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PICS 'ZINE EDITION 1 by fjzhxb


									Volume 1 June 2003




A group of street-involved youth who want to eliminate the stereo types and negative attitudes towards street youth.

The PICS Project
We are a group of street-involved youth who want to reduce or eliminate the stereotypes and negative attitudes towards street-youth. A collaboration between Beat the Street (Frontier College) and the TeenNet Project (University of Toronto), PICS uses photography and writings to express the strengths and weaknesses of our communities. Working with a professional photographer, we took photos of issues that matter to us in our communities. We then wrote captions for our photos and got together to discuss the issues we thought were most important. Using our photos we picked one common issue to us all – discrimination against street-youth. We were interested in knowing how the community around us felt about street-youth, so we put together a questionnaire and went to different parts of the city to conduct a survey. To show our support to the many hardworking coalition groups in Toronto, a group of us also went to the protest at City Hall for lack of affordable housing. After all these experiences ,we decided that we wanted to write articles to express our views. We met with an editor from Young People’s Press who helped us learn how to write opinion pieces. These articles have been published on the Young People’s Press website, We decided to make this little ’zine to showcase some of our work. Thanks for taking the time to look at our work. We hope it provokes some thoughts and gives you a glimpse into our day-to-day lives and the issues that we face. If you would like to know more about our project, please see the last page for contact info. Hope you enjoy!!

“ T aking Responsibility ” By Brian
When I first came to Toronto, I wrote about how street kids seemed different than me. The way they dressed, the way they talked, the music they listened to – they seemed like a whole different society. I didn’t want to become part of that homeless youth crowd, who seemed to be just going around in circles. They would basically just hang out, the popular homeless crowd. They had no ambition and they wouldn’t keep up with their responsibilities to stay in the shelter or get training. Eventually, I guess the glamour of homelessness caught me. Growing up is never easy. To take responsibility for your actions is hard enough for some people, never mind growing up. Imagine you are homeless at the ripe age of 18. When so many other 18 year olds are deciding where to go for college or university, you get to decide where you are going to eat, sleep, and how you are going to get off the streets. Geez! It just seems like yesterday I was sleeping in my bed in my parent’s home. Imagine how shocked I was when only a year later I found myself hanging out on the streets of Winnipeg where I’m from, with people who drank Listerine. Pretty fast I realized that I had to grow up so I could get out of this predicament. How? I didn’t have my high school diploma, no money to put down for an apartment, no job. Yep, growing up is never easy. Growing up on the streets is even harder. Once things got bad for me, I had to leave my parents’ home. I moved into a shelter and they set me up appointments with welfare. But I wasn’t going anywhere. I was just doing temp jobs, and only had enough money to rent a room in a shelter. Two friends and I decided to hitchhike to Toronto to change our lives. Because of age differences, we were quickly separated. I was thrown into Covenant House, a youth shelter, and my friends went to an adult shelter. It was difficult because there was no support and I didn’t know anybody. The councilors enrolled me in an education program and helped me look for a job. I started to read about youth that come to Toronto to escape their problems, and I realized that I didn’t want to fall into this crowd, but somehow over time, I slipped into it. Months passed by like a change in the wind. Nothing really changed in my situation. I stayed at one shelter for certain amount of time, and then moved on to the next. Unfortunately, I was getting used to this kind of lifestyle but I didn’t know it. Eventually I realized that I had to grow up. I knew what I had to do. I knew it the entire time. I just hadn’t been able to take responsibility for my situation.

“ T aking Responsibility ” By Brian
Being free, not having any rules, doing whatever I wanted. I got tired of the rules at Covenant House, and when some of my friends got discharged from the shelter, it made me want to leave too. Even though I didn’t want to, I found myself in that situation that I was trying to avoid. I got caught up in the lifestyle. I started hanging out with street youth community in Toronto. My friends and I discharged from Covenant House because we didn’t like living with the rules. We ended up on the streets and we had nothing going for us. Eventually we all decided to explore other opportunities across Canada. We, meaning my girlfriend Amanda and I, hitchhiked from Toronto to Calgary, stayed for almost 2 months and realized it didn’t matter where in Canada we were, being homeless is the same allover. Even though it was fun for awhile, we got sick of not having a home of our own. We were just walking down the highway. On our way to Calgary there were three of us, and one of us was sick. We started talking about how we felt, the goals that we had and what we wanted to do with our lives. We realized that it wasn’t going to happen if we were living on the streets. We needed to settle down, grow up and do what we had to do to get off the streets. When we came back to Toronto we accessed a bunch of resources from Evergreen, Native Child and Family Services and Welfare. They helped us to achieve our goal of getting an apartment and getting off the streets. Mostly, it was the decision to get off the streets that made the difference. Even though it’s hard to break the cycle and overwhelming because you feel kind of helpless, you can make it happen, and the first step is just to deciding that you want to.

“Bathroom for the Homeless” by Amanda
This is a picture of a stairwell at City Hall. Used and abused by the homeless due to the lack of open washrooms. People use this one stairwell as their bathroom at night, when the public ones are closed. How do I know? You may ask. Because I was there, I was homeless and had to use this stairwell myself. As gross as it is, it’s a part of homeless life. Although it looks somewhat clean, once human waste is dry bacteria and disease remain it’s never really clean.

“Artificial Plastic Woman”
By Joy
Artificial is beautiful today over natural. This picture is just a representation for the countless sex promoting advertisements in which are over powering issues on AIDS and STD’s. Human nature is enhanced or influenced in a way through television and advertisements. As far as the revealing clothes, you can tell me not to judge a book by its cover, but someone who exposes themselves, stereotypes themselves.

“We need affordable housing now!” By: 420-Keith
It’s getting harder and harder to hold down a place to live in Toronto. Rents keep going up, and it seems like all of the new buildings under construction are big condos. The average person cannot afford a condo or pay the highway robbery rents that landlords charge. So imagine how difficult it is for street-youth. Of all the different issues affecting street-youth, I think the most important thing is affordable housing. A lot of people think that street-youth need to get a job or go back to school. But I don’t think that many people realize how difficult it is to do this when you are homeless. Sure, young people can go to shelters, but this is meant to be a temporary solution. Most shelters only let you stay for a few months at a time. Or sometimes they kick you out if you break any of the rules, which can be really strict. Once you get kicked out you’ve got to find another shelter, because you can’t afford any other place to live. So, just imagine how hard it is to find work or stay in school when you are bouncing around from place to place, time to time. A lot of shelters won’t even let you collect welfare, so it’s even harder to get back on your feet. There are also fights and intimidation, some people are not clean because they don’t take care of themselves, and the large amounts of people aren’t for everyone. Living in a shelter ain’t no vacation. Shelters are just a short-term solution. People need a long-term place to live before they can have a good life. I think it is a basic right for everyone to have a place to live. If youth had a chance to get into stable housing, then they could focus on finishing school or getting into job training programs. What we need in this city and across Canada is more subsidized housing that people can actually afford. Rent prices should be in relation to what people can pay. If you make less money then you should be paying less for rent. But instead of creating more affordable housing, the government is actually making it harder to find a place to live. In 1995, the misguided Ontario Premier Mike Harris made changes to the Rent Control Act. As a result, average rent increases amounted to 13% between 1997 and 1999 (1). Today, at least 106,000 Toronto residents (1 in 4) are at risk of losing their homes because they are paying more than 50% of their income on rent (1). When the headless and heartless provincial government cut welfare by 21.6 % in 1995, more pressure was put on the already struggling residents (1). To make a bad situation even worse, the government also cancelled more then 17,000 units of co-op non-profit housing that year. In Toronto, 19% of the homeless population are children (1). Currently there are 100,000 homeless people in Toronto and 31,000 are on waiting lists for affordable housing . At this rate, it will take 17 years to get to the top of this list! It’s not just homeless people waiting to get into subsidized housing. It’s so expensive to live in Toronto that even people who earn $25,000-$30,000 a year are waiting to get on these lists. This problem just keeps growing. If the government doesn’t do something soon, more and more people’s lives will become unstable and they will get desperate. Violence and crime will increase and it will just go on and on and on, creating more poverty and more homelessness. Stop being greedy. Give to the needy. We need more affordable housing now!
References: 1. Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) (1999) Death on the Streets of Canada, a report submitted to the United Nation’s, March 15, 1999

“Youth Programs” by Brian
A photograph of the Native Child & Family Youth Program on 456 Yonge Street. It is the front door to the Youth Program. The Youth Program was a real key for us to get off the streets and into an apartment. They provided us with transportation, moving and mostly a helping hand. For the homeless it is a real problem in Toronto and in Canada period. There are programs that aim to get kids off the streets but it is the kid’s decision if they want to get off.

“Cashless Society” By Joy
It’s an aged and obsolete machine, much like how many elders feel in the world today Technology is becoming our future; it upgrades itself constantly: What happens if that takes away the future for certain jobs? Money today, is becoming the centre symbol of the universe, the best things in life are free, but it will cost you an arm and a leg to get by.

“I Am Human” By: Amanda V. Meharrie
Picture yourself in a nice warm living room, with the television on and the kettle whistling. Your mom is in the kitchen cooking supper, and your dad is setting the table. They call you for supper, and you sit down at the table and get ready to eat. But then you wake up and realize…. you’re homeless. Instead of a nice comfortable house you’re surrounded by cold, dark, doom-filled skies and the glares of people walking by. They stare, some even snicker and talk about you under their breath. What a waste and a disgrace to society. Get a job. Grow up. Go home. But you hold your head high and ignore them because, you think, it’s only morning and surely your day will be better than this. You stand up to prepare for another day and you realize that today will be the same as every day. You’ll clean up in a bathroom at the mall or at a restaurant and try to look your best. But your hair is greasy, your teeth aren’t brushed and a tan of filth is noticeable on your skin from not being able to shower for several days. You’re hungry and tired, cold and alone and want somewhere to go other than the parks. Parks are no longer comforting due to run-ins with the downtown police division. It seems that every time you so much as sit in a park, you get harassed, yelled at, talked down to, and even assaulted – physically and emotionally. Where’s your ID? Why are you here? You ask what you did wrong and you are called names and publicly humiliated. Anger arises within you because, after all, you’re just sitting here in a public park, and aren’t we part of the public? No. According to police and society, homeless street youth are not public and therefore inhuman. We are inhuman, animals, and deserve to be locked up and treated as such. If you are homeless you’re perceived as dirty, poor, drunken, drugged-up thieves, so therefore inhuman. Meanwhile there are thousands of dirty, poor, drunken, drugged-up thieves who have homes, and so therefore are human? It makes no sense to me at all, but no fuss should be made or heard, and no complaint put forth. For the police and most of society agrees there is no discrimination against the homeless. You find yourself going to outreach services and programs to eat, sleep, shower, and maybe to pass time and stay warm. All the other street youth are there and your day is almost bearable because you’re not alone, and everyone shares the same predicament. But all good things must come to an end, and closing time approaches. You are sent back to the street for yet another night. *Continued on next page!!!

“I Am Human” By: Amanda V. Meharrie
Continued from previous page!!
You wait for morning to come and the night drags on. You barely sleep and when you awake you remember your situation. As you look around you see empty cups and wrappings from food that was handed out during the night from Street Help, an outreach service that is run by the Natives from NA-ME-REZ. Their programs include helping to find shelter, handing out food during the night and blankets in the winter. They make nightly runs around the city and even have a building open during the day. As you prepare for yet another day, you realize what you are doing wrong. Being homeless is no way to live, you need a change and you must get off the streets. But where do you start? The Perspectives of Inner City Street youth Project (Teen Net/University of Toronto) conducted a survey where the public ranked issues facing street youth in order of importance. Education was ranked the number one street youth issue, followed by employment, support and then affordable housing. But those views come from those who aren’t homeless. How do you go to school, study and complete homework with no steady housing? And how are you to remain punctual and keep good hygiene for work? So many street youth get fired, or don’t get hired in the first place, because they’re homeless. Sometimes it’s not their choice to be on the streets. Government support agencies like Welfare are very much frowned upon by society, because it’s “free money.” Welfare workers were the ones that told me finding suitable housing should be number one. After this is acquired, they offer help to go back to school and find work, and in most cases these things are mandatory to receive benefits. Although it may have been easier for my boyfriend and I as a couple, because we can split rent and other expenses, plus have more money for food and other necessities, I can assure everyone we had our fair share of disappointments. But because of the support given by Welfare and the trust of our new landlord, also with the help of outreach agencies, we got off the streets, and now have a beautiful apartment. So, now according to society and police, we are human. This makes me sick because, homeless or not I always was human.

Beat the Street (BTS) is a literacy program of Frontier College for street youth and homeless adults in downtown Toronto. The program was started in 1985 by two men who had been involved in the streets. BTS reaches out to youth on the streets, as well as working with homeless and marginally housed adults, psychiatric survivors, and those with substance abuse issues. Toronto, ON Phone: (416) 979-3361 • Fax: (416) 979-3292 •

“Touchstone Youth Centre”
by Bobby When most people see this picture they see youth at there worst and automatically think everyone living there is always drinking and doing drugs and it is very degrading. This shelter is one of the best shelters in Toronto. For example, good, healthy food, hot showers, phone, warm bed and they provide bus fare to help you get that job you wanted or for that place in the paper that looks really nice. They help you with that and people don’t see the positives about shelters. So the point is people, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover!

“Music” by Keith

Reminds me of a day in your life. Reminds me of the party times, which was just the other day. Everybody likes to party because everybody likes to enjoy youth while they still can. Music blends in good. Hip Hop; the beats, the rhyming, drum and bass, techno, even rock n roll. Relates a lot about partying. It’s a good mix

“Breaking the Cycle” By Joy Ann Macdonald
I live in a shelter and I am a young adult.
And yes, to overstate the obvious, I do have my share of problems – just like the rest of the world. But the problems that I’m facing weren’t just created by me. It’s not just my actions that have brought me here. Adults often assume that youth are in shelters because they are undisciplined or bad, but how many of them look at the bigger picture? Why are the youth really there and how did they get there? Youth today are singled out and blamed if they face difficulties in life. People often think young people bring their troubles upon themselves. WHAT ABOUT SOCIETY’S RESPONSIBILTY IN THE PROBLEM? It seems that society is so quick to give everything a label, just like bottles in a medicine cabinet. And under each label is a typical description of what each of the pills do and how they affect you. The adult-created society blames young people for being who they are without really looking at influences from outside forces such as TV advertisements, bad adult decisions or inappropriate role models. It’s like giving a 13-year-old a cigarette and telling them not to smoke it, and as bad as it may taste it appears to be of “good taste” in a fashion sense. It’s not necessarily young people’s judgment that is bad, but more their exposure and learning habits that happen very early in their development. When you’re growing up, you are trying to decide for yourself what is wrong and right, and how are you supposed to know if you don’t have the right role models? As an example from my past, about 13 years ago, I made friends with an adult whom I met through family. She stayed with us for a couple of weeks and accepted me as a friend from the start, and she gained my trust. She eventually convinced me to start stealing and in most cases I let my heart take over my head. I didn’t think about it since someone older than me, and supposedly wiser, told me to do it. Later on, she got caught, got charged and moved back home. I was alone again and I lost a friend that I thought I could trust. About 7 years later I did the same thing with another friend of mine, because I was having trouble being accepted by people. She was a year younger and she was just like I had been. So we started stealing. I ended up influencing her the same way my friend had influenced me. What I had learned from my old friend came out of me, passing on what I had known. I know now not to steal. I faced the consequences and changed my ways. But in relation to all of this you will only get what you give. And if you’ve only gotten bad influences, that’s what you will give back. You cannot plant bombs in a person and not expect them not to explode -unless you try to deactivate them.

PICS Project
A group formed by street-involved youth who want to reduce or eliminate the stereotypes and negative attitudes towards street-youth. The group formed via a collaboration between the literacy agency Beat the Street (Frontier College) and TeenNet Project, Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto. The group used photography and writing as mediums to express what they view as strengths and weaknesses of the communities in which they live.

Hope you enjoyed reading our ‘zine!
*tell us what you think of our zine:
A TeenNet Project / Beat the Street collaboration funded by the Wellesley Central Health Corporation

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