Sometimes I joke and say,
“I do nursing in an urban mash unit or downtown refugee camp.”
But its not at all funny that for almost 2 decades
I as a street nurse have been tending to the dying and neglected
on the streets of the capital of Canada.
Its not funny that there is no affordable housing.
Its not funny that shelters breed disease and violence with overcrowding and understaffing.
Its really not a joking matter at all.
In fact its a shameful disgrace that our so called
sophisticated and caring society would turn such a blind eye
to the poorest in our midst and be so self righteous about it.
I often hear “Oh well I guess they would rather live on the streets than come inside”
Inside where? What choices are there? Shelters are full, rooming house lots are paved to make way for euro-condos in our latest round of gentrifiation. Many of the seriously mentally ill or developmentally disabled can’t get and yet still need, many of the services they used to get before they were deinstitutionalized.
Perhaps a better question to ask might be:
“How is it possible that we as a civilised community
can still have so many folks
sleeping, living and dying night after night
in the shadow of the peace tower.”
We are in the midst of a national disaster but where is the emergency response?
Some would shrug this off and say well isn’t that the governments job.
As followers of Jesus Christ and as His Church Body we have an absolute directive to provide for the poor in our midst.
To feed the hungry
To shelter the homeless
To free the imprisoned
To clothe the naked
To be good Samaritans
To do justice ,love mercy
and thereby serve our God
Its only November and our agency is running out of blankets and socks.
Our street community grieve the deaths of 38 companions who have died so far in 2002.
Serious illnessess are rampant as the ravages of survival existence depletes immune systems and mental health.
Others see suicide and drugs as a way out.
Many of the folks I am talking about here are followers of Jesus
not so unlike you and I.
I am afraid I cannot be very merry this Christmas.
The lines between my work and my life have blurred to such a degree I feel as though I live in a warzone.
Ottawa Innercity Ministries has wonderful supporters and compassionate workers but still its not enough.
This year for Christmas I am wishing that a few landlords would lower their rents so the poor can get sheltered.
I am praying that employers would provide jobs for some of our street friends who are skilled and unskilled laborers and would dearly like meaningful activity in their lives .
I am praying that the services of Ottawa Innercity Ministries would no longer be needed as every street christian would be welcomed in the church family.
Am I asking for too much?