I’ll have a Stir-Fry with a debate on the side!


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.

8 thoughts on “I’ll have a Stir-Fry with a debate on the side!

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  1. I can’t resist
    “Point made – we cannot tell another how to give to those who need it.”
    I would still rest on the fact that you don’t give an alcoholic or drug addict the means to buy alcohol or drugs.

    You talk about downtown revitalization as if it is separate and independent from poverty and homelessness. If we have downtown revitalization, we have the means and resources to help those less fortunate. My ability to give is directly affected by how well my restaurant does.

    I abhor the fact that not only are some people twisting my comments as anti panhandling, but I do abhor that I have to acknowledge that the very debate brings out the disrespect many show panhandlers.

    Ask Feather man (his name for himself, not mine) about me, about how I treat him and every other panhandler. He’s the first panhandler I encountered downtown in 2001 and I’ve shown him nothing other than the same respect and dignity that I would hope to be shown if I was in his circumstance.

    Rev thinks I can’t tell people how to give, I disagree, I think I can lead by example a better way to give. I don’t understand how anyone could think that enabling an addict is a gift.

    Again not all panhandlers are addicts, but I was just told by someone who knows that Windsor has a significantly higher rate of substance abuse than other cities in Ontario.

  2. Also, when it comes to restricting rights, I’ve always subscribed to the notion
    “Your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose”

    Panhandling to a captive audience that can’t walk away is intimidating
    ie. bus stop, over a patio railing
    Panhandling at an 1st entry point to a city where a first time visitor is
    unfamiliar with his surroundings is intimidating. ie. train or bus station
    Thats it, I do not wish panhandling curtailed beyond those two points

  3. Not trying to prolong the debate but below is some interesting information I am finding that should be added. Re

    Owners are ill equipped to talk to panhandlers (I’m told by social services none of which are homeless but are “at risk” homeless which is still serious).
    Thats why a public education campaign is needed. The BIA forum was in part a way for business owners to find out what services even existed. Now we can get that information to our members. We also found that some of the agencies don’t even see eye to eye with each other about the best ways to help panhandlers. Some try to get them off the street, some give out sleeping bags

    Little known fact. This week a reporter had the police look up the safe streets act that it is already illegal to panhandle in front of an ATM. No one in the Windsor police department knew this. If the police don’t know the laws regarding panhandling, how is a business owner supposed to.

    I find it odd that the it is implied the article uses the word “However” implying te two paragraphs quoted below* are contrary when in fact I believe they are both asking for the same thing. More moneys for outreach and programs that help.

    *QUOTE FROM LINKED ARTICLE

    “Members of Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association held a community forum Monday morning to discuss the issue of what to do about the presence of panhandlers in the core. Some business owners complained that people begging for money scare away potential customers and suggested refusing to give them money will drive them away. Instead, they said, people could donate their money to charities that feed the needy.

    However Crawley, one of several co-investigators on a recently completed research project on the health and social service needs of homeless people, suggested if funding could be improved so that agencies for the homeless could offer more outreach and education to businesses, those owners would be better equipped to talk with homeless people in front of their shops and restaurants, and perhaps direct them to the services that can help them.”

  4. Mr. Boscariol, in respect to your comment “We also found that some of the agencies don’t even see eye to eye with each other about the best ways to help panhandlers. Some try to get them off the street, some give out sleeping bags”
    To take this pot shot at my agency is uncalled for.
    Let me provide you some history, which I hope will bring some understanding of the issue.
    Eleven years ago I started the Sanctuary program which is now being offered by the Mission. After another woman froze to death I was enraged and opened our centre at night staffed with University of Windsor student volunteers.
    The City of Windsor received complaints from the shelters that our program was draining money from them and we were forced us to close our doors at night.
    Incidentally, we offered the program at no cost to the taxpayer yet the shelters are rewarded over $46 per day, per person from Social Services.
    I presented to the Mission board in place at that time the Mission could reopen the program. As I had predicted the City of Windsor chose to overlook the Mission providing the same service simply because they did not want to look like the bad guys for taking the United Church to court!
    I should note I trained the Mission employees and provided the Mission with the computer programs I designed to keep track of statistics and a process to record needs, special needs and other data to better serve the clients.
    Unfortunately, while the program survives it still does not serve the homeless who, due to mental health issues cannot stay in large clinical institutions like the Mission or the shelters.
    These poor souls remain abandoned on Windsor streets, and certainly would be counted among the frozen to death if it were not for my sleeping bag program.
    My programs also have provided the only outreach program to the homeless. It is only my agency, which for the past eleven years has walked the streets to meet the homeless and provide essential needs e.g. sleeping bags.
    Most certainly my staff diligently works to help the homeless get off the street and into shelter. It is ludicrous for you to suggest that my program works to keep people on the streets through our sleeping bag program.
    It should not be ignored by you or any other citizen of Windsor that not a single person has frozen to death on our streets since I opened these programs.

  5. I am afraid that I stand with Christine on this one. I don’t know where Mr. Boscariol is getting his information but it is plain wrong! ‘None of which are actually homeless, merely ‘at risk’…. get in the wind, my friend. Obviously, the person you spoke to at social services does not know the facts. Repeating this incorrect statement is convenient to your position but you certainly must know it simply is not true. Some people love to blame the homeless or the poor for their own predicament. Any excuse will do… they are lazy, they cheat, they aren’t actually homeless, …whatever. That is a ‘welfare Cadillac’ idea and as such is a throwback to the fifties. There is no such simple explanation. As I have said before in regard of this conversation,
    I don’t know who would willingly choose begging on the street over honest work. Who would represent themselves as homeless as an easy method of making a living? I have a suggestion here for Mark. Try a mile or two in their shoes. Have yourself a look-see then come back and tell us what an easy time you had of it. Please tell us how you made $20 an hour! One thing though, don’t forget to tell us how people treated you while you were making the easy money.

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