This past week-end, I went to a mid-singles (25-35) conference at church. It was really a lot of fun. I saw a lot of old friends - (who had various reactions of surprise and wonder at my changing appearance). I made some new friends, all of whom are really great people. I just had a really really great time. The Saturday portion of the conference was tightly action-packed to the extreme. Saturday morning we went to various workshops. I went to 3 different ones starting with one girl's experiences as a resident at a Ugandan hospital, and her fight against HIV in that country. It was really touching and also sad to hear about her experiences there. Then, I went to a Karate Workshop, and learned proper fist-making, punches, and kicks; even got to do some!! They also taught us a little self-defense. It was very useful, and also gave me a little extra exercise for the day. Then, I went to a workshop on "Dating for Grown-ups". It was really good, and interesting. There was one really uncomfortable moment where there were jungle personalities doing a song and dance routine, but nonetheless, it was somewhat entertaining. After that, we had pizza - massive quantities of Pizza. Heard a keynote speaker. Then, it was off to our service projects for the afternoon.
There were about 6 different projects to choose from and there were good sized groups at each one. My friend and I decided to go to the Calgary Drop-In Centre to help out. We went, taking about 15 extra pizzas with us. I mean, what good were they going to do us? As we were walking in with the pizzas, people came over and asked us for a piece, and there we were distributing pizzas. That was fun. There was one crowd sitting on the grass that had some serious munchies (if you know what I mean) we gave them a whole one. Anyway, we went in, and helped out in assembly-line fashion at the kitchen making bag lunches for people to grab and go. That was a good experience, but then our contact there - Mark (awesome awesome awesome) took us on a tour of the facility. Mark is a really cool dude, who has great stories, and an amazing attitude. He's been there, you know? So, he knows how people feel. He put it in the right context for us, each of these people we are helping are individuals. Each human soul has value, and that's their focus there. (It has to be) So, I've never seen the upper floors of the Drop-In Centre before, and it's really pretty amazing what they do there. They encourage positive life choices and help people to feel empowered. People come into the centre sometimes at rock bottom. Suppose you were addicted to crack and living on the street, and you woke up to reality one morning and decided you just can't do this anymore, some day you're going to wind up dead. (this is the example Mark used), so you would arrive at the drop-in centre, and spend some time at intox until you were sober. Then, once you were sober (sober is a requirement for safety reasons for all patrons involved), you could line up and get a ticket for a bed to stay in for the night. There's only so many beds mind you, so not everyone gets one. Obviously this is a problem in all drop-in type centres. Imagine not knowing you're going to have a bed for the night. Each person who does have one ought to count their blessings. I'm so grateful for the bed I get to sleep in. Anyway, if a person is making positive choices, and really trying to make changes in their lives, they may have a chance to have a semi-permanent (until they get really on their feet) home on one of the upper floors. This is determined by the counsellors, they watch people to see what kind of changes people are making in their lives. They have their own bed, their own locker, and often, this is the best home they've ever seen, so it's like a paradise to them. So, then they mentor people to help them get on their feet. I asked Mark my question - and he answered it as I imagined he would... I asked him if he saw that there were more and more working people (I mean working full-time) that were homeless. He answered by saying yes, there most certainly was. This is a subject which upsets me very much, as I have seen the rents go up, and the slum landlords get rich off of them. I am really lucky at the moment, that my parents own a home, and I pay them rent. I pay them an amount which is really helpful to them, but it still is really cheap in comparison to what I would be paying out there - if I had my own apartment. The thing is, Calgary is now ridiculously expensive to live in, and with the cost of housing, food, transportation going up; the wages have not adjusted to keep up with that. It just makes absolutely no sense to me. Anyway, something needs to be done. I wonder if the provincial and city government really "get it". This, I doubt very much. There needs to be rent control, or at the very least, the city needs to buy more property to make into low-income housing - throughout the city, not just in one area. So, that, in a nutshell, is what we did Saturday afternoon. After that, we had dinner, speed dating, and a dance. These were all fun activities, but the real highlight of the conference for me was my experience at the drop-in centre. I'm glad to know that there are people out there that care about what's going on in our city with regards to the homeless. It could so easily be one of us. Not only drug-users or mental-health patients end up on the street. Anyone could wind up there, especially at this difficult stage.