Saturday was the first meeting of Men’s Rights Montreal which I and Murray Pearson organized in an effort to reach out to our local community by organizing events that will bring awareness to men’s issues in the form of activism and volunteering in local outreach programs in the name of men’s rights.
I highly recommend creating a Meetup group in your area if you have not already done so. It is easy and quite affordable to do, and it brings together like-minded people for a great cause such as men’s rights.
After the meeting I accompanied Murray to the Metro Train to say goodbye. After he left I met three wonderful men (Marc, “Joe-Shmoe”, and Marvin) who were panhandling in the Metro Station and sat with them for about an hour as they eagerly spoke to me about their experiences and shared some hearty laughs.
“Joe-Shmoe”, as he called himself, is a Native American who suffers from a mental illness. He is quite a jolly individual who loves to talk. He told me about a recent accident he suffered when a truck struck him in the street and injured his leg. He explained that the driver compensated him for his injury by giving him his hat, which he now treasures immensely.
Joe’s best friend is Marvin. Marvin also suffers from a mental illness as well as a pronounced speech impediment. He’s a quiet soul who told me that he had recently been attacked by two men who split the back of his head open on a pay phone in the Metro Station. He ended up getting over sixty stitches to the back of his head, which he showed me.
When I asked them about the local men’s shelters in Montreal, Marvin and Joe both explained that they do not like to stay in shelters. They said that it was safer to sleep on the street because the shelters are rife with lice and crabs, and they are at risk of having their possessions stolen from them in a shelter. They explained that they only go for meals during the day, but that they never sleep there even in extremely cold weather.
Marc is a quiet one, but his story is quite different from that of Joe and Marvin.
Marc ended up homeless and on the streets after he got divorced. He explained that he lost everything in the divorce and could not keep up with the alimony and child support payments. He eventually had no choice but to live on the streets.
Marc has been homeless for over a decade. He relies on shelters for meals, hot showers, clothing, and a bed on extremely cold nights.
Marc likes to take care of his friends on the street. He is the one who handles all the money that they collect and makes sure that it is spent on food and beer before anything else. He buys his friends beer and shares what he can with others he knows. He is a generous man even though he has little to give or share. He knows the value of a kind gesture and a well placed smile. He is a small man with a huge heart.
These three men are but a tiny example of the thousands of homeless men out on the streets in Montreal, and other major cities across the country. Men that have been forgotten and shunned by society. Men that fell on hard times and had no one there to help them when they needed it. They are the background noise in a bustling city that no one notices.
But you can help these men and it doesn’t take much to make a difference in their lives. A kind gesture, a smile, a moment of conversation. An acknowledgment that they are human beings that matter and have not faded into the background. A few hours of volunteering at a local food bank or shelter, or even sending a donation to an organization that helps the homeless helps them remember that people care, and that they have not been forgotten.
These men are examples that life can be cruel and that sometimes you can be caught in a horrible situation that is beyond your control. No one is immune to becoming homeless, and it can happen to anyone at any time. We need to remember that men such as these never wanted to be homeless, but circumstances beyond their control eventually led to their being out on the streets.
These are the men that society failed and forgot. These are sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. These are human beings that deserve our compassion and understanding. These are people with names and stories to tell. Lend them an ear and let them remind you what it means to be a human being.