When I first heard that for
our grade twelve retreat we would be going on an inner
street walk I dreaded going. I thought it would be
kind of cruel to walk around the streets of Toronto and
stare at homeless people all day. But that was not
what this retreat was about at all. It was about
learning what those less fortunate then must us go
through every day to survive. It was about
realizing that we are very fortunate to have a roof over
our head and food to eat each day. It was an
amazing, life changing but also sad experience. I
learned some things from our group leaders that I will
Scooby and Kiesha were the leaders of the group I was
with. We walked through the Aids memorial and read
all the names of the people who had died from the
disease. It was sad to see that even babies had
been killed by Aids. Kiesha explained how easily Aids
can be spread among street kids. Kiesha told us
that many people are walking around with Aids and do not
even realize it. Others who know they have the
disease refuse to tell the people they are sexually
active with that they have contracted Aids because they
are afraid of being alone. We talked about the
park in which the Aids memorial was in and how common it
was to see people dealing or doing drugs there.
Scooby showed us where he used to sleep and we watched
the people stare at us as we pretended to sleep in a
doorway of a building. We went to a community
centre where they give out free clothes to those who
need them. The lobby of the community centre was
filled with pamphlets on aids, homosexuality, drug
abuse, child abuse, and assault. We discussed why
we would not find any of these pamphlets in any Ajax
community centres. We went into the manís
washrooms and saw that there were needle disposals in
them and again discussed why we would not find them in
an Ajax community centre.
We walked to the edge of Boys Town where male
prostitution occurs. Scooby made us close our eyes
and imagine that we lived there and that we needed to
prostitute ourselves to survive. We went to a
dumpster behind a restaurant where many homeless people
go to get food. Scooby and Kiesha also took us to
a bookstore that was specifically for gay and lesbian
people. We looked at the childrenís section of the
store where we found many books for children growing up
in a gay or lesbian family. Scooby asked us to
panhandle for fifteen minutes to experience what street
kids go through daily. We were ignored, given
dirty looks and even yelled at by the people we asked
for money. We did not end up getting any money.
We later learned from Patrick that Scooby is homeless,
lives under a bridge and still panhandles. All the
members of my group were shocked to learn this about
Scooby; we never would have guessed that he was homeless
Even though I did not panhandle for very long, I learned
a lot from the experience. I learned how if felt
to be regarded as disgusting and a burden on society.
Some people I asked for money gave me the dirtiest
looks; others just ignored me and kept on walking by.
I learned how it felt to be totally stereotyped and
looked down upon because I was begging for money.
Kiesha and Scooby told us how a lot of people think that
the homeless are just lazy; drug addicted, bums, which
is definitely not the case. Most people who live
on the street are kids who have run away from home
because they were being abused or mistreated.
However, Scooby and Kiesha did agree that about
ninety-five percent of people living on the streets do
use some sort of drug, such as alcohol, marijuana,
crack, ecstasy, etc. Often times they use drugs to
get away from their past or the pain they feel inside.
They use drugs to get away from reality, so they do not
have to deal with life. Unfortunately the idea
that people on the streets are too lazy to get a job is
not true. Most people on the street cannot get a
job because they do not have a fixed address, and they
cannot get a fixed address because they do not have the
money to pay for one. When we returned to Sanctuary it
was moving to hear the experiences of the members of
other groups. Many of them shared the stories of
the group leaders and their experience of being
homeless. I thought it was amazing that all these
homeless and former homeless people came together to
created Sanctuary and teach other kids about life on the
I think that there are social sins at work here.
We cannot ignore those who need our help especially if
we are in a position to aid in some way. As
Christians we should be following the Corporal Works of
Mercy and feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and
sheltering the homeless. We should be giving those
less fortunate then us the dignity and respect they
deserve. The scripture passage (Mathew 25:31-46)
reveals that when you are kind and helpful to someone
less fortunate you are kind and helpful to God; when you
are cruel and hurtful to someone less fortunate you are
treating God in the same way.
There are many agencies in our community that deal with
poverty and homelessness. The Salvation Army and
The Goodwill sell used clothing and furniture to those
who are in need. St. Vincent du Paul collects
clothing blankets and food for the homeless and also
runs a soup kitchen. There are many shelters for
women and children who come for abusive households.
The kids help line is there to offer any advice or aid
any child who needs help. Local schools, churches and
businesses run food and clothing drives during the
holidays for those needy families in our community.
I think that this retreat was a good experience for all.
I was able to see the challenges people on the street
face day after day. Although I did not experience
the full extent of the difficulties street kids must
over come, this experience still made me grateful for
all the things I have.