We wanted to share a tale with you that one of our volunteers, Robert H wrote about the Street Outreach that we did this week.
Last night we were out for water warriors. We knew it was going to be a rough night before we started. Oilers game day, St Paddy and the weather has turned nice again so everyone had been kicked out of the overcrowded shelters. 275 sandwiches and all the donations, helping hands, everything else. We are slapping a bandage onto a severed artery and just hoping that somewhere, somehow, we are going to be able to get some help. (Boy, that surplus budget that Kenney seemed so proud of, a small portion of that dedicated to helping the unhoused would sure go a long way)
About 30 minutes into our walk, someone told us that there was someone on the bridge and looked suicidal. (They described it as "hanging on the bridge")
A few of us ran off to provide aid and assistance.
Came across this small lady, probably younger than I was, but older than the absolute hero who just popped right down and started talking to her.
All us guys could do was try to keep the onlookers away. The real hero was one of our volunteers who just sat there listening, prompting, empathizing, and most importantly, being there for this lady.
She'd been abused in one of the aforementioned overcrowded shelters. What she wanted at the time we were there was to have a shower in peace so she could feel clean.
My heart breaks every time I listen to the stories. It's not a fun life; it's not a fair life. This woman had been on the streets for 5 years. She didn't want a smoke from us, she didn't want a sandwich, she didn't want US there. But she talked. And we listened to her. And let her know that she was valued.
Early on another volunteer asked me if I thought we should call for help. I said, yes. But have them approach quietly and most importantly out of sight. PACT (Police and Crisis Team, a pair of police officer and a psychologist) was swamped but eventually came.
By this time our unsung hero (remember? This whole time, probably 30 to 40 mins) has been sitting quietly talking to this poor lady, not really getting much, but making a difference in their life. Eventually the lady made the choice for herself, and came back in off the ledge. She sat down, ate the sandwich, started talking to us, and told us a little more of her struggles. PACT came around this time, and while the initial handover was a little rough, we got her taken care of and all I can hope is that she found a little peace.
People say things when I tell them about what we do on Thursday nights.
"You're so strong. You're braver than me. You do so much."
I ain't shit. If the other volunteer hadn't been there? I would have tried, you can be sure of that. But I'm a guy. I may be a big fucking teddy bear of a guy, but to this lady I might as well have been one of the people who had abused her. Our volunteer saved the life of someone by sitting and listening to their story.
For the 5 of you who read through this (Hi Mom, yes, I'm fine, please stop worrying)
Thank you for listening to me. Please write, email, or call your MLA and remind them there are a lot of folks who could use a little more help out there.
My family and friends - I know your donations are always appreciated and well received. But we need to change the way these folks are treated. There are a lot of abandoned buildings downtown that would look a lot better with people living in them instead of as monuments to someone's ego.
Go forth with love. Be kind and gentle to yourselves and those around you.
~Robert H - Water Warriors Team Leader