In the years I have worked with my Warming Room friends it has never ceased to amaze me how difficult life is for people living on the fringe of society. Things we take for granted are a constant struggle. Many struggling with homelessness, mental illness and addiction have no fixed address, no phone and often times no ID. The only way to make contact is to physically go out and find them on the street. This is why it’s so difficult to put a number on the homeless.
Recently I had the privilege to help a young fellow out with a simple thing- getting a gym membership. He is a very kinaesthetic guy maybe even hyper some would say. A gym membership was a perfect solution for him. He could spend time bettering himself physically and make some friends who are health focused.
So we went to the gym and of course the price was prohibitive, especially when you are trying to squeak by with a $300 a month street allowance. But, a glimmer of hope! He could fill out a form for a partially subsidized membership! Homeless people hate forms. We took the form filled it in but they needed proof of income. Back downtown to social services! 2 days later the we got the required proof. Back to the gym to find out he was subsidized 50%, so only $28.50 a month. Nearly 10% of his income but he was determined! So we tried to sign up. Oh no not another form. Cash payment was not an option, only credit card or automated withdrawal. Homeless people often do not have bank accounts and even more rarely a credit card. We left so disappointed but then a flash! A prepaid Credit Card! Just load $28.50 a month. Presto a solution! Back downtown to buy a prepaid card. Almost there. The next day with $30 in hand we went to a Payday Loan store to get the card only to find out that the card costs a $12.95 fee- every month! No way could it really be? We have a $12.95 fee just to pay $28.50. Almost completely discouraged we lay down $12.95 and decide we will do it, after all we did get the membership at half price. Then the dreaded F word… another Form! Before getting the card we needed a drivers licence or an Ontario Photo Card. Ok, a final hurdle we are going to do this! Off to Service Ontario. Stand in line to get the card only to find the card costs $35 and you need a birth certificate. This was the last straw. He crumbled.
He did finally get a membership but I nearly lost it. This is just the simplest of things. Trying to get housing or navigate our criminal Justice system can be far worse. I only share thing story so we might provide grace to these folks. Things we can do in a minute online or by a call can become a mountain when you are struggling with just getting by.