Written by Louise Gallagher

I awoke at 4. Way too early. Go back to sleep. Go back to sleep. You are feeling sleepy now. Sleepy.

No I’m not.

Yes you are. Go back to sleep. Sleeeepy….

Nope. Not gonna’ happen.

By 4:30 I give up the fight and turn on the light. I’m awake, may as well get up. Marley, the Great Cat, is excited. Will you feed me now? Please? His stomach obviously doesn’t have a circadian clock. Unlike Ellie, the Wonder Pooch, who continues to sleep — though she did move from her mat at the end of the bed onto the bed while I was in the kitchen making coffee.

Big day today. I’m heading for the roof of the homeless shelter where I work for 72 hours of ‘camping out’. — not the big building that opened in 2001 roof, but the ‘old building’,  the two story shelter that until 2001 housed 140 people a night. The old building is now the Clothing Centre — donations of clothing and small household items are sorted and put on display in the ‘store’ for  people to come in and take away what they need. It also houses the Computer Centre — an Internet cafe where anyone can come in and use one of 16 computers for free, learn how to operate various programs like Word, email, web browser, build websites, write resumes, do job searches etc., and it’s the Senior’s Centre — a day area room where those over 50 (senior status begins at 50 in this sector as homelessness ages you 10 to 15 years faster) can sit in a quieter environment than the main shelter and watch TV, play cards, chat, read, etc.

We’re pitching our tent at 9am, (On the Roof. Off the Street) setting up camp and settling in for three days of bringing awareness to the challenges of homelessness, and to raise funds for the shelter where I work. At least, will be working until the end of the year when I say good-bye and move on to new adventures.

That’s the thing about homelessness. It’s draining.

Having spent almost 6 years working there, I need space to recoup, to catch my breath, to reassess what I’m doing and how I want to be in this world. I need to see the world beyond homelessness to bring light into the darkness of the homeless world I’ve been inhabiting since I joined the amazing team in 2006.

And that’s the advantage of not being homeless. I have choices.

See, nobody dreams of being homeless, and everyone dreams of going back home one day.

Challenge is, in the choices that led you to that place you never dreamt of being, options become limited, exit signs fade and hope wanes of ever getting back to where you once believed you would be in your life. As you journey further and further from where you once were you begin to accept where you’re at is where you belong. And in that acceptance, you believe, there’s nothing you can do, nothing that can be done to change the circumstances of your life. This is what you deserve.

Nobody deserves to be ‘homeless’. Just as nobody deserves to be abused, or an addict, or mentally ill, or beaten, or any host of social ills that impact our neighbours every day of the year. These are conditions of our human existence that should never become life sentences. And yet, for the thousands of people suffering that thing called, homeless, when you’re in it, it can feel like a life sentence. It can feel like it will never be any different.

Hope is a tough commodity to hold onto when everything in your life is gone. Dignity is scarce. Pride practically non-existent.

And yet, to move beyond the quagmire of a homeless state of being, hope, dignity, pride are essential.

I’m heading to the roof today to support those for whom hope, dignity and pride are scarce. I’m heading to the roof to do my bit in making a difference.

And while I’m up there, my intention is to speak up, call out! It’s all about drawing attention to the fact — nobody dreams of being homeless. And while we can’t change what drove someone into homelessness, we can shift our perceptions and change our attitudes around those experiencing being homeless. And we can all do something to keep the dream of going back home alive.

You’re invited to come along. There’s lots you can do to support the cause.

  • You can click here to find out more.
  • You can share this on Twitter (#ontheroof) or Facebook.
  • You can keep coming back here this week to read of my adventures on the roof.
  • You can come up and visit us On the Roof. Off the Street — you’ll have to be in Calgary to visit in person. We’re  at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (DI) 1 Dermot Baldwin Way SE  🙂
  • And… you can pray for warm weather. It snowed like crazy over the weekend — which was not forecast — so I’m hoping the meteorologists are right in predicting temperate climes at least for the next day! And then they predict deep freeze — which is when I hope they’re wrong!  🙂
Thanks everyone!  See you On the Roof!