March 18, 2009
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
It’s the end of day 4 of my 7 day hunger strike. This evening, rather than droning on about the effects on my physical and mental well being, I thought that I would focus my comments on giving a face to the homeless.
When I was in University I was dating a woman by the name of Ann. On Tuesdays Ann would go to a downtown soup kitchen to play her flute for the folks who went there for lunch. One particular Tuesday she arrived quite a bit early. The place was relatively empty so with a half hour until she had to play she sat down in the dining area to do a bit of physics homework.
One of the regulars who had also arrived early asked if he could sit with Ann which was fine with her. He asked Ann what she was working on so she showed him her assignment, which she had only just started. This gentleman asked if he could help Ann with her homework, she humored him and slid her textbook and assignment across the table. He then proceeded to scribble down answers to each question and in a short time he had finished the assignment. It was getting near lunch time and Ann had to play her flute so she thanked him for his assistance, packed up her papers, and played music to the lunch crowd.
That evening Ann pulled out her papers and started re-doing her assignment. With each question she found that the answers that the man at the soup kitchen had provided were the same as her answers, except for two. Ann submitted her own work and when the assignment came back she had everything correct except for two questions. I’m sure you can guess what two questions she had wrong!
The following Tuesday Ann purposely arrived a little early in the hopes that the gentleman would be there and sure enough he arrived a short time later. She told him that he got 100% on the assignment, thanked him once again for his assistance, and asked him how he was so knowledgeable about 2nd year University physics. He then told her that he had once been a physics professor. He had a wife, children, a very nice home, two cars, and a good life. One day, however, something switched in his brain. He lost all ability to cope with his job, his wife, his children, his home and car payments. He couldn’t cope with any kind of stress and one by one he lost all those parts of his life. After a period of institutionalization he ended up in a cheap,run-down single room hotel where his lack of coping skills made him a prime target for continued victimization. From time to time he was homeless, but for the most part he scraped by, unable to cope with the stress of any kind.
I don’t know what ever happened to that gentleman, but I have met many people with stories that are just as compelling. People who, through no fault of their own, end up on the streets. These are the people for whom the Hunger Strike Relay is meant to represent. If we took the time to get to know their stories, maybe we would be a little more compassionate and Government would finally move to stem this rising tide and end homelessness.
Twelve meals missed and only nine more to go! Hopefully I’m on the home stretch.
PS. March 19th Edit - I’ve been writing these letters at night and posting them when I log on to the web in the morning. I was pleased to see a note this AM from your office’s Executive Correspondence Officer. It advised that my correspondence should be going to Minister Diane Finley. I’m on a hunger strike here, did your Executive Correspondence Officer really think that I would be shunted that easily? I will cc. Minister Finley with future correspondence, but I will continue to send these letters to you as we both know that any Minister will only do what is in line with the Prime Minister’s platform, and they can only do as much as the Government decides to fund. Change takes leadership and you are the Government leader. It will take leadership from you to get this ball rolling!
cc. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition
Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP
Libby Davies, MP
Premier Gordon Campbell
Jenny Kwan, MLA
James Moore, MP
Stockwell Day, MP
Mayor Gregor Robertson
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