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Is it this campaign that you're protesting?

http://calgarydowntown.com/panhandling/

Yes, that is the campaign.

It seems to me that they're just trying to encourage people to give to agencies rather than directly to panhandlers, where the majority will be used for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. That doesn't seem so bad. Why the protest?

I gave a toonie to a panhandler tother day. A little disposable income is a powerful thing.

I can remember poor farms. Everything was supposedly provided by a paternal, supposedly smarter care-giving sector. They didn't work. Their authoritarian nature lead to their collapse.

I don't think I could be a panhandler ... I'm not capable of working that hard.

I guess what worries me the most is that the campaign seems logical by only presenting certain facts. The ads make it seem as though the people are on the street because of their addictions and/or mental health problems.

In one report (2002 Calgary Homelessness Study) roughly 65% of people who were homeless reported physical health problems while only 6% to 13% reported having a mental ilness.

I am concerned that the CDA is focusing on addictions and mental illness to capitalize on stigma to promote their campaign. The fact is population health studies routinely demonstrate that lower soci-economic status (SES) is related to poor health in general.

Issues of poverty are complex. There is not sufficient employment. At the same time, people are not always able to take advantages for complex reasons. For certain, people may feel helpless after prolonged difficulties in their lives.

The CDA's campaign is cruel in my view. Having people, wearing business attire, stand at intersectons, holding signs asking for money for "meth", mocks the homeless, adds to stigma, and, in my view, promotes hate. It also obscures the realities of so many of these people.

I just want to be clear that I have had no involvement in the organizing of the rally by Food Not Bombs Calgary, and I cannot speak for them. As to their reasons for protest, and their mandate, I encourage people to visit their website. They are active in their work against poverty on an ongoing basis.

http://www.foodnotbombs.tk/

Thanks for keeping up on this issue. I've been trying to follow it myself.

The thing about those ads is that they fail to achieve their purpose. The idea of donating money to poverty charities in Calgary as opposed to giving it to people on the street is a good idea for the most part. But the "please donate" appeal seems lost in small type under the giant picture of the person with the placard. It's unlikely that people who give to street people regularily will remember to make the donation; they'll probably remember the "don't give to hobos" message more than the "give to charity" message.

It would be far better if the Downtown Association put some volunteers on the street to explain what they do and take donations, much as the Salvation Army does around Christmas time.

Polly:

You suggest that homelessness is not highly correlated with mental illness and addiction issues. In fact, the 2002 Calgary Homelessness Study suggests that 68% of homeless persons suffer from mental illness, and that 69% identify with addiction issues, either present or past. Indeed, there is a very high correlation, according to the Calgary Homeless Foundation.

Your next point is that the campaign itself is cruel. I can see where you're coming from on that. However, I ask the same thing that I'd asked on the Food Not Bombs website: Have you asked those (the homeless) whether they find it condescending?

JP,

I couldn't find the statistic you're referring to in the Calgary Homelessness report.

I should note that I drew from this study, because I cannot get the omnibus study that the CDA cites (despite having asked for it twice). Panhandlers are not always homeless, and I am not certain if the CDA got stats specifically on panhandlers.

I think you raise an important point, asking if I have actually asked any currently homeless people(or panhandlers specifically) how they feel about the campaign. I have not. In fact, I have been very much in my own myopic world since beginning school in the fall. I am, however, someone who identifies with both mental illness and low-income issues from a personal perspective. I am not just protesting this campiagn FOR the poor, the homeless, and/or the panhandlers. I am against it because I myself find it offensive, inaccurate, and hateful.

The Downtown Association is not a Social agency. Their facts regarding addiction are based on two sources, and unreleased study made by their own researcher (who apparently asked one social worker who works at an agency that gets a high proportion of people with addictions for an estimate). and the 2003 city omnibus study, which is an opinion poll with a low sample size.

Most panhandlers in the core are people with fixed or casual incomes who supplement their incomes through panhandling. The (smaller than 85%) segment that does have substance problems won't see them solved by a loss of income.

This campaign is nothing but poor-bashing, and it's motivated by a desire to see homelessness move someplace where it doesn't impede business for the CDA.

Food Not Bombs is a group that's been serving for close to ten years. We talk to homeless people on a regular basis, hear their problems, and the biggest one is definitely not addictions. If the CDA wants to curb panhandling, they should lobby the government to create more affordable housing, and start demanding that their member businesses pay their employees a living wage instead of perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

Thanks for posting about our demo, hope to see you there.

Billy Cromb
Food Not Bombs Calgary

the curse of poverty has no justification in our age.it is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil...
Martin Luther King jr.

I like there campaign, I was pannin in calgary in 2005 outside safeway in whitehorn, I stopped because of the ads on the c-train, and then I got a job and a home. I think there studies are right, and I definitley have addiction and or mental health problems, so do all the peeps at the DI, and in the crack de sack

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