By Medicine Hat News Opinon on January 5, 2018.
How quickly we forget a lesson learned nine years ago.
On Jan. 6, 2009, a homeless man was found dead outside the Medicine Hat Public Library.
It was around 2 p.m. before anyone even noticed him wedged between an exterior wall of the library and a parallel decorative, perforated wall.
“He was in the fetal position and his arm was up,” said the man who first noticed him and called police. “I was kind of shocked that nobody had noticed and a little angry. I can’t believe nobody noticed.”
The deceased man, just 51 years old, died alone in the cold.
Medicine Hat had been having some really cold weather with temperatures around -30 C that week.
The deceased was not just a homeless person, he was a father and a grandparent, according to reports in the News at the time. He had gone through a divorce due to a drinking problem and his house had been destroyed in a fire.
“He just kind of unraveled,” said a close family member at the time.
There are many services and options available for the homeless in our community and perhaps some have not availed themselves of those.
If you spend any time talking to people using a homeless shelter, each person’s story is different regarding the circumstances that have resulted in their current predicament. They also struggle to break free from that history and make a fresh start.
On Christmas Day this year after the Champion Centre closed, the homeless had the option of going to the Stampede grounds for a meal at midday and for supper at a church in the Flats.
Take a moment to think about your choices on Christmas Day and the temperature of -27 C. Most of us had the choice to stay home — we did not even want to take the dog for a walk because it was so cold. There were homeless people who walked for an hour to reach the Stampede grounds and enjoy a meal in a warm space.
It is easy to say the homeless have made a personal choice unless you have walked in their shoes.
There are many in this community who think one of the options a homeless person deserves is a building where they can seek shelter when it is extremely cold. Is that too much to ask?
The alternative is the risk of hypothermia, frostbite and the possibility of death.
You know the proverb: The true measure of a society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable.
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