There is a video that has gone viral on Facebook this week. It shows a couple on their way to see what was in store at this year's RibFest.
What this couple did not expect to find were two homeless men lying in a downtown parking lot. When the gentleman filming the video approached the two males, it was only upon closer inspection he discovered one of the men was deceased.
The deceased individual was named Vincent, or Vinnie to his friends.
He was a homeless man here in the city. I had seen and spoken with Vincent many times when I was downtown and this man was always kind and spoke very gently.
About a month ago, my 15-year-old son and I were walking to the city bus shelter downtown and we found Vincent lying on the street. I stopped to see if he was all right and after about five minutes of not getting any response from him, n call to 911 was then made.
Vincent came to, and when I asked him if he was all right, he told me he suffered from seizures and to not worry about him because “no one did.” I told him I cared and that I would not leave him until help arrived.
He wanted to get up and I helped him, and he told me it was really hot out and he had nothing cold to drink. I had a bottle of water in my backpack and gave it to him. He smiled at me. When I asked him how long he was there, he said he wasn't sure anymore. He began to tell me how he came to Sudbury from Saskatchewan to find work and when the work ran out, he had no where else to go.
He again told me I didn't need to stay or worry about him, but I told him friends don't do that to one another, that I was more than glad to stay with him and be of any help I could.
He smiled at me again, and then touched my hand and said, "Miigwetch."
The ambulance attendants arrived and many bystanders started to come over. I was told not to worry that "he's just drunk again," and that "he will get a bed and a meal like every other time he does this."
I was outraged. The treatment this man received from others was not human — it was sickening. Vincent was a person, a man who obviously had issues that resulted in him being on the street, but no person deserved what was being said about him.
I understand there are many homeless people in Sudbury asking for help, for spare change, but to treat them like they are nothing, to walk by them in disgust and look down on them, is not helping anyone.
The men, women and children on the streets are there for a reason. Something pushed them to a point where they felt like they had nothing to live for, nothing to care about. Have we as a society become so immune to the needs of others that we just stopped caring?
Vincent's death has struck a chord with me. I would see him everyday. He would smile and thank me for buying him a coffee every now and then. I have been reading the posts on Facebook associated with the video. I agree with many others that there should be more services to people in need, more options for those who are homeless and struggling.
Sometimes I think people in those situations don't want to seek help because they have heard, "No, can't help you," from so many passersby that they just give up on themselves and their situations.
All I ask of anyone who sees a homeless person, ask yourself what happened that got that person there? It's not always a drinking or drug problem. Many suffer from mental illness that goes untreated or undiagnosed.
So, instead of looking down your nose at them, why don't you help them get a hand up? When they ask for change for a coffee or ask for some money to get something to eat, go get them a coffee or a sandwich instead of handing over the cash. Let them know there are resources like the Blue Door Soup Kitchen, Salvation Army, and Aboriginal People's Alliance Northern Ontario (APANO) to help them.
To some, the loss of one homeless person in Sudbury may not be a big issue, but to those who knew Vincent, who cared or who wanted to help him, it does mean something.
When there is more news coverage about RibFest than there is about a man found dead in a parking lot, it truly makes me wonder where society is headed.
Vincent was a human, a man with a story that needed to be heard. I am thankful for knowing him for the short time I did, and I take comfort in the hope that he is no longer suffering from whatever inner demons he had. I hope that he finds the peace he truly deserves.