Posts tagged ‘homeless’

Toronto’s Jewish Community supports the homeless


Kathleen Wynne attends the community sader organized by Ve’ahavta. Photo by Bernie Farber

Please help Aboriginal Homeless.  Find out how.


In my efforts to support the Aboriginal homeless, I was delighted to see the caring, kindness and Spirit of giving shown to me by our friends and allies in the local Jewish community to help our people.

We had an amazing time last night at the Starry Nights gala in Toronto. Deborah and I were so thankful to be invited by our friend Hanita Teifenbach who works for an inspiring organization called Ve’ahavta.

Ve’ahavta is a Canadian Jewish humanitarian and relief organization founded by the indomitable Avrum Rosenweig. Our friend Bernie Farber is the Chair and among the most outspoken supporters.  The organization and their initiatives are guided by Torah’s commandment of Ve’ahavta L’reacha Kamocha – to “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. Moreover, it is guided by two fundamental values tzedakah (justice) and tikun olam (repairing the world).

Tikun olam was a recurring theme throughout the evening and it is indeed a spiritual virtue, something that we Anishinaabe can really relate to. To dedicate a piece of your work, your volunteerism, and your generosity toward repairing the world – by supporting disadvantaged and marginalized people – while advocating for social justice is absolutely awe-inspiring.

During the evening, we had a chance to chat with Dr. Michael Dan. We chatted about his visionary health research initiative with the University of Toronto for a while and got onto the topic of First Nation’s own concept of good health. We talked about the Anishinaabe philosophy of Mno Bimaadiziwin, to live a good life. That teaching is not only about ourselves and good healthy living, but it is about our relationships and contributions to the world around us. Living a good life is about being a good person and supporting our family, our community, our Nation and all those around us. That’s also what Ve’ahavta is all about.

Two inspiring speakers spoke about their experience with the Ve’ahavta Street Academy, an eight-week course that provides support and skills development for individuals wanting to rise from the streets, and consider post-secondary education. A video acknowledged the work of the Ve’ahavta Mobile Jewish Response to the homeless, whose outreach vans provide food, supplies and necessities for those homeless living on the streets. Incidentally, the Ve’ahavta mobile response was started in partnership with Native Men’s Residence in 1996.

It is absolutely a pleasure to support and give to this incredible organization. Their work with the homeless, including the Aboriginal Homeless shows the kindness of their founder Avrum, their staff, volunteers and the generosity of the Toronto Jewish community.

Helping Aboriginal homeless through learning

homelessness_sleepThe key goal of my $100-a-day Fundraising effort is to raise money to support Aboriginal homeless people.  More specifically, to help out Native Mens Residence and their annual Christmas Drive, which provides much-needed personal items to help the homeless throughout the cold winter.

Please give generously at:


Another goal is to provide a bit of awareness of the plight of our homeless brothers and sisters.  I found these links at the Homelessness Hub.

Christine Schanes wrote a series of articles regarding the myths surrounding homelessness originally posted on the Huffington Post. Below you will find links to her articles which address some of the judgments that people make and the stigma associated with homelessness. Myths are widely held thoughts or beliefs that are generally not true and addressing these helps to clear up misconceptions.

He’s homeless. It’s below freezing. Then the inevitable happens…

homeless_manTORONTO – It’s early in the morning and a homeless man is leaving the warm sanctuary of a local shelter. He was fortunate enough to have a bed that night. He’s out and about, walking the cold city streets, always on the lookout for a little money, his next meal and a little kindness.

Then the inevitable happens. Not only is it -3 this morning… it’s starting to snow.

But he needs a new winter coat. The lining on his fall jacket has loosened and fallen apart long ago. But he’s lucky to have it though – one of his few possessions. He definitely would like some mitts but that may be a tall order.

Sadly, it’s just another day on the streets of Toronto. It could be any man, down on his luck, just looking for a break. He could be from any First Nation in Canada, one of our relatives. Somebody’s cousin, brother, uncle, or someone’s Dad. The street is home to many people who just need a helping hand.

Immediate action on Aboriginal homeless is needed. For whatever reason, personal and corporate donation to help the homeless are down significantly. As a result, many Aboriginal homeless may have to go without this winter.

My friends, these men need your help. Please do one of the following:

  1. Click here to make a donation through Canadahelps.
  1. Share this page.

This fundraising effort goes directly to support Native Mens Residence (Na-Me-Res) and their annual Christmas. Funds raised will purchase backpacks, personal items, toiletries, shampoo and conditioner, chap stick and even a Christmas Dinner.

All donations come with a tax deductible receipt.

Please give generously.  Thank you so much.


Your Voice Gave Us Hope

Deborah Richardson

When is the last time you really took the time to speak with a homeless person?  They may even be Anishinaabe, and still, many of us look the other way.  I know I am guilty of it, more often than I care to admit.

But not my fiancée.  (That has a nice ring to it!…  LOL  Get it…  ring!)  Anyways…

My partner, Deborah Richardson has always found friendship with people on the street.  Many street people know her by name from her days at the Native Canadian Centre.

We often walk down the street and she runs into her homeless friends.  She chats, laughs and exchanges stories.  She’ll even give them a few bucks, not to move them along, but so they can take care of themselves.  She always makes a little suggestion of how they can best use the donation.

There’s no tax write off or anything.  No cameras or media spotlight.  Just a woman who really cares for these people.  I usually hang back, ashamed of myself.

Deborah is the epitome of goodness. Caring for people just because they are people.

In 2008, Deborah was selected to take part in the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Program.  It’s quite an honour.  During that time, this small group of elite business, labour, government, and NGOs representatives have the opportunity to tour the country, meet some of Canada’s most influential people and take part in some unique Canadian experiences.

During their stop in Calgary, Deborah and this group paid a visit to the Mustard Seed, a shelter and Christian service organization dedicated to serving the homeless and the poor.  Most of the participants stayed to volunteer, but as Deborah recalls, most of her group spent the time mingling with shelter staff and, in her words, “looking kinda awkward”.  Meanwhile, Deborah spoke at length to the homeless clientele, offering helpful advice and companionship.

Among a shelter full of men, Deb sat down to speak with two First Nations ladies huddling in a far corner.

“I was just so moved by them,” she remembers fondly.  “We spent about two hours together, talking about hope.  We spoke at length about taking charge of their own destiny.”

They talked about the challenges of finding housing and overcoming homelessness.

“I suggested they try to start smaller – like a room, instead of an apartment,” said Deborah. “But it’s a vicious cycle.  They couldn’t get a job because they didn’t have bus fare.  They couldn’t get a room because they couldn’t get a job.”

The discussion turned emotional when they disclosed that they had both been victims of sexual violence in the city’s shelters.  But she remembers them not because they were victims, but that they were strong and resilient Cree women.

“But despite their situation, they were courageous and had good heads on their shoulders, recalls Deborah.  “I remember this one woman was very strong.  A true champion of First Nations women’s issues.  A real advocate for raising awareness of struggle and challenge aboriginal women face.”

They were fortunate enough to find work, but needed bus fare simple to get there.  As they departed, Deborah was happy to oblige and give the ladies a few bucks.

A few days ago, three years later, Deborah receives this e-mail:

Hey Deborah:

We met a few years ago.  Well, life has took a awesome change for us.  We now have our own place and have been here for over a year.  We work and live life.  But we don’t forget what we went through.  It makes us stronger, more grateful and hopeful.

Anyways, we owe you $7.24 or something…  I do remember I said I would pay you back.  Can we somehow get it back to you?  This is so important for us.  You gave us some money and we used it I do believe for bus fare to go to work.  See, your contribution so small as it may have seemed was huge for us.  We eventually got out of homelessness by getting bus tickets to go to work.

Thanks Deborah.  We haven’t forgot about you.  We talk about you and how your voice gave us hope.

Another racist video from northwestern Ontario

Yet another cell-phone amateur video has surfaced from northwestern Ontario that features, not only lateral violence against First Nations, but the racist face of malicious youth.

The videos depicts First Nations people, some poor and homeless in Kenora, and also features a video of an inebriated man being arrested by Kenora police.

The video is tasteless and shows the underlying racism of the youth videographers and quite possibly, their hatred of their First Nations neighbours.  The videographers feel superior to their filmed subjects.  Plain and simple, the video is meant to degrade all First Nations people and humiliate and ridicule some innocent, vulnerable people.

The video was obviously made by youth as it features one of their stars, a teenage skateboarder doing tricks.  The people taking the video seem to be known to the community, due to the reactions they get from seemly normal folks on the streets of Kenora and outside the local shopping centre.  (They are ‘flipped the bird’ twice during the course of the short video.)

It brings to mind the Fort Frances video.  It was almost two years ago when a half-a-dozen, equally bright girls from a local hockey team, decided in their wisdom to upload their parody of sacred Anishinaabe dancing to YouTube.  The underage girls, drunk as skunks, were forming their version of pow-wow dancing for the world to see.

But this is much more personal for those people depicted in the video.

These people may very well be at lowest points of their lives.  Some are dealing with the demons of addictions – others are poor and homeless.  They needn’t be ridiculed or filmed without their permission.

But it isn’t just the homeless.  Some are just people walking down the street or hanging out together.

One Anishinaabe man is simply enjoying a bag of popcorn for God’s sakes.  But because he’s Anishinaabek, he is being ridiculed for no apparent reason.  That easily could have been me.  Would the video be so funny if it was a middle-aged white man was walking, content and carefree, eating his popcorn snack?  I don’t think so.

This leads me to believe that they weren’t targeting the homeless, they were targeting First Nation people.

This is infuriating.

There isn’t any question, we are dealing with racism.  Even the name of the Youtube member “like9jews” may be anti-semetic.

The authorities need to find the producer of this video and their cohorts and investigate them for any hate crimes.  Have these people gone further in their hate for First Nations people?  Should they be exposed so the community knows who they are and can protect themselves from this type of lateral violence.

It’s when racism become overt, like in the case of these YouTube videos, that it becomes concerning.  When does lateral violence become actual violence?  In addition to their cell phone, do they have AR-10 rifles in their truck?

The local First Nations should step in and take the producers to court, no matter their age, to hold them accountable for the hurt they are causing these individuals who are depicted and the pain they are causing the broader Anishinaabe community.

Racism is a learned behaviour and it isn’t taught at school.  Let me place the blame where it belongs – the parents.  Perhaps these parents need to know where their kids are and what they’re doing – just like the parents of the infamous Fort Frances girls.  However, these youth appear a little older than the teenie-bopper racists.

As I stated two years ago, this is a symptom and a greater problem in the Kenora and Fort Frances areas.  First Nations are subject to racism quite often.  To their credit, the local Council and First Nations governments have taken steps to raise awareness and counter these types of situations.  But there is a still a lot of work to do.

Racism is no longer socially accepted and very often lies dormant.  But it manifests itself in contemporary stereotypes, ignorance.  Believe me, I will get many e-mails and responses in defence of youth, the videographers and their parents.  Many will deflect the issue and even accuse me of racism.  All are symptoms of underlying, dormant racism.

It’s in those private conversations, at home, with their spouses and children, at the dinner table or before bed, where the real racism will show it’s ugly head.

Time to Tax Wealthiest Canadians

Yesterday, the first official work day of 2010, most of Canada’s top CEOs made the average annual wage in Canada by lunch-time.  According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the average salary in for Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs was $7.8 million.

Meanwhile, the average annual income for a First Nations person in Canada was less than $20,000.00. Still, many more – without any source of income – are battling the bitter cold, homeless in Canada’s urban centres. We’re not talking about couch-surfing homeless. We’re talking about people sleeping in crowded shelters, cardboard shanties or in sleeping bags over sewer grates.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

The government needs to take steps to tax the highest paid earners – Canada’s wealthy elite.  It is a travesty that richest 1% of families also now pay a lower tax rate than the poorest 10%. Canada’s tax system is seriously out of balance.

The wealthy need to be taxed and those resources need to be mobilized immediately to eliminate poverty, beginning with children and First Nations people.

Corporations turning substantial profits also need to be taxed. There are still many corporations are turning health profits despite the global recession.

Inheritances need to be taxed at a greater rate. Capital gains and investment income also need to be taxed more substantially.

Finally, Canada’s poorest people need breaks from taxes. This includes maintaining First Nations’ right to tax exemption. First Nations, as sovereign people and governments, have always maintained they are exempt from imposed taxes from settler governments. In fact, First Nations governments need to fully mobilize an effort to tax government and resource companies who have benefited from their traditional territory for so long. First Nations are only beginning to develop taxation laws and generate taxation revenue of their own.