View From Above

By: K. Man

Have you ever crept by someone who is homeless on the streets, for fear of conflict or
having to make contact? What kind of feeling do you get inside your gut, when
somebody asks you for food, water, or spare change but you force a withered smile and
walk on by? What happens when they say God Bless, and you haven't given them
I can assure you I have done all these things, felt that pit in my stomach, and have often
been uncertain with how to react in this situation. Though I am not proud of it, my actions
make me aware of a very alarming problem we encounter frequently in our lives.
It's a sad but honest example of my background, and the privilege I was born with that I
am ever so thankful for (but sometimes don't know how to use it to help others). It's also
a reflection of Canada as a whole. A country with so much exterior fortune and wealth on
the world stage, yet not everyone living in it has the opportunity to share in the status
and success that many people perceive Canada to be.

Homelessness is real, existent, and has a powerful presence on a student like me. It's
those feelings of uncertainty of what can YOU do or contribute, that seem to be a barrier
to change in lot of people. But, they can also be the things that drive someone to make a
change. It works both ways, and that is what has brought me here today.
When I first heard about G&C, it was the summer before my second year. I was scrolling
on Facebook and one of the founders has posted a link to the website, with a blurb
about how I can contribute to stopping homelessness. Naturally, this intrigued me so I
clicked on. After exploring the nooks and crannies of the website I gained a better
understanding of what G&C was conceived to do, and how the hard working founders
had devoted so much of themselves into a simple yet effective cause: a backpack for a
backpack. This idea, reminiscent of the TOMS campaign was a local, innovative and
sustainable initiative that I knew was worthwhile- and the fact that such an effort was
made to provide education on homelessness was what really drew me in. A lot of time,
it's difficult to recognize your own power. G&C helped me do this, by explaining that
although homelessness is a very complex thing, striving to reduce it is not. Their idea is
straightforward and simple, yet it harnesses a lot of power and can do so much good.

Backpacks can mean a closet for clothing, a vault for valuables, a grocery bag- it's
adaptable, functional, and most importantly, there is a great need for them.
After joining the team as a casual volunteer, I quickly learned about the vast amount of
work behind the scenes that goes into the operation of G&C. Suppliers, fabrics and
materials, running from meetings with partners and overseeing new batches of
shipments- I could gather that those working for G&C were busy and overwhelmed with
work. But it didn't matter to them, because they knew the goal. They knew why they
were working and they understood that what they were doing was making a difference. I
found that although I wasn't as involved in the front lines, I was okay when a company is
tackling a large, societal problem like homelessness, every small bit helps.

The main message that I want to communicate today is that it's okay to feel discomfort
with homelessness. I think it is because that feeling stems from knowing something in
that situation is wrong. Discomfort with inequality and recognizing the need to change
things, is the first step towards fighting homelessness. In the minds of youth, once this
step is taking there is no bounds to what can be achieved. The key lies in education and empowering others to realize what they can do to help. For me, it was the click of a
button and discovering Givway & Co. For you, what will it be?