Gimme Shelter

Contrary to the hardened heart they are not there because they want to be.

The next time you look at someone on a grate bundled in clothes realize that they are there for a reason. Had they the ability to cope or the intestinal fortitude to carry on, I am sure they would, and often do, dream of a different life.

Many remain outside for fear of violence within the shelter system. As is the case, the weak are preyed on physically, sexually and financially. Some commit petty crimes come winter for the safe haven of a penal institution. Generically known amongst them as “3 hots and a cot”.

Some 30 odd years ago I entered a hostel for the first time. Since then I have had the experience to visit virtually all in the downtown core.

Often the shelter system is the last house on the block. Some residents handle the suffering with grace, others with resentment. At one time alcohol was the predominant vice, but now the devil is crack. One social element that has not changed is mental illness. Some shelters are big and inherently more dangerous. Others can be smaller and spiritually based. In most cases, the staffs are very dedicated and special people.

Learning to sleep with your shoes tied to your bed, in a social and economic jail, I am sure is not what their mother envisioned for them..

And so, the builders, engraved, compelling words in stone. Above the passage entering Toronto’s largest shelter, the Seaton House, reads “Someone’s Father, Someone’s Brother, Someone’s Son”.

Prophetic words that urge us into service and “harden not our hearts”.

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