Friday, February 15, 2008

Urban Outdoorsmen

Last night I celebrated Valentine's Day by going on a ride-along with two of my friends who are outreach workers for CUPS (Calgary Urban Projects Society). We drove around the inner-city looking for people who might need condoms, food, or clothes. It was a pretty slow night but I enjoyed learning more about what my friends do at CUPS and how they interact with people living on the streets.

A lot of the people have really fun nicknames. For example, there's "Survivor Man" who when asked how he is, always says "I'm surving!" and rants to the workers about how they don't have what it takes to "survive" on the street. Or my favourite, Caveman, who loved to talk about his role as a Caveman extra in a 1980s Darryl Hannah movie.

I was reminded last night of when I worked with homeless people in England. Before I left for England I needed a rain coat. Because I didn't have much money, I bought one of those bright yellow plastic rain-coats. In addition to being cheap, I thought it was cool in an ironic, fisherman kind of way. However, when I got to England, it was more ridiculous than cool and one homeless man called me Paddington. In addition to having a weird coat, I had neglected to bring a hat, mittens, or a scarf. I borrowed these from friends and ended up with a very "eclectic" outfit.

One night, I approached a group of young homeless people and struck up a conversation. My intent was to see if they needed any food or referral to local shelters. But before I could ask, they asked me where I was sleeping that night and welcomed me to stay with them at a nearby parking garage. I was humbled by their honest generosity and their willingness to help a stranger. It was much more generous than my offer of tuna sandwhiches and hot chocolate that I hadn't prepared or paid for. But even so, I was a little taken aback at being mistaken for a homeless person by homeless people.

Anyway, after last night I have lots of thoughts about homelessness, which I'm still mulling over.


Paige said...

Wow, what a way to spend Valentine's Day. It sounds like it had a powerful impact on you. Oh and I couldn't help but laugh about your homeless Paddington Bear story.

Geegee said...

I would love to hear some more of those thoughts.....I laughed out loud about Paddington. Love it!

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