Of Homelessness and the Human Library 2013
I bought a homeless man socks, gloves and a headband from the dollar store yesterday. "M" is a daily user of the Toronto Reference Library - friendly, well spoken and good natured. Thinking about the cold snap Monday I brought a spare pair of gloves from home for him. He's already wearing a wool sweater one of the other staff gave him. He didn't want the gloves saying they were too thick and would hurt his hands. I offered him money to go to the dollar store and buy something he would like and he turned that down. When I offered to go myself he said sure.
So, off I went on my dinner break and bought some gloves that went up past the wrist and also a pair of socks and a headband. "M" doesn't normally wear socks but I thought they might come in handy in -15 weather. I'm happy to say the gloves and headband were a success. This morning he told me he used them last night but not the socks as he has a hole in his shoes that seeps water. So we brainstormed a bit around cardboard and plastic bags to keep the water out and socks dry.
If you're interested in homelessness in Toronto and Hamilton you may want to attend the free documentary program at Danforth Coxwell Library: Homelessness in Toronto - The Home Safe Documentary Series on Wednesday January 23 & 30th from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.
The same two documentaries (Toronto and Hamilton) will also be shown at the Lillian H Smith Library on Wednesday February 6 and 13th 2013. Queen Saulter Library will host Home Safe Toronto Thursday March 21, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
And lastly, the Toronto Reference Library will host Home Safe Toronto Tuesday March 26, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. Facilitators from SkyWorks, a non-profit documentary organization, will lead discussion following the screenings.
Home Safe Toronto (Jan 23) reveals how the recession and the decline of manufacturing have left families with low wages facing the terrible choice between keeping a roof over their heads and putting food on the table.
It's funded by SkyWorks Charitable Foundation and led by filmmaker Laura Sky and street nurse and homeless advocate Cathy Crowe. Cathy Crowe is also the author of Dying for a home : homeless activists speak out which you can borrow from the Library. In 2011 Crowe presented the fifth annual Callwood Lecture at the Toronto Reference Libary where she spoke about the need for social housing and why we need social programs now more than ever.
This morning I listened to CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. He was speaking about the Human Library program that is happening at the Toronto Reference Library this coming Saturday Jan 26th from 12-4. This is part of a national program CBC is sponsoring with libraries across Canada.
This year's Human Books are:
- Aboriginal leadership advocate Gabrielle Scrimshaw
- CBC radio producer Ing Wong-Ward
- newcomer advocate Sabina Ali
- Black Daddies Club founder Brandon Hay
To place a hold on a "Human Book", call 416-393-7161, or visit Toronto Reference Library.
To paraphrase an earlier blog post : Toronto Public Library held our first-ever Human Library program on Saturday, November 6, 2010. In the spirit of the original Human Library, the TPL program invited Torontonians to step into another person's shoes by borrowing them for a one-on-one conversation inside the library. The first collection included individuals who were formerly homeless, who lived with a disability, and those who contributed to Toronto's culture scene. In the pilot year, we had nearly 200 checkouts (i.e. one-on-one conversations).
As I sat in bed this morning - under a duvet and flannel sheets - wondering how cold it was going to be I was reminded of one of the first TPL human books who had been homeless. I wondered how "M" had coped with the cold last night. He spends the night at a coffee shop - he doesn't like the hostel system - he feels it's unsafe. He spends all night at this coffee shop because they let him stay and sometimes give him free coffee.
What it would it be like to walk in his shoes ? What would it be like to live in his shoes and to not have the option to walk in a warmer dry pair?
Thinking about this I'm reminded of my father (God rest his soul) who went down to the Dominican Republic one winter on holiday with my mother. He came back wearing only an old worn out pair of shorts and a T-shirt. When I asked him what happened (thinking the airline had lost his luggage) he just looked sheepish and my mom answered saying "your father gave away all his clothes to some local boys". My dad said he had been out for a walk and saw these very skinny kids looking after some very skinny goats and they reminded him of himself at that age so he gave them all his clothes.