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It has been said many times in many ways, "don’t judge a book by it’s cover." Also, just because a book has over 600 pages, doesn’t mean we should give up after the 2nd page either. Sometimes the introduction to the topic can be a little hard to wrap our minds around.

The same goes for those on the street. All are there for various reasons. For some, it’s their mental health that takes them there. For some, that is their safe place. For others, it is the only home they have ever known.

When we pass someone on the street panhandling, do we acknowledge them? Do we look the other way? Do we pretend they aren’t there?

On our Veterans Outreach walks, my colleague and I pass a lot of people who are homeless on the streets. Some are veterans, most are not. We always try to at least acknowledge them as we pass. Does this mean that we give the panhandlers money? Of course not. However, I always find it intriguing to see other pedestrians who go out of their way to avoid them. Is it because their clothes are dirty? Perhaps there is a pungent odor from lack of shower facilities. Is it because perhaps their hair needs a good combing? Maybe their hands shake to the point they are now wearing part of their precious morning coffee. No matter the reason, it is sad to see people ignoring other people.

One of the other things I do on these walks is to look at the contrast in architecture. Ottawa has such amazing buildings just waiting to be noticed. As I’m walking and looking down alleys and behind bushes for those we are searching for, I feel like my head is on a swivel, but I still manage sometimes to catch a sight that catches my breath – the magnificent buildings around us. Little known secret, I love architecture.

On one such occasion, it was the reflection of two buildings that made me think about judging buildings and people. I saw a reflection on a glass building of a glass building with the West Block of Parliament tucked in behind. On the one hand, it’s just two buildings. One looks a lot like the building it is reflected in; the other has lines and character. For some, that’s the appeal that everything matches. My eyes are, however, drawn to the West Block. I wonder "what lays behind that scene?" What are we missing? As I looked at it, I was reminded that those we meet on the street are like the glass buildings. They all try to match and blend in. For those that allow us to share in their story, we get to see that West Block looks like - a presence with magnificent character.

I try never to judge a book by it’s cover, because sometimes the cover doesn’t do justice to what's inside.

~Elizabeth Sutherland-Beaven, IVOS Associate

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