Over the last couple of days my blog has had record traffic because of my last post. I have also had opportunity to communicate with many people some who agree with my position and some who wildly disagree. Some comments were so rude and demeaning to people who are on the street and/or to me that I refused to post them. Personal insults are the characteristic of people who cannot carry their muster in a debate. That said, I will respond here to a number of issues raised by people upset with my last post:

There were those who suggested that I have no business in this discussion because I serve in a suburban parish and that I might have a different attitude if I served in the downtown core. These people are the ilk that has no understanding of who I am or of the work that my parish has done on the ground and with organizations who work on the ground. Nonetheless, I fully expected this and am glad that people pointed out that I am in the suburbs. I do not have to come downtown to work, to eat, to socialize, or to have an adult beverage. Yet I do. I love downtown Windsor. I go downtown even though that means encountering people on the street who are looking for help. One of my favourite places to frequent is Chanosos, as I noted in my last post.

Some have called me another member of ‘the Christian right.’ Clearly not a person who has read mush of what I have written in previous posts, or who knows anything about me.

Some have accused me of threatening Mark Boscariol’s livelihood. In this vein I have been told that I am using my ‘pulpit’ as a place to make political statements. It has been suggested that the people who belong to the church where I serve have ‘impressionable minds’ and that they hang on my every word. It was even noted that I am using my position as a celebrity sometimes does to advance my political agenda. To quote some of the politicians from the recent election: “Let me be clear…” If saying that I believe that Jesus calls me to respect the dignity of every human being is a political statement than yes I am using my personal blog to advance the politics of Jesus. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake are not mindless drones who hang off my every word.  I am sure that many disagree with me on this point, some have expressed it in the comments on the last post and others have communicated with me directly. That is life. I was accused of preaching in this blog post. Fair enough. Preaching is about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. I am a priest, not a businessman. I have no celebrity and I did not bring Mr. Boscariol’s restaurant into this conversation. It was there when I arrived.

Some have suggested that my suggestion that Mark Boscariol open his restaurant to the homeless is unfair. One person asked if I would be prepared to take ‘the mentally ill’ and alcoholics into my home for a meal and suggested that they would purchase the groceries for the feast. Now having people in my home, is not even on the same plane as suggesting a restaurant have a night to feed those on the street.  Nonetheless I have dined with those others would not acknowledge…but I have a long way to go in doing more of this.

Clearly, Mr. Boscariol and I have a difference of opinion. He and some others who have posted on here are concerned about having ‘safe’ streets, free of ‘annoyances.’ They see those who ‘panhandle’ as a threat to their business and subsequently their bottom line. “Let me be clear…” that does not mean that Mr. Boscariol is heartless, mean-spirited or does not care about those who are on the street. He has communicated with me directly and I get the sense that he genuinely does care about those who are ‘less fortunate.’ But we have to acknowledge that the driving force for him is downtown revitalization. I have a different concern. I and some others who have posted on here are concerned with the people who are found on the street ‘panhandling.’ While Mr. Boscariol has clearly acknowledged that he likes to help those who are in need through the work of organizations etc, his primary concern is to remove, reduce, or restrict people from begging. At the very least where they can do so. He is telling tell people that they cannot give directly to those who beg for money. I resent that as much as he resents me telling him to feed the street people in his restaurant. Point made – we cannot tell another how to give to those who need it.

Mark Boscariol and I disagree on much. That is where this rests. The rest of the rhetoric served up in comments on my post as well as in personal messages to me only reinforce the feelings that people have about those who live on the fringe of society. Some of us have argued that they are valued children of God who need to be treated with respect and that there are root issues that need addressing.  We have maintained that while organizations need support to continue to do their good work, there will always be people who are found on the street and we should indeed not be told that we cannot give them change. Others have described people on the street as ‘god-awful,’ ‘annoying,’ ‘a nuisance,’ ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back,’  ‘mentally ill,’ ‘alcoholics,’ ‘cheats,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘bum,’ etc. This all tells me that there is much work to be done.

I have found this thread quite enlightening. The traffic it has received, over 1000 hits, suggests that it is a hot button issue….we need to come together in a public forum and work on this…for some, this issue might be revitalization of downtown streets. For me this issue is about human dignity. Nonetheless we might find a common ground on which to work to accomplish our goals. I want to encourage dialogue and discussion and think that we are on our way toward that.

So let me say that I have another idea… I love the food at Chanosos. I have not been to Mark’s other restaurants but I hear they are fantastic as well. If you are downtown – Go to Chanosos for a bite. Let them know your feelings on this matter while you are there. If you agree with Mark, pat him on the back. If you disagree with him, call him to task. Let him know why you feel the way you do. I expect that since he weighed into this conversation he will be big enough to engage in a dialogue and debate with you in an intelligent manner. He has, for the most part, done just that with me. I hope to see him on my next visit, over a stir-fry…spice level 7!

UPDATE

Would love for you to read a great article from The University of Windsor Daily News. You can read the story by clicking here. It highlights the need for more work to be done with both funding and educating business owners etc. Janice Crawley who is an assistnat professor of nursing and who specializes in research on the homeless has her work highlighted here.