Shedding some light on homelessness

In Communities /

By Lindsay Fitzgerald

To the average student, Jason Serroul might just be the guy who opens the door for you at Tim Hortons on Victoria Street in the morning and wishes you a good evening after a long day at school.

But what you don’t know is that the 34-year-old self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades has sporadically lived on and off the streets since he was a kid.

That was until he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late 20s, deeming him mentally ill by the province. The soft-spoken Serroul was forced into the Toronto East General Hospital in East York.

MakeTreksLikeImHomeless, a student-run non-profit organization, has told stories that are similar to Serroul’s to dispel the public’s general misconceptions and ignorance about homelessness,

They have made it their goal to show the harsh reality of living on the streets.

Tom Evans, a fourth-year film student, came up with the idea for the organization after he befriended Darryl, a homeless man whom he talked to everyday on his way home from school for a year.

To help publicize the cause, Evans decided to film an interview with Darryl and post it on YouTube.

The members of MakeTreks give people who live on the streets care packages in return for a filmed interview.

“The whole idea is to rid the ignorance that surrounds homelessness,”said Evans. “Rather than [only] seeing a drunk bum, [we want people to] see that five-year-old boy who was raped by his dad.”

According to the Toronto Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, in April 2009 there were an estimated 5,086 homeless people in Toronto.

Care packages, worth $100, are comprised completely of donations and sales from merchandise they sell on their website.

Evans has posted six interviews, with several others waiting to be posted on their website.

Peter Rosenthal, a University of Toronto professor for the faculty of law said the issues of homelessness in Toronto are part of the “casualities of capitalism.”

Rosenthal is also on the executive team for Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) and is one of three lawyers working on cases dealing with the lack of housing programs in Toronto.

“One of the most horrible aspects of Canadian society, in wealthy society, is we allow people to live so poorly,” he said.

Bill Chapman, program director for community services at the Metropolitan United Church, started working as a community services counsellor in 2002.

Chapman said that he was homeless for a short period of time in the early 1990s.

“I had an alcohol addiction [which] I am now completely free of. It was not for a lack of affordable housing,” he said. “There is a huge misconception [of homelessness]. Ask anyone who has worked closely with them.”

Metropolitan United Church works directly with Toronto drop-in network service programs, counseling and housing support.

Although Chapman has come to terms with his past, he said that he would have told them anything to get a roof over his head.

“I was in denial of my addiction,” he said. “I would have told them a different reason to why I was homeless. I’m not sure to what extent we are getting the whole truth.”

Chapman said that if MakeTreks offered him housing in exchange for his story, “I would have done anything for a place.”

But he said that it wouldn’t have helped him.

“It may have even enabled me to avoid dealing with the root cause of my homelessness.”

Chapman said that, from his experience, the root cause of homelessness is addiction.

“As soon as we start depending on something to make us feel good, such as alcohol, drugs, another person, a material thing, it will inevitably turn into suffering,”he said.

“[But] I think it is important that we hear any story that would bring attention to suffering in our community.”

Evans said he wanted to start the organization to expose people to the issues surrounding our city and community.

“The whole idea is not to judge them until you walk in their shoes.”

 

Comments

  1. Just read this article and then checked out MakeTreks. Next time you write an article on something, at least include a link to what you are talking about.
    Also, who ever wrote this article doesnt really get the point behind maketreks, from what I can gather from their website and facbook and such they are doing some wicked stuff and this article just dilutes what they are doing by introducing others into the story. A classic example of a journalist trying to make something bigger of a simple story. Next time, just stick to the story and dont try and fluff it.
    and for those looking for the link: MAKETREKS.COM

    1. homelessness isnt really a simple story. and the article doesnt seem to be about promoting a student organization to galmorize anything. its showing multiple sides of a story. which is what journalists do btw.maketreks videos and intentions may be all good, but the truth behind their stories is questionable since there is an incentive involved.
      agreed the link should have been posted but nonetheless thought the article was interesting, made some good simple points and was unbiased.

      1. For me, this article loses all credibility by mistaking the yonge street mission for a shelter. Especially since they have used it as their accompanying image. Amateur research which puts a question mark over the entire article, I mean, it takes 10 seconds to google the ysm, where you quickly find out that they are not a shelter. So if the journalist cant be bothered to do that, what else cant they be bothered to do?
        I dont think you can really argue with my point.

        1. Well the writer of the story doesnt acctually decide on what image goes with what story, or even choose the headline. That is the editor’s job, so yes i argue with that point.

          It is sad though that they put the Yonge Street Mission it ruins the article!

  2. This organisation is coool! But you guys do not do a good job of explaining what they are all about. The Ryersonian wrote a much better article on these guys….

    http://www.ryersonian.ca/article/17443/

    And next time include a link of what you are talking about 🙂 maketreks.com

    Susan x

  3. I agree, this is a poor article. Im in class with one of the guys who volunteers for maketreks, and you havn’t really explained what they do????
    Do more research before you write an article about an organisation like this.
    And at least include the link in your article, that is just disrespectful.
    MakeTreks.com

  4. True.
    People will learn a lot more about MAKETREKS if you read their Process page on their website, MAKETREKS.COM.
    I didn’t really understand what they were from this article, but there website explains it very well. Good article though, you just need to cut the BS of the other people in the article and delve more into ‘The world of maketreks.
    And mention Wu-Tang next time, its pretty sick that thats their inspiration. RIP ODB.

  5. Thank you for the photo of Evergreen, a branch of Yonge Street Mission. Although Evergreen works closely with homeless and street-involved youth in a variety of significant ways, it is not a shelter.
    Evergreen focuses on needs of homeless youth during the day, needs of education, housing, medical attention, leadership development, and most importantly personal transformation.

  6. This is one of the most confusing articles to read? I agree with Chris in the fact that there is simply too much going on. Im currently doing my thesis on homelessness and have spoke with some of the guys from MakeTreks for my research. Where did you get this ‘rape’ quote from? Because I have never heard them say that that was their whole idea? This is a very confusing article to understand.

  7. “Evergreen Yonge Street Mission is one of the many shelters in Toronto”

    This is embarrassing. At least do your research before writing an article on such a sensitive subject. The Yonge Street Mission is NOT a shelter. As someone who has used the YSM before, i am infuriated by this ignorance.
    Please do your research.

  8. The Ryersonian did a much better article about Maketreks! And they even included some Wu-Tang!!!

    Ryersonian website /article/17463/

    WUTANG CLAN!!!

  9. I agree with Mill, the Ryersonian seemed to hit a home run with this one, where as The EyeOpener struggled to make it to first base. There is simply no story in this article and as much as I try to understand what this journalist is trying to do, I can’t, im lost.

    Also, anyone else find the rape quote kind of misplaced? I think that belongs in a different article, right?

  10. This is a confusing article. And the rape quote is random. Iv’e seen *MakeTreks’ stuff and there is nothing about rape on their site or videos, maybe the author mixed up another story with this or something lol!
    Also, the Wu-Tang is sick, shame that didnt get a mention. RIP ODB X

  11. I personally am in counseling with Bill Chapman. This man truly cares, truly wants ppl to succeed. In all my years of addiction, homelessNess, housing, i have never come up against an individual, on the front lines, care, love, respect, honor, and puts his life infront of yours to help. I’ve known Bill, some 15 yrs, and strongly believe if this man didn’t hear my cry for help, i would not be here today, clean, housed, and receivid proper health care. He deserves a key to this

  12. County’s.. he deserves a Key to the City, for his compassion, care, Love,devotion, his all. No man has stepped up to the plate, carried you through, as he. I dare anyone to say they did more for us than Bill. In not Bias, in not favourable, in HONEST. Bill, i owe you my Life.

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