel so sad. This in BC, this in Canada, should not be happening.