Tag Archives: 5 Days

Complaints About 5 Days Are Baseless

A friend called me over the weekend quite irate about a blog post he had read regarding 5 Days for the Homeless. He then confirmed that I too did not agree with the author’s stance and then heavily suggested that I post about it in my blog. Being unable to refuse the request of a friend (especially when it guarantees at least one reader of the blog) I have obliged.

While I will go into some specifics about this post of the criticism and how I think it’s off base, this experience honestly has been added to the heap in my mind that I have labelled, “Ignorant Individuals with an Imaginary Axe to Grind.” I want to point out that I said ignorant, because I think that in many cases the people that I think this about are quite intelligent, but they choose to stay ignorant about the topic at hand to serve their own purposes.

In reflecting on why it seems there is more and more grandstanding every day I can think of two reasons:

  1. Everyone has a platform. It’s no longer solely the jobs of politicians to purposefully misunderstand / misrepresent situations and take hardline positions on one side or the other. Just like to make waves as a politician, to make waves on the internet there is no room for shades of grey. Take a side, stick with it no matter what the evidence says and refuse to concede an inch. What’s worse is that these people often are quick to point out problems, but never really provide any solutions.
  2. There are some people who look for every opportunity to take offense to things and won’t have a conversation surrounding it. They just criticize, close their eyes to any sort of explanation past their initial (often distorted) reaction and tell it to anyone who will listen. No one wins when this happens, people just become more divided.

Now to get to the blog. It was posted by an individual in BC and how they believe something similar to other opinions I have read or heard since 5 Days’ inception: That the campaign doesn’t “simulate” homelessness accurately enough and makes light of the issue.

I put “simulate” in quotation marks because the author of the post used it quite often, so I wanted to be sure to be using the correct terminology. I honestly don’t know if this is ho 5 Days chooses to describe the actions taken by the participants, but I wouldn’t have any issue if it was.

No matter what definition of “simulation” you read, the common thread is that it is not reality and known to be not reality. It’s creating a situation that is reflective enough of whatever is being conveyed to achieve the desired outcome.

So when NASA astronauts practice space maneuvers under water, they realize they’re not in space.

When geo-engineers run computer simulations of flood forecasts for planning purposes, no one thinks that the areas on the screen are actually flooding at that moment in time.

When a bar has a mechanical bull riding night, there is no one who is scared to attend because the bull may charge.

So similarly, when a group of self-identified students sleep outside for a week raising money for charity, no one thinks that they’re actually homeless. They are taking action in order to gain attention (and hopefully funds) for the cause. The same way that those who participate in the Terry Fox Run every year don’t think the literal act of running will cure cancer, but rather bring the community together to raise funds and support for the ongoing research to one day stop the disease forever.

Moving past the semantics of defining the terminology that the writer used in their argument, because maybe they are using a definition that I hadn’t hear of or was unable to find, there are things that are even more frustrating and allude to the two issues I have listed about. Basically the writer is choosing to represent the facts surrounding the issue how they like, but at the same time neglecting to provide any proof or solutions.

Here are a couple “facts” I would like cited:

  • “walking for three hours to get to the food bank only to be denied because you don’t have an address”
  • “ [shelters] tend to have ridiculously complicated forms of gate-keeping that rid people who are struggling with homelessness of their humanity and dignity”

Having volunteered at a number of shelters / food banks in the past, I can say I honestly haven’t seen either of these things happening. I would ask that the author list the shelters where this is going on so was can all put a stop to it.

The most telling part of the piece is at the end of the criticism, the signing off paragraph is:

So yeah, I get it. Homelessness sucks and you want to cure it. You want to support people who are homeless, but there are better ways to do it.

What are they and why are you keeping them secret?

At the end of the day, anyone can have an opinion. In the post there was reference to “numerous Facebook threads denouncing the campaign” and that may be true. I’m not going to look into it, because I don’t see the point in being further frustrated.

However, I would ask to all those criticizing to state what they are doing doing about the issue?

If you’re just sitting around complaining for the sake of making yourself feel better for not doing anything that you apparently care about, kindly put a cork in it. There are people out there who are really trying and I’d rather hear from them.

You can still donate to 5 Days for the Homeless at http://5days.ca/manitoba/

My Life On Welfare

First thing’s first, don’t worry mom, I’m not applying for welfare.

I was recently reading an article about a company that is doing a “SNAP Challenge“. As far as I can tell, these people were going to live on the equivalent of food stamps for a week to see what it’s like. This got me thinking about the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign that happens annually across Canada (and right here in Winnipeg).

When I saw the comments at the bottom of the article I started thinking even more about the similarities. Things like, “This isn’t how real people on food stamps live,” and, “This is insulting,” and, “This is a publicity stunt.” It was like a blast from the past, because I’ve heard all of them said about 5 Days, as well.

To set the record straight, all these participants know that this isn’t real-life, but an exercise. I can’t speak for the SNAP Challenge people, but 5 Days only wants to raise money (over $25,000 this past year) and awareness. Excuse me for being blunt, but only a complete moron would think that these participants are claiming to know what it’s like to live the lifestyle which inspired the charitable endeavours.

All of that being said, I started wondering to myself if I could live anything close to my current life on welfare. Then I started doing some digging.

Disclaimer: I didn’t take too long finding this info and I’m sure there are some intricacies. This was just done as a mental exercise for myself (and now you) and I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be on welfare.

I found that the assistance provided in Manitoba is $587 for a single person, so the short answer is right away “no”. Mortgage payments, home-owners insurance and personal insurance eat that up and more. Case closed.

Not wanting to stop right away, I decided to see what it was like if I cut out all of the above and assumed I was an uninsured renter.

I also assumed I could find a place to rent for $350/month and could access a housing allowance for 50% of that cost. My remaining fixed expenses were car insurance, cell phone bill and cable/internet. After the above four things I was left with about $177 per month for everything else. Maybe possible, but not ideal.

Then, again a step further, I decided to cut out the data on my phone plan, cut cable and internet, “sell” my car and get a bus pass instead. Assuming I was still was paying $175/month on subsidized rent my leftover spending money would be $327/month. Let’s work with that number for now.

A rough budget for living on $327 discretionary income per month for me would look like this:

  • $200 food ($127 remain)
  • $70 utilities (giant leap here, but thought I should put something) ($57 remains)
  • $57 everything else

I fought my natural urge to put something in savings, because I just don’t think that’s realistic.

The $200 for food may have some room to be trimmed down, but as it is that’s $6.67/day for meals. If you want to get any sort of protein, ever, it’s going to have to stay where it is. I know there’s people who have blogged about living on a dollar a day for food, but even they have admitted it was very unhealthy.

It may seem silly, but this was actually fairly eye-opening for me. Before taking the time to break it down I didn’t really understand what it meant to be on social assistance. Looking at it this way, you wouldn’t really have choice with your money. After the most basic human needs are met you’re pretty much out of cash for the month and I’m guessing that would really wear on a person.