It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. COVID-19 has affected all of us in different ways and to be honest, I haven’t felt compelled enough to write something for some time. Work has been busy and intense and I feel like I’ve been living and breathing COVID-19.
When I woke up this morning, I was saddened to see the tragic news of a deceased newborn found in a portable washroom in the Downtown Eastside. The death of a newborn will always be a tragedy, but I immediately felt this ultimate sense of absolute sadness for the mother.
The world is so quick to place judgement on women.
We do not know the story of this woman, how she got pregnant, or how she ended up on the Downtown Eastside. We do not know her upbringing and her mental health history.
My sense of sadness was for this woman because people will write the story of her life for her.
I took to Facebook and looked at all of the comments on this story. There were lots that showed compassion, but of course, there are trolls out there too:
- “What do you expect from that dead beast.”
- “Remove all the shrubs from Vancouver. Make it illegal to feed them. The union gospel mission and the like are the problem
- “give these junkies all fentanyl they want and put them in one place and let them die! Then save the kids”
- “Looking at the photo accompanying this story…the city sets up toilets and look at them – the door is even ripped off…it is all costly beyond belief and will never end. Sorry but it is so frustrating and overwhelming.”
- “Off to a better place. That baby never would have had a chance anyway.”
- “Sad…that baby is born in a toilet, a dirty one at that.”
- “Why aren’t these pregnant woman detoxed and in treatment centre I guess druggies come before everyone else”
Of course these comments are extreme, but I hear judgement everyday against homeless people living in the DTES. I am also quick to judge when I’m in that area of town. The reality is — the most vulnerable need our support instead of judgement. Here are some stats that should be making headlines every day:
- 48% of self-identified women with existing relationships to the DTES reported experiencing violence within the last two years.
- 87% of participants reported feeling unsafe in the DTES at some point.
- 25% of the women reported feeling unsafe in their place of residence.
- 57% of the participants responded that at some point they did feel forced to do something they are not comfortable with in order to survive.
- 36% reported that at some point the medical system had failed to support them with mental health issues
- More than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness annually.
- When women become homeless, they are also at an increased risk of violence, sexual assault and exploitation.
- Some groups of women have higher rates of poverty and are more likely than others to be poor. The prevalence of low income among the following groups of females is particularly high:
- Aboriginal females — 32.3%
- First Nations females — 34.3%
- Racialized (visible minority) females – 21%
- Immigrant women – 31.4%
- Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
- On any given night, about 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are already full.
- Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women
I am by no means an expert in all of this. But we need to come together to support the most vulnerable people.
Today, I made a donation as a tribute to the mother and her deceased newborn to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. This Centre is a place for women on the DTES to feel safe and cared for and 500 women access their services daily. Contributions are essential to sustain the safe space, basic needs, and long-term improvement for women in the Downtown Eastside.
I count my blessings every day that I have a job and that I’m in a position to do what I can to support those in need.
If you are in a position to do this too, I hope that you can support the most vulnerable with whatever you can.