Thursday, 28 April 2016


I don't even know the term to use anymore because I feel like it's going to offend someone, or upset someone, or be wrong.  But.... street people. 

In my neighbourhood, there are people, some of them street people (or homeless, or transient or down on their luck or - fill in the blank-) who will come to our recycling area to find returnables.  So I'm used to hearing some noise from back there as they search through the bins (although most of us tend to leave our returnables out of the bins for this very reason)

I'm also used to some yelling in my neighbourhood.  In fact, it was some of that yelling that actually started me off on this whole blogging thing nearly ten years ago... so I'm used to it.

And I also have a fairly good sense of what's "normal" for yelling or disturbance in the area vs what's a bit less ok.

Which leads me to an early evening a week or so ago.

It was somewhere around dinner time when a gentleman started yelling in our back parking lot area (where the bins are.)  He was pretty upset, and angry, about certain things that had been stolen from him by certain people and he didn't do the usual of stop, search, rant, move on.

He just kept shouting and yelling.

I didn't know what to do.

You know how sometimes you get that feeling of just being uncomfortable and you maybe don't have all that good of a reason for feeling that way but you just do?  Well, that's where I was.

It was about ten minutes of this man's shouting before I glanced out to see if I could see if maybe he was across the street or something, but he was still there, and when I looked again later appeared to be lying down.

Unless that was someone else. 

I looked out again at which point he started yelling something about "your car" and I figured I could either keep listening and worrying about him and his situation and feeling uncomfortable for myself and the whole thing or I could call someone.

So I called the non emergency line.

I felt pretty stupid because I didn't really know what to say other than there's someone here who is really angry and he's been here a while. 

They asked for a description, which I couldn't give, because I wasn't wearing my glasses, and as I was talking to them I didn't hear him any longer and ended up telling them that he seemed to have left.

They asked me which direction he went and I said that I didn't know. 

I felt like I was wasting their time.

An officer came by about a half an hour later and called me to let me know he didn't see anyone and did I know where the fellow had gone and I had to say that no, sorry I didn't, and that he'd been gone at least half an hour or more and I apologized for wasting their time.

The officer said that it was no trouble at all and when I texted my police officer friend later she said that I did the right thing and that that's what police are there for... to help.

There is a homeless shelter (housing?) not too far from where I walk and I stopped by and asked them what they recommend I should or could have done in the situation, and I felt better when they told me I'd done the right thing - to call the non emergency police or ambulance and let them know there was someone who might need help.  They also said that there are people in our homeless community with no mental health issues but who get police called on them all the time and are confused as to why, so he may just have been an angry, loud person, not someone in distress or in a bad situation.

But still... I feel badly. 

He wasn't doing anything wrong per say, and I wasn't in any immediate danger, and I feel like I maybe wasted resources and time "just" because I felt uncomfortable.

To be fair to myself, I was also not entirely sure the man was ok, but it's not an easy situation to be in.  Because it's a judgement call on a situation I do not understand and about a person I do not know.

Would I have done the same were it drunken teenagers or something?  I don't know.  Were my actions clouded by my perception of the homeless and addicted and the somewhat common and unfortunate combination of the two?  I don't know.  Should I have just ignored it all and not felt uncomfortable?  I don't know.  Should I have called earlier? What would that have felt like for him?  I don't know.

There likely is no right answer.  There are likely many different opinions.  I just know I was uncomfortable and didn't feel safe with the situation but I didn't feel all that much better that I called (non) emergency services on a fellow human being.


Not fun.  That's all I know for sure.


Blogger Jason Langlois said...

Well, it feels like you had the right answer. You waited until the level of discomfort got to a point you couldn't accept, and you called the non-emergency line... it feels like an appropriate response.

But yeah, not fun in any case.

Thursday, April 28, 2016 7:31:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Would that the world were different, eh Jason?

Thursday, April 28, 2016 11:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Elliott said...

Sounds like you did the right thing.

I would be nervous making that call too. I've made similar calls in the past and they are not easy. I don't know about BC, but Ontario has a pretty deplorable record dealing with people with mental health issues (I know, stereotyping, but the sad fact is that people in the situation you described have a high incident of mental health issues) that it can be scary making that call. I like to believe that the system will work and will provide the help and assistance needed.

My dad worked for an organization that assisted people with many different issues that prevented them working in non-sheltered environments so I've seen first-hand the lack of security net out there for certain individuals that really need the help.

Friday, April 29, 2016 5:29:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

Very true...

Friday, April 29, 2016 8:59:00 pm  

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