Clergy Notes — Sunday, October 15, 2017

On Wednesday afternoon this past week, Mother Lucy and I engaged in two activities which compelled me yet again to reflect on two of the prevailing social issues facing us all in the DTES, and indeed in Metro Vancouver, opioid/fentanyl overdose and homelessness. This reflection did not, sadly, lead to any solution, but I did see things from a different perspective.

Alongside staff of St. James’ Music Academy we received an hour’s training in how to recognise and respond to someone who has overdosed, including how to administer a Naloxone injection. I know, of course, that Fr. Matthew and several members of St. James’ have already had this training and carry Naloxone kits, but it was salutary for me to be prepared to respond in a small practical way to this appalling and spiralling crisis which has become a taken for granted daily occurrence. The latest statistics show that there have been over 1000 drug-related deaths in BC thus far in 2017, over 3 every day.

Later we took the Canada Line to Bridgeport, where we had been invited by Union Gospel Mission to Exit, an “escape room” Encounter to prompt us to imagine a little of what it might feel to be homeless and on the streets. I had no idea what an escape room was; Mother Lucy viewed it with some trepidation! In essence we were put in a room divided up into compartments almost as a maze, through which we had to find our way out. There were challenges and obstacles on our way, named for some of the causes, situations and barriers experienced by the homeless, which we had to overcome to progress. Through teamwork, perseverance, good luck and some outside help via Charlie on the walkie-talkie, we were fortunate enough to escape! Many on the streets however do not.

Again, it was a salutary experience which made me think. I am all too familiar with my own feelings of concern, inadequacy and sometimes frustration when I encounter homeless brothers and sisters on the streets and the church steps. This experience, however, helped me in a small way to sense something of the loneliness, fear, desperation and frustration in which so many on the streets live each day in the face of the seemingly insurmountable barriers they find in their way.

I am grateful to the Music Academy and the Union Gospel Mission for these two opportunities.

Fr Kevin