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Emotions of Door Knocking and Homelessness

Today I was knocking on doors. I've experienced many emotions while talking to people. I've laughed, been curious, felt awkward, gotten frustrated on others' behalf. I've also got excited too many times to count. But today I was in for the last emotion I expected: I found myself crying as I walked down a driveway.

Yesterday, I went to a Report on Homelessness event put on by the City. I got to see lots of stats and hear lots of personal stories. I then went home and re-read all the City documents on homelessness in GP. (you can find them here: http://www.cityofgp.com/index.aspx?page=905).

The best document I found was a Point in Time count from 2016. The good news: we seem to be making good progress. The bad news: at our last count, we had 127 people experiencing homelessness. This count did not include people “couch surfing” with family and friends. It did include 8 single-mother families.

Today, these numbers got put into perspective for me. I was out door knocking. I talked with a woman whose job puts her into regular contact with people who are homeless. This was my longest conversation today. It was also my last: I had to take a break after it.

We talked trends, policies, statistics, and ideas for a while. But then we got into stories.

She told me about a clean-cut man who stopped her on the street one day. He told her he had been living on the street about a year previous. He asked if she remembered a conversation they had had together. She didn’t, so asked “was it a good one or a bad one?” He said it was a good one, and it contributed to him now having a steady job and a home.

She also told me about a girl she knew. She thought this girl was a great, beautiful, awesome person. But this girl didn’t realize her own value. This led the girl to make all sorts of bad decisions. As we talked, you could tell that the story of this girl was heart-breaking. It involved homelessness and many other personal challenges. The woman I was talking to desperately wanted something better for the girl.

This woman had a job where she would not be blamed for being angry, annoyed, or hostile at people she interacts with. But I didn't see any of that. I saw someone who deeply cared about others. It was very touching hearing this woman talk about the people she knows in our city. And it wasn’t the first conversation like this I have had. I have been blown away by the professionals, volunteers, and City staff who work with our homeless and at-risk populations.

I’ve spent months trying to come up with my ideas for tackling homelessness in Grande Prairie. It is daunting because this is an incredibly complex topic. Every time I read a report or have a new conversation, I realize how much more I need to learn. But one thing is clear to me: we have the right people working on this. We might need more of them, and we might need to resource them better. But they are INCREDIBLE. Whether I am elected or not, I hope I get to do more work with them.

If you know someone who helps the people in our town who need the most help, please give them a hug and a “thank you.” Maybe even buy them a cup of coffee. If you have any ideas on how Council can better support them, please let me know. I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee and chat.

-Dylan