When Fish are More Humane

The BC government shows no signs of re-instating $45/year subsidized bus pass for people with disabilities. Nevertheless, InclusionBC , TAPS  and other advocacy groups are continuing their campaign to let everyone receiving PWD benefits keep the $77/month increase regardless of whether they need a bus pass, and raise the PWD benefit rate to $1200 per month. They are meeting with Michelle Stilwell, Minister for Social Development and Innovation in late March where they will demand that the government not only reverse its decision to claw back the bus pass, but that it also comes up with a serious plan to raise people out of poverty and increase and index the PWD rates to reflect the rising cost of living.

The issue has been brought to the attention of British Columbians not only through mainstream and social media, but has also appeared in local community papers–like this excellent letter in the Delta Optimist published in my “hometown,” followed by my own contribution in the next issue.

Minister's Minute - March 2016.jpg(Btw, the fish in the story are the male of the species.)

In my column I refer to a blogger from the disability community who asks the question:

A. “Do you think that I have a right to exist?”

Using deductive logic…she takes the reader through a series of premises….

if you answered, “yes”, then you believe that:

B. “My right to exist is thus predicated on the possibility of my being able to acquire what I need to exist.”

and then she hits our government between the eyes:

C. “By not providing the funds necessary to safely house and feed and care for oneself, the BC government is, in effect, denying people their right to exist.”

It was her post that hit me between the eyes, too and inspired me to speak out. For if we allow our government’s inhumane decisions to go unchallenged, we ourselves are complicit and diminished.

Here’s mssinenomine’s hard-hitting  post, BC Budget & Disability Benefits: The Raise Up That Was Just Another Let Down


Chocolate, Cigarettes and Compassion

Judy Graves, advocate for Vancouver’s homeless has announced she is retiring on May 29.

After converting to Christianity, Judy Graves attended a United church, then Unitarian, Baptist, Catholic, and now Anglican. From her perspective, threaded throughout the Bible is a message about looking after the stranger. Jennelle Schneider // Province


In 2007 while a pastoral intern at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. I had signed up to help out with the homeless count in North Vancouver.  I had the privilege of meeting Judy at the volunteer orientation session.  As our trainer, her goal was to equip our well-meaning but variously inexperienced group of recruits with enough “street smarts” to stay safe and practical wisdom to get the job done. I’ll never forget her “a candy and a cigarette” approach to help us establish trust and rapport with our clients. While some may think that offering a homeless person a cigarette in order to earn the right to interview them smacks of Machiavellian utility,  at the heart of  all that Judy taught us was a profound conviction of our common humanity and the right of each person–regardless of their circumstances–to be treated with respect and dignity. Peter Ladner captured both her practical approach and heart of compassion in the song he wrote,  Angel of Broken Wings

I wish Judy, recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal,  a well earned rest,  fun with a crochet hook,  and time to play with her grandchildren.

In the meantime it is up to us to run with the baton Judy has handed off to us.

Here are some ways you can help end homelessness:

  • Each of us can get to know the name of the homeless person that lives near them and say hi to them every day, which will change everything in their world.
  • If people say they’re hungry, take them out for a meal.  And instead of just buying the meal, maybe sit down with them for 10 minutes and just talk with them about what brought them there.
  • It is your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy to go to everyone who is running for office or has been elected into office and let them know that you hold them absolutely accountable for the suffering of every single person that is on the street.

For more ideas on how you can help, check out this End Homelessness Now activity page.