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Homeless: A cross section of society

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | November 24th, 2008

As the snow begins to fall, people with no roof over their head need a place to sleep

While entering the rear building of the Unity Project House, I walked through a crowd of individuals gathered around one another. One individual held a clear plastic bag filled with an obscene amount of marijuana, while another proceeded to roll a joint.

The Unity Project House, a relief centre for homelessness in London located at 717 Dundas Street, does not support the use of any drugs or alcohol by anyone while on property.

“We have a zero drug and alcohol policy here on the property,” said Charlene Lazenby, House Manager at the Unity Project Residence.

The people who enter the doors of the Unity Project house looking for a place to spend the night all have varying reasons as to why they are there in the first place.

Some may be recovering drug addicts, while some are determined to obtain a post-secondary education by a means of being able to provide a better life for themselves or others.

The conditions of Unity House are as one may presume a homeless shelter to be. The air smells dirty. There are numerous strangers walking around aimlessly; and there was a young male sleeping in the basement on a crash bed for the night.

Despite their reasons for being in the shelter, no one chooses a lifestyle that is, on a regular basis, without a place to call home.

All persons, despite ethnic background, religious views or family circumstances are entitled to basic life necessities in order to live a full and meaningful life.

The Unity Project House, Relief for Homelessness in London, provides emergency shelter and transitional housing to adults 18-years of age or older and can sleep anywhere between 50 and 70 people a night. Currently, the shelter is at full capacity every night of the week.

The shelter deals with a variety of issues daily. Serving not only as a crash shelter, but a means of allowing people to reach their full potential by including transitional opportunities to become a regular member of society.

“We as a shelter are presented with every possible circumstance you can imagine. We have people who are attending university, people who are currently holding down a job and want to become part of the working class with the rest of society,” said Lazenby. “There are just as many trades and attributions here as you would find anywhere else. We try to be supportive and what ever someone tries to get accomplished, we help with the resources to make that happen and get it done.”

The shelter provides basic life necessities that meet criteria needed with caring for individuals.

No education? No support system intact? There are numerous factors that play key roles as to why people have no alternative options than to remain in a shelter.

According to Lazenby, no one chooses to live such a lifestyle. There are a lot of missing factors, like no love support, but education is the main one. It is hard when a person doesn't have a support system to back them up.

According to research, homelessness is on a continual upward spiral, with shelters usually being at full capacity, if not, over the limit. Although the support system is available through government and municipal grants, there are many more ‘basic necessities' that need to be present in order to fully support those less fortunate and in need.

Fundraising for shelters such as the Unity Project house are other means of getting alternative help financially.

“Without fundraising we would be strapped,” said Silvia Langer, Chair of the Board at Unity Project.

All reasons aside, society should consider taking another look into the reality that is homelessness.

“Anyone can have something horrible happen to him or her that would lead to homelessness,” Lazenby recalled.

“Homelessness is an experience. It doesn't become who you are.”
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