Recently I went down to 17th Avenue in Calgary. A homeless man chattering mildly to himself approached the blue bin close by. He brought to mind the severely developmentally disabled men I’ve encountered over the last 43 years where my sister lives at the Michener Centre in Red Deer. The men chattering to themselves, wandering the safe, clean halls of their home at Michener. This man put on a pair of disposable gloves to fish through the bin.
I leaned back into my car in search of food, but by the time I got back out, he was down the street, talking and gesturing to himself. It made me want to cry. I’m not used to seeing homeless people where I live. Nor am I used to seeing uncared for mental illness, which is the overriding factor in being homeless. When the Conservative government tried to force the closure of the Michener Centre years back, I received numerous calls from mental health care workers employed at Alberta Hospital before the Conservatives shut that down. The workers said it tore their hearts out to see their former male clients homeless on the streets of our Alberta cities.
I’m not ok with our mentally ill rifling through blue bins when I know for a fact that we have space and empty buildings at Michener that could be repurposed. Yes, I understand we are in the worst recession that Alberta has yet to face. What I fail to understand is how we can be okay with the status quo, when the government solution could provide yet more employment for AUPE workers, and in turn allow our mentally ill currently wandering our cities to wander the safe, clean halls of their home at the Michener Centre.
Don’t be ok, make some noise, call an MLA, write to Premier Rachel Notley, ask for better caring in our Alberta nation.
Lee Kvern, Calgary