Vancouver’s Homeless an Olympic Hurdle

Over the last couple of days I’ve had a great opportunity to see some of the things I had really hoped to see while in Vancouver.  About a year ago, I spent two months living on the top step of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  For Me, living on the streets was a necessary part of a spiritual journey.  After understanding that all the material things I had, the lifestyle I worked so hard to maintain had nothing to do with the real purpose of the human experience, I wanted to experience what it was like to live without these things.  I also had a lot of compassion for people on the streets and often offered change or cigarettes even though I knew it wasn’t a solution.  I thought maybe if I were on the streets, maybe then I could make some kind of difference.  I quit My job, gave My notice and sold the last of My possessions.  I kept only clothes and art supplies so that I could paint and sell My work.

As I think back to the moment I left My apartment, handed over My keys and hauled My two suitcases and numerous art pieces out onto the sidewalk, I am tempted to recommend that everyone experience homelessness at least once.  It was the most overwhelming sensation of freedom.  Instead of feeling as if I were homeless, I felt as if the world had suddenly become My home.  I had freed Myself from the apartment I loved and understood how much We are owned by Our material possessions.  The life I lived was a reflection of a dream I once aspired to know.  In understanding the dream was not relevant to Our true spiritual purpose, I deconstructed the dream and created a new one.  Being homeless was essentially a reflection of a spiritual transformation that was taking place within Me.  It seemed appropriate to Me that the right dream, the most glorious dream, should reflect the truth it represents – it too should come from nothing.

‘When You have everything, You have everything to lose.  Make sure the fortune that You seek, is the fortune that You need’ – Ben Harper

One day I will get around to posting a number of lyrics from various artists who are sharing truth with humanity in their own way.  But, as spiritually uplifting as this experience was for Me, it is not for everyone.  I still had way too much stuff for a homeless guy and lugging My suitcases and artwork around was no easy task.  I stood in the sidewalk outside my building for a few moments.  I had no idea where I was going or what I would do, yet I felt completely and utterly at peace, filled with an overwhelming sense of freedom.  Thoughts of sleeping on the beach and watching the night stars whispered in My mind.  Many people would only regard such an event a gateway into an abyss of lost souls.  To choose to be homeless is to choose an alternate reality.  To head to the streets believing that thought is Our true creative power, I knew ahead of time that My perception would be important.

I stood in the sidewalk and took a couple of  long, deep breaths.  It was the first of October and unusually warm for Vancouver.  I then carefully studied all my stuff and wondered how I would ever manage to lug it all anywhere.  Within five minutes I had somehow managed to turn My largest suitcase into a huge dolly using the straps from my suitcase and some string from My art box.  It was heavy, but now it was one big cart strapped with paintings on every side and would get Me where I needed to go.  The only question now, was where exactly was I going to go?

Though the beach sounded great and I could already imagine lying under the stars, I somehow felt compelled to head to the downtown core.  I reached a bench just outside the Vancouver Art gallery and sat down to take a rest and have a smoke.  There were a few people sitting on the back steps of the gallery and one of them started playing guitar.  He was covering one of My favourite bands, Radiohead, so I lugged My stuff over to the steps to listen.  Soon I had arranged My artwork around Me creating a display of My work while also giving Me something to sit behind as I watched the people on the street pass by.

The steps remained My home for the next two months and I made friends fast.  Soon there was a small artistic community congregating at the art gallery, I had daily visitors who would come only to listen to My philosophies and I even managed to make friends with a prominent member of City Council.  Recently I ran into some of My street friends who still remember Me as ‘Artiste’.  They were very flattering, introducing Me to new faces on the street and talking about Me as if I were some kind of legend, showing and telling Me about all the changes the city had done to try to improve things after I left and the grim future that lies ahead.

Although efforts to provide shelters have been made, there are still not enough for everyone.  Also, many people living on the streets do not have the necessary identification to qualify for assistance programs that are in place, nor do they have the resources to acquire them.  With the Olympics heading to Vancouver in only a few months, it is important that the world has the opinion that poverty and homelessness does not exist in Vancouver and the city is determined to bury the problem at any cost.  So, rumour has it that people on the streets that do not acquire shelter before the Olympics will be arrested and jailed until the games are over so that when the world sees the billions of dollars spent to host the games, they will not need to be reminded that this money could have provided food and shelter for thousands of people in poverty.

Could this really happen in Canada?  Would the police really lock up homeless people just because they have nowhere to go, just to save face?  Is it really a crime to be poor?  More importantly, is there really any need for people to be homeless and starving in a city as prosperous as Vancouver, or is there a lack of conscience in those governing the city?  New venues and rushed construction for the Olympics still take priority over poverty.  There is a lot of work to be done if Vancouver intends to address this issue with morality.

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