Just a note to wish “Happy Birthday” to the Victoria BC publication, Victoria Street Newz, which is produced independently and sold by low-income individuals on street corners in the city. Saw this blog post about the celebration of Street Newz’ 7th year with a meet-and-greet, music, and vegan cake at the beloved Solstice Cafe, a queer-friendly venue near Chinatown and the waterfront in downtown Victoria.
I’ve always appreciated this low-budget newspaper, both for its independent content, expressing the views of caring individuals who are often marginalized in society, and for the fact that it helps to generate revenue for those who sell it. I always tried to pick up a copy of the paper when I lived in Victoria. If you live there, please do support the newspaper. If you’re not able to pick it up from one of the downtown vendors, you can also buy a subscription.
I was pleased to find that Street Newz publishes on-line archives of the paper, as well, and just now was completely absorbed by the latest issue of the paper. In time for International Workers’ Day, May 1, the newspaper features thoughtful analysis of work – paid and unpaid – and the story of one person’s quick slide into homelessness. The story is credible and human and it is a must-read, as it challenges the stereotypes that most people carry around regarding homeless persons. This was a hard worker, an entrepreneur, with a middle-class Christian upbringing, whose life was shattered when a car accident caused severe injury and disability to his son. Trying to care for his son, his work slipped away, and it took over seven years for the privatized “provincial” automobile insurance company to pay out any compensation. During that time the father was forced into poverty and eventually, homelessness.
I have never given credence to those tired and terrible accusations against the homeless, that they are lazy or good-for-nothing, and have always felt strongly that circumstances could turn any one of us homeless. Anyone who doesn’t have two months of rent saved up could become homeless within one month, if laid off or otherwise unable to find work. Especially in a city like Victoria, where rents are atrociously high, and salaries do not reflect the cost of living. In the last few years living in Victoria, we were certainly dancing to avoid homelessness ourselves. It doesn’t take much – just one swing of bad luck – and then how do you climb back out of the gutter when the whole world is against you? This story in Street Newz has a happy ending, but many don’t.
So take a moment to reflect, before throwing accusations at the poor and homeless. After all, what sort of people are we that we allow others to live in misery and insecurity and persecution? The very condition of homelessness is caused by capitalist accumulation of wealth. And when some have it, others don’t. To quote Utah Phillips – “It’s all wrong. And it all has to change. And the change has to start – with me.“
Happy Birthday, Street Newz, and many more years and successes to you!! And cheers to all the vendors, the writers, and supporters, and especially to Janine Bandcroft, the tireless force behind the paper and an engaged and thoughtful community activist.