To Whoever May Listen

To whoever may listen,
  Where would you stand when it comes time to be counted, up front and center with those who vote, drive cars and own homes? Or would you stand alongside me with those who pick bottles, ride bicycles and are homeless way out back in some dark corner, unheard and unimportant. I am talking about a family of broken people who have been hurt because of love and yet still love, a family of people who’ve made poor choices and reacted out of anger and hatred of a society which has turned a superficial ear towards them. This ear I refer to may appear to care and to listen but when rubber hits the road there is a disassociation between the voice which speaks and the hands that are in a position to heal.
  I can go on and on about the indifference which is so apparent to the recipients of this creature lurking in so many a mind of our society but I am writing here today about a topic specific. Recently the Bissel Center of Edmonton has been asking community members about how things could be improved at the center, survey after survey has been passed around and comments submitted. However, when I requested time with the supervisor of the recreation department to discuss legitimate grievances about members of staff, I was left with a feeling of
impotence and unimportance. I felt as though my voice carried no weight among those who wield it like a rubber mallet. I had gone over to said supervisors office four times and submitted my name for an audience with her two of those times yet she hardly seems to be in or even returns requests. That second time I submitted my name I was shortly thereafter confronted by one of the workers a grievance was about. I reluctantly agreed to talk with him because I wish to speak with his supervisor present but felt pressured due to the fact that we were on good terms prior to this incident.
 `I explained to him that while on an outing to Shakespeare in the Park with him and a group on the twentieth of July, I overheard him talking to two women standing in line waiting for tickets. I heard him explain just what it was that he did and what the Bissel Rec. program was about which is all in good by itself because there should be more awareness about what the Bissel provides. Shortly after though he turned to one of the community members and boisterously exclaimed “I have such a heart for you guys“, well I am sure that he feels sincere about this statement but it left me feeling suddenly less than everyone else around me standing in line. I found myself so embarrassed to be associated with the group that I had to leave. I was so disgusted with the fact that worker, who is supposed to make us feel better about ourselves, could exalt himself to the status of sainthood  in front of all these people around us at our expense. We poor unfortunate souls who are to be pitied, we who are homeless, we who are desperate to have a white knight just like him to care and take us out into the world of the whatever class the we are not normally apart of… I no longer wanted to be there with the feeling that everyone would be looking at us with pity or fear or judgment, I no longer wanted to be there feeling less than the rest.
 This feeling of a need to escape remained with me until I did so during an intermission of the show. All this comes after a meeting I had with him and his beautiful colleague (I apologize for the adj., could not help myself) to voice some concerns which one of them was this very same subject of how they mediate between us and the public while on outings. Apparently it fell on deaf ears then as it did hear because all I got in response to my revulsion of his behavior were excuses and an explanation that that was just the way he felt, which again left me with the notion that he believed his justification was more important than the humiliation that I had felt. He even went so far as to get visibly upset and violently threw his Bissel worker identification card that was hanging around his neck to the ground, flare his arms out to his sides while exclaiming, “I’m not just a Bissel worker but also a man!” Now he did this in the alley next to the Bissel drop-in with some fellow street folk looking on, this action could be very dangerous for it may appear as though he is calling me on for a fight to these onlookers. Luckily for him that I am a God loving man who understood that he meant no harm, as well as humble and secure enough not to worry about what my street friends may think because they know me but if I were any other street person this flamboyant worker might have found himself flat on his back with a busted nose. In response though I simply patted him on the shoulder, said a few words to calm him down and left it at that with no real resolution. These people really need to be trained better about how we perceive and react to confrontations, not to mention the fact that he has a job to do, he is there for us and not we for him.
  This brings me to another problem which occurred that same day in the park. This same worker told us that he would stand in line for tickets while we could go and do what we will, but when it came down to it and shortly after his self-declaration of sainthood, he left a friend of mine standing there holding our place in line along with some sporting equipment that he brought and personal belongings of the group. He didn’t even ask her but simply walked off to play catch with the boys; she was very upset with him.
  Another grievance I had wished to bring to light was about another worker whose full- time job, I am told, is to direct activities for a couple different agencies, the Boyle Street co-op as well as the Bissel Center. After talking to a few community members as well as my own observations I have concluded that he has yet to prove that he is worthy of a paycheck. Remember, this is not just my opinion but that of other community members and at least one other Bissel worker as well. During a canoe trip we’ve attend outside of the city, he canceled the canoeing  due to a little rain and a “threat” of a storm, well apparently it wasn’t bad enough to start a fire and have a bbq. Then through all this grilling of hot dogs and burgers, this said worker couldn’t leave the comfort of the fire to direct not one activity, I believe it was another worker who suggested something and even then the rest of us had to ask for the sporting equipment to which we made our own fun while this “full-time activities director” just stood by the fire, enjoyed the company of the volunteers and ate to his heart’s content. The attendees of this outing were four staff members and two volunteers to nine community members, two of which were lost or missing for a time before we left where as we had to go around the woods calling out for them. Let’s see now, a ratio of six workers to nine clients and two went missing, does something seem amiss to you with this picture? Well it does to me.
  Upon another occasion, we had the pleasure of a camping trip over a couple days which, in my opinion, this full-timer failed miserably once more at his duties, then again, if his duties entail just coming along for the ride and enjoying the food then he’s doing great. But I don’t think this should be the case, I mean this fellow did not help with the cooking or even the dishes let alone direct any activities. You tell me; just what is his job supposed to be?! I have been talking, as I have said, to other community members and it seems to be a recurring theme with this particular office because I hear that this has been going on for a few years, and I will quote a common phrase used, “ they seem to be there just for themselves “. For a few of the community members at least it appears that some of the workers don’t do much other than just drive them out to these events and have a good time for themselves. I mean, if this is all that is required of this department then all that we really need is the driver and let’s stop wasting community funds on tag along baggage. Please forgive my rant for this is not true for all the workers, especially for the flamboyant worker previously mentioned in this letter because other than the incidents mentioned he is a great help for the spirit of these trips, probably more so than any other worker and he is young and new at this job. I can only hope that he will come to understand us better in the future, this full- timer though is another story.
 I had written a letter earlier to another Bissel supervisor of the fact that I felt dismissed by the recreation department and warned of further action, she did tried to help but the appointment that she managed to arrange with this Rec. dept. supervisor was broken by said supervisor. I have had just about enough for my patience has taken me about as far as it will go with that office, after all, I am just a broken, not like them, street bum who is to be barely seen and barely heard. Well, in actuality I intend to return to university to become a writer which is also one of the reasons I am writing this letter, to which I hope it may reach as many people as possible. That I may step into a possible forum for my writing as well as to inform those who may listen of what is happening in this particular office so that my peers may not have to be subject to the feelings of humiliation and inadequacies of which I have recently endured. Let me be clear though, the Bissel Center in its entirety is a wonderful place for our great city and provides a great deal of support and care for us, I love them. I just feel that the rec. dept. needs a little stir, perhaps sometimes some of us just get a little complacent in our duties if we have been at it for a time, especially when it comes to working with people who have social issues such as I but please, all we ask is that we might have a sincere ear to listen when we have the need for it.

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou for the kind comments on my page a while back. I just read this blog about the Bissel Rec employees. Well said sir! But I am intrigued by this beautiful pic you have posted of a man and infant gazing at each other. It is quite a wonderful pic I want to say. Don't get too discouraged about the failures of mankind. Afterall, we,re just a bunch of human beings. Granted the light of God's goodness shines through those with the Holy Spirit. Amen? Yes. So always let your light shine for the world to see. There is not enough of that light. It dispels the darkness Johnny Lee. We have that in common I think. That Light. Bless you brother in all that you do good. Love your blog here! I am no one special in this world but I have something and someone living on the inside that is. God bless you and help you in all the good you do, Linda


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