Tag Archives: crime

back from the dead

for the first couple days all i could go on were the stories i had heard others tell me. anxiety began setting in a bit, though the anger stood front and center and ready for action. my mind has functioned the same way for so long. you hurt mine and i will hurt you.

my blood boiled inside of my veins.

then i finally saw him.

bruised, bashed, beaten and broken.

before today, dave looked every bit the homeless man he was. he even shuffled his feet in the stereotypical way you might a imagine a beggar doing so. his unruly hair and unmanaged beard also fit the stereotype. he collected cigarettes butts from bus stops to gather up enough tobacco to roll his own cigarettes. his fingernails and teeth stained yellow and brown from his habit.

but that was only dave’s outer appearance. you can’t even come close to judging dave’s book by examining his cover. what he may appear to lack on the outer shell, he more than makes up for inside.

i’ve known dave for almost 3 years now. met him through a few of the other street guys i was working with at the time. dave had told me about the hassles the local police had been given him for panhandling. they had barred him from panhandling in a certain area that was a big money-maker for him. instead of listening to the police, he continued to go back to the spot and work his ‘trade’. a man’s gotta eat.

eventually the police began giving him ridiculously priced fines knowing full well that he couldn’t and wouldn’t pay them. our tax dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen of halifax.

dave and i began to hang out and talk on a frequent basis. it didn’t take long for me to realize that dave was a genius. he knew his way around computers like he had created them. his understanding of philosophical and economic matters made me a bit envious at times. geography, history, psychology, sociology, physics – you name it, dave knew it.

and all this without a shred of arrogance or pride.

humble as a hummingbird.

“you are still alive,” i say as i sit down beside him at the table.

“they don’t know how but ya, i am.”

dave’s arm is in a sling overtop of a blue hospital shirt, resting on the left arm of his new wheelchair. his eyes are both blood-shot and his face is a mess, to say the least. his left eye is worse where they hit him with a large rock. dried blood lines his ears and nostrils.

my blood pressure is rising again.

“what happened, dave?” i ask.

in a robbery attempt to take his gst cheque, a group of young adults attacked and beat dave to within an each of his life. they used a large rock to initially knock him down and then their feet to knock him unconscious. a witness to the assault said they had kicked him in the head 16 more times AFTER dave had been knocked out.

sickening.

“but ya know what? i forgive them, or at least my heart wants to forgive them,” dave explains to me. “jail is going to eat those young kids alive. as much as i wish they hadn’t done this to me, i wish they hadn’t done it to themselves.”

all i can think about is what i would do if i got my hands on those punks and dave, even in his pain, finds the ability to forgive those who inflicted that very pain on him.

i’m humbled.
but his story gets worse.

after getting out of the hospital, dave crawls into a cardboard trash bin to make a bed and get some sleep. he wakes up to crashing and banging and his whole world being turned upside down. he then finds himself inside of the back of a large garbage truck. the lid closes tight, shutting off the outside world. then the crushing starts..

can you imagine?!

seriously, try to imagine this scenario happening to you. you get jumped and almost killed in a violent mugging, and then as soon as you are released from the hospital you are thrown into the back of a garbage truck that begins squeezing you to death.

dave talked about the experience in great detail.

he felt his collar-bone snap and his arm begin to bend. the cardboard helped cushion a bit of the crushing at first. eventually there was no more give. pain all over his body. he told me he didn’t know what to do so he began praying.

desperately praying.

the crushing stopped.

he began pounding on the side of the garbage truck with his free arm and yelling for help but no one could hear him. the crushing started again. he began praying again.

it stopped again.

he kept praying desperately that the truck would stop so the driver could hear him and free him from his steel torture chamber. it does. the driver stopped to gas up and hears dave pounding on the side of the truck. he opens it up and gets dave out and to the hospital.

“crazy, hey?”

“no kidding!” i reply. “God must have things for you to do still.”

he nods his head.

“i definitely believe that, lucas. i’m convinced of it now.”

dinner was about to be served at the shelter so i had to run back into the kitchen to help serve but told dave i’d be back after. he smiled and nodded. afterwards we sat and chatted more about his ordeal.

“you sound different, dave.”

he spoke less like a man who had just been crippled by two life altering incidents and more like a man re-energized and recharged to take life by the horns.

“i know. something clicked,” he tells me. “it’s time for me to make some changes, not only to myself but to the world around me.”

i hope he’s the one to lead the revolution. nothing would make me happier.

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slow down

things have been  pretty slow at hope lately.  we havent been seeing as many guests come in for meals as we normally do.  part of it is to be expected considering social assistance cheques came out last wednesday.  from my years of experience working on the front lines, a large portion of the street community disappears for a few days or a week after welfare cheques are issued.

it speaks to a few things:

one, drug addiction has many people in slavery.  we may not see the shackles and chains but they are there all the same.  its not all the typical street drugs you are probably thinking about, ie. crack, heroine, speed, meth, marijuana.  the number one addiction among the people i work with is that to prescription drugs/pharmaceuticals.

wasnt what you were expecting was it?

heres what gets my goat..

people get hurt and go to the doctor.  the hurt is causing the person to be in a significant amount of pain.  the doctor prescribes them a narcotic painkiller to help with the symptom – pain.  the person gets addicted to the ‘medicine’ and when they attempt to come off of it, the terrible pain convinces them to go back on it.

they are trapped.

i experienced a bit of that after my second knee surgery.  the ‘medicine’ i was taking caused my body to become dependant on it and, when i attempted to come off of it, gave me a pain worse than that of my swollen knee.  fortunately for me i had safeguards around me.  i had a mother who knew enough to ask consistently about my usage.  i had a doctor who wasnt in the pocket of drug companies, ie. he didnt push drugs as a remedy but as temporary help.  i also had a coach that would check up on me.

i was fortunate because theres no telling what kind of addiction i could have developed and still be mired in.

theres a lot of people who arent as fortunate.

when the doctors stop administering the drugs, people will find others way to get them.  theres really two choices – theft or street purchases.  digging ones self out of the rabbit hole is a pretty difficult at this point.  paychecks start getting gobbled up by your addiction.  the addiction starts affecting your job and eventually you lose it.  now on social assistance, you have little money to spend on your addiction so you turn to whatever means to make the pain go away.  crime often follows along with police officers, lawyers, judges, jail cells and probation officers.

welcome to the streets.

this is what life looks like for too many people.

addiction doesnt care if youre lazy or motivated, good or bad, educated or uneducated, rich or poor.  it will take you whether your skin color is black, white, purple or green.  addiction doesnt care about your variables.  it cares about being fed.

so for the first couples days after the cheques come out, peoples bellies go empty while their addiction gets to feast.  and feast it does..

now, if we had doctors who werent paid by drug companies to push their drugs more liberally than they would normally be inclined to, would we have as large a problem?  certainly not.  are greedy doctors and drug companies our only problem?  indeed a large one but not the whole picture.

see, i think the larger problem lies with the way the war on drugs is handled.   i believe that retributive justice is counterproductive and harmful to our society, while restorative justice repairs whats been broken. im frustrated with punitive steps to bring about justice.  its mechanical, lifeless and dehumanizing.  does it have a place in society?  yes, it does because some crimes require people spending significant amount of time away from society, ie. murder and sexual assault.  but for the most part, punitive justice does more to harm individuals and communities than help.

what if instead of punishing people harshly through the criminal justice system, we allowed crime control to rest primarily with the community?    what if instead of a person taking punishment for a crime they committed, they took responsibility and action to repair the harm inflicted?    what if instead of punishing community members and thus communities (by extension), we allowed communities to be the facilitators of a restorative justice?

a justice that sought the restoration of all parties involved.  thats the kind of justice that make us whole again.

all of us.

/end of idealistic rant

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whats it gonna take?

we humans can be incredibly compassionate beings, capable of incredible love. we’ve all heard stories. we’ve all heard something that made us a bit fuzzy on the inside (is that just me?). music and movies need only to use one theme to create huge industries – love. cant really seem to escape its influence on us. tina turners big question was “whats love gotta do with it? its safe to say ‘everything’. love is the engine that drives most of our engines. its the leading motivator, the greatest emotion and an even greater gift.

yet being capable of such an amazing feat doesnt necessarily mean it will always be used. or used appropriatley. sometimes we can chose to be the complete opposite. we can choose to be selfish people who think mostly about themselves. we can ignore the problems of others in order to live our comfortable lives. but how comfortable can someone get who knows how bad their neighbour is suffering.. and do nothing about it? do we bury our guilt or just feel none?

theres a big problem in the eastside of vancouvers downtown district. its a giant social problem with no easy fixes. drugs and crime litter the hastings corners and alleys. drunks and addicts stumble the streets. people in need of medical help, both mental and physical, walk alone. historically the area has been in trouble since the beginning. not two months incorporated, the great vancouver fire happened in the summer of 1886. it wiped out everything except a few buildings. lots of lives lost. lots of homes lost. poverty was the gift awarded to vancouver in its first year. if you drive down east hastings on your way to stanley park, youre bound to see that its “a gift that keeps on giving”. poverty is still very much there. girls not old enough to graduate highschool turning ‘tricks’ to feed their drug addictions. young men robbing the elderly to to feed their crack habits.

unless we start addressing the root causes, we’re grasping at straws. unless we begin to act, its just going to get worse.. and worse.

unless we rediscover that old adage “love your neighbour”, many more people are going to be lost.  lost to addiction lost to prostitution. lost to mental illness. lost in their society by their society.

daughters. sons. fathers. sisters. grandmothers. our neighbours.  do we ignore their plight and continue on our way? or do we help?

it was mae west that said, “love conquers all things except toothaches and poverty”.

itd be great to prove her wrong.

so whats it gonna take?

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