I attend classes at the UofA Extension. There is many homeless and mentally ill people in the area. So many that a majority of the staff that work in the different stores have become numb to the unusual, and sometimes criminal behaviour of the people that frequent this area. I've had some run ins with many of these people. One man followed me and smelled my hair as I stood in a line up. Another put his arm around me and asked if he could live with me. I don't put myself in situations where I could be in danger or feel really uncomfortable so I'll generally as politely as possible put some distance between myself and that person.
I've had some great conversations with some of these people as well. One guy I had met had sat beside me at the lrt station. He looked at me and asked why I haven't walked away. I asked him why he thought I would and he said because everyone does. He proceeded to open up to me and tell me he had been drinking by himself for 3 days, he lost his job and as a result lost everything. He was trying to find his sister's place to stay and have a good night's sleep. I sat quietly and listened to his story, helped him find his stop. As he got off the train, he hugged me and said thank you.
Another man I met on whyte ave last year. His name was Dwayne. He became so depressed when his wife died that he lost everything in his depression and ended up living in the street.
One of my classmates during my last class went to Tim Hortons and an older teen that looked strung out on something, came running out of the washroom yelling for help. By what I've heard, it's a common tactic used to lure people into the bathroom there and rob them, so the staff and patrons payed no attention. My classmate who is experienced in working with people with addiction recognized the genuine fear in his eyes and went to look. It turned out his girlfriend was miscarrying on the washroom floor.
I would never, ever recommend putting yourself in danger. However, I've noticed how many of these people are ignored. If someone needs help, at the very least make a call to someone that can help them, if you are uncomfortable doing anything yourself. I've come to notice that there can be a lot of pain behind addiction. In talking to the homeless people that I have, many of them have been victim to circumstances out of their control. Some of them are mentally ill and don't know how or even that they can find help, some just lost everything from job loss, and some are escaping abusive situations. Sometimes just listening to someone and showing compassion can do a lot for someone.
There is now mental health first aid courses, I think I'll be making it a priority to take it so I can have a better understanding and be better equipped to recognize different mental health issues and how to help.