Homeless and Journalist

Taken from: Family Budgeting Blog UK. August 27, 2012


We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted,unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.
We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.

Mother Teresa

What a day!
Today I met with Aaron, who is a case worker for the mental health branch of Mission Services London (aka Streetscape). I was a little lost as to which entrance to go to, but one of the clients courteously showed me where to go. He smelled of cigarettes and despair, but he was really nice to me. Aaron took me to visit the courthouse where one of his clients would plea guilty for… well a variety of things. Aaron tells me this guy was a pimp in his glory days, but has since developed a terrible addiction to every drug imaginable. He’s pleading guilty for some assault charges and he’s been in jail. In fact he wants to stay in jail because he can get treatment for his HIV. Long story short, Aaron and I waited in the courthouse for 2.5 hours, the guy never showed. Aaron tells me this is not unusual, but it is disheartening.

I had a great conversation with Aaron. What a cool guy. When I first spoke to him on the phone, I got the sense that he felt dumped on because he didn’t sound very enthusiastic. But I opened up to him a little and he opened up completely. He even told me about his own brief encounter with homelessness and hopelessness.

I’ve realized that my interview style is very fly-on-the-wall and sometimes I get caught up in the conversations we have and I go off topic. But Sometimes the lives of the people I interview are so much more interesting than my topic, I can’t help but hear them out. And it also gives me a sense of whether I can go to them again for another issue

After that we visited two clients that he’s been keeping and eye on. One guy, who has more of an addiction issue, and has never been homeless. Aaron tells me that his case is so unusual because this guy has all the supports he needs (in terms of family support, Aaron described them as “a wholesome family”). The client even completed Highschool and a College diploma. The other client was a girl, who had been homeless on and off for several years. She’s been with the mission long before Aaron began working for Streetscape, and at first she was very difficult to work with. In talking to her I learned that her rock bottom was her own HIV scare a year ago. She knew she had to get out as many of her friends started to die (really heavy), but her own scare with death is what finally did it for her. She definitely has a glimmer of hope in her eyes, and in speaking to her I can sense that she’s a very positive person, but Aaron tells me that she’s still at risk of relapse. She has yet to be sober for more than a month. I wish I could have interviewed her at her house, but her grandmother was home and not comfortable with the interview.

Anyway, it was a great day overall. The interview, hands down, is my favourite part of journalism. Aaron tells me the girl I interviewed, never opened up to anyone like that before. And I take that as a compliment on my own skills, but it also shines light on the purpose of the interview. Sometimes people like this second client need a venue to not only express themselves. Not just for their own expression, but the hope that someone out there might be hearing exactly what they need to hear. It gives them purpose. And hope. This is my kind of journalism, idealistic though it may be.

And now the big question: Can I be a compassionate person to my subjects and produce good journalism at the same time? This is the tightrope I will be walking in the next few months. Wish me luck.


The Presentation


The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

Feeling like that vulerable days-old baby. Brought to the temple of the Lord to be the bearer of extraordinary news (Image courtesy of St. John the Bapstist Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas)

This has been a rough year = Overstatement of the yearToday I went to mass, as I do every Sunday. During the offertory song all the pain of 24 years of petrifying fear and disapointment poured from my eyes.

There have been many times when I’ve cried at mass, often during song. But today was different. Tears were pouring, pouring and part of me was terrified that my weaknesses would be put on exhibition. The other part of me was tired of hiding.

I’m tired of the facade because it is a lie.

And now that I am here, living on my own, I have no excuse to hide. I can no longer hinge my failures on other people. I have to own my failures as opportunities to learn not just for what I was unable to do/say/accomplish.

I need to open myself up to more failure, not to satiate a somewhat masochistic part of myself, but to come to terms with what I DON’T want. That’s the way I’ve always learned, I guess. I don’t know why I thought this year I could miraculously learn otherwise.

In a world where people are defined by our resume, it happens all to often that we forget how it is we got there. And how it is we can move forward. How indeed?

Now that I’m getting married, it’s hard not to evaluate my worth in the same way. How much money am I making? (at least I don’t have any student debt to carry). Today, I cried before the altar, in mid-song, because now, more than ever. I’m willing to let people see behind the wall. Throughout this year, I’ve been chipping away at it. But now it’s all or nothing. No more caution.

No more front.



I’ve been working on a documentary about homelessness in Toronto. I learned a lot of shocking things so far.

Shocking? Maybe not. But I certainly had better expectations for the country of my birth. I would like to be proud of my country, but there are just some things I can’t excuse…

Homelessness and poverty is one of them

I had interviewed the Director of Homeless hub, Dr. Stephen Gaetz, and he had lots to say about respecting the homeless as people and not just infantalizing them. I will post the interview here later.

But for now, here is the link to the first episode of the Homeless Hub’s podcast, all on food insecurity.

Back in London

Here I am, back to the grind.

Only two months left of coursework and I still don’t know what I’m doing here.
And yet I feel strangely calm.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet I have no view of the obstacles in between.
I’ve done a lot of self-discovery this year. I’m going to try to be more self-sufficient, more self- disciplined.

I’ve realized that my lack of discipline is because I get so easily overwhelmed and then discouraged. I never thought of myself as a negative person, maybe just when it comes to myself. It’s been rough.

Today at least, I’m feeling focused. I’m learning to catch myself when I’m feeling discouraged. I assess the situation and I have to honestly feel like I’ve done everything possible before I give up. Everything possible means:
“Have I called the right people?”
“Who else can help me?”
“How much research have I done? Is it enough to give up entirely?”
“What’s my timeline? Do I have the time I go over my research again?”

I need to always feel like I have work to do. I should never be bored. There is so much work to do? What am I doing watching Shahs of Sunset?

Alarms. Lots of alarms. On my phone, on my iPad, on my calendar.


Focus, reminders and research

That will be the key to a successful two months.

Here I come winter ter.

Miserable and Tired

Always tired,

Sometimes also miserable

The remainder of the time. I’m miserable that I have to be so tired. 

Not even chocolate can solve.

I should be happy. I have a lot of things going for me. Correction. Things are going for me. I remember a time when life was completely still. A stagnant pond ideal for the growth of algae and mosquitos, and not much else. 

But now that I’m out. I’m out. I’m just always fatigued and unmotivated. Maybe my parents are right. Maybe I am just ungrateful. I don’t know what to do with myself. Correction. I know exactly what to do, but I can’t. 

Is this what freedom is? 

Just let me die

TED Weekends breaks the silence for suicide survivors

It’s always about surviving. Whether it’s yourself or the world around you, it will always be about survival…

TED Blog

JD-Schramm-at-TEDActiveAt TEDActive 2011, JD Schramm shares the story of his friend, John, who, after surviving a suicide attempt, [ted_talkteaser id=1167]found that there were few resources available for someone in his position to be able to communicate the hardship he experienced and the depression he continued to battle. And there are others in this position, too – as Schramm points out, 19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide live but feel extreme isolation from others. This can lead to second, sometimes successful, attempt.

This week’s TED Weekends on the Huffington Post emphasizes the importance of having an honest conversation about the taboo of suicide in order to help people in this at-risk situation. Below, find open and thoughtful essays on the subject.

JD Schramm: Revealing a Heartbreaking Secret on the TED Stage

My sharing of John’s story was my first attempt to spark a conversation about the taboo subject of…

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Freedom: Some kind of Wonderful

It feels like I was meant to be here. This past year, all the tears and anticipation, all the anger and not-so-secret longing.

Detached and alone, I can’t help feeling suspended and yet engulfed in a wave where dirty dishes and the laundry machine chime no longer matter. Self-discovery is my guru this year as I pursue higher education and map out some concrete idea of what my future will look like. 

I accept that the idea of a future will likely always leave me in suspension, but I need to light my own fire, if I am to find my way in the ambiguous dark. No distractions. Only the long-awaited quiet. Like an infant navigating his language, so I will too learn to enunciate my voice.

Here’s to me!