Justice vs Injustice – treating people fairly, justly, equitably, or not. An all too familiar story: the same principles with different characters. It sets me over the edge. We hear about it at our drop in, outreach and just talking to our street friends – most every day.
Scene 1: A call to a social worker, medical person, agency, landlord or service provider ends in complete frustration in one or several results: they can’t get through to the right person, they are told to make an appointment or come and stand in que, there are forms and procedures that need to be followed/completed first, or any number of excuses that reinforce an already too familiar message: “Go away.”
Scene 2: One of our staff or a volunteer makes that same call, that same day, to the very same person, and things begin to happen: no more delays, forms, procedures, ques, that needed person suddenly becomes available… almost magically.
It’s not magic at all. It’s injustice. It’s treating people with favoritism, prejudice, and it ranks of everything wrong.
Who am I that I can get through? Executive Director? OK, well Loris the outreach volunteer can get the same results.
In our city, it is obvious that people experiencing poverty and homelessness are apparently easy to detect over the telephone. Maybe it’s years of abuse, insecurity, mental health issues, faltering and halting speech, the ‘not sure what to say next’ that gives them away – whatever the indicator, the poor are quickly earmarked as second class (or lower) citizens and the message is clear: “You are not important. You can wait. I don’t have to deal with you.”
It’s the same message they received from those who have oppressed them throughout their lives, the stepfather who beat them senseless or exploited them sexually, the foster home where the violence never stopped, or the residential school experiences that terrorize their sleep and they wake up screaming. The BIG difference is that the people who are answering these calls for help are not supposed to be hampered by alcoholism or drugs or hatred or violence – at least not while they are working.
This sounds ludricrous, but it happens regularly in our current culture. No wonder many of the men and women who have had to make the streets their home have given up on life. No wonder that trust is something that has to be earned on a daily basis. No wonder that it takes months and years to build relationship. No wonder hope is lost.
It’s a travesty of injustice. It has been accepted by our street friends as a way of life. That’s the way it is, get used to it.
A bigger travesty? We let it happen. All the time. Every day.