I had no idea, I admit, that there are three hundred homeless community organizations in Quebec. You should know that in Montreal, there are an estimated 3,000 homeless people.
The president of the Réseau SOLIDARITÉ Itinérance du Québec, Maxime Couillard, asks Premier Legault to cancel the curfew for these people, who choose to live on the streets.
In the current context of extreme cold combined with COVID-19 outbreaks, which choice is more humane? The street with $ 1,500 tickets that these people are unable to pay or the obligation to show up in heated places where many of them refuse to go?
The media have been making headlines with stories of homelessness for the past few weeks, sometimes making them advocates of a marginal way of life. In short, they are described as romantic characters and, in some portraits, they emerge as heroes of resistance to the “system”.
I am not sure about them. The homeless, of whatever origin, belong to the most suffering minority in our societies. They are above all mentally ill, drug addicts, alcoholics or victims of horrors often linked to their childhood. They are reluctantly instrumentalized by the media and by all the good souls of political correctness and other voyeurs who look at their fate bawling before returning, in the evening, to their warm homes.
Those who devote their professional life to them or who rub shoulders with them as volunteers are neither tearful nor outraged. They know very well that for these cripples of life and heart, there is no ready-made solution to the challenge they pose with their mere presence among us.
Who can claim that they choose to live in this marginality? Who can say that living on the streets is a form of freedom, as ideologues claim, who thus condemn them to remain victims?
The pandemic has further dramatized their situation. Because social disorganization and, of course, the catastrophic consequences of COVID-19 on our economy are diminishing our hopes. By weakening so many people psychologically, we imagine that some will join the current flow of homeless people in Quebec.
It will be necessary to revitalize the young people in whom the negative effects of this earthquake can be observed after a year. It is not with magical thoughts and rediscovered hugs that we will be able to face the titanic project of putting Quebec’s institutions back in order.
The homeless are a barometer of a humanitarian society. A society which supports and treats mental illness, which provides assistance and alternative solutions to addiction and which creates places to welcome the weakened and the socially maladjusted.
Yet the pandemic has revealed social flaws that some already suspected, despite the denial and indifference of others. Homeless people are not actors in a reality show. Their lives should not be used as material to give chills to voyeurs and Twitter users. Their suffering is upon us. As for the solutions, they come from faith in miracles, because each being is his own mystery.