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New Feature on my Site!

Tuesday, 9 July 2019
Hey! Been a long time! I've added a hostile design map to my site! It's only a few items right now, but I hope to see it grow! MapHubs doesn't have an open collaborative feature yet, so I'm going to be relying on your help to add more examples of hostile design to the map. Details (and the map) can be found here: Hostile Design Map Calgary

As always, if you wish to support me and my work, feel free to click on the "I'm Panhandling" button to go to my paypal. I will update the button shortly, since photobucket has decided to watermark everything I uploaded. Thank you all!
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Longest Night of the Year

Monday, 18 December 2017
This Thursday, I will have the honor of being the emcee for this year's Longest Night of the Year Ceremony. So I wanted to discuss a little about what Longest Night means to me, and why it's important the homeless have their own day of memory.

You see, the first Longest Night in Calgary was four years ago. It was unsanctioned, but then again, Circle Park (aka James Short Park) has vagrancy rights, so we didn't need a permit for just a small gathering. It was a bunch of friends and myself sitting in a section of the park with lit candles and coffee and sharing stories of people we loved and missed. All of us had lost someone. Almost anyone who's survived on the streets for any length of time will have lost someone.

Thankfully, no one stopped us - turns out we actually did need permits for the lit candles - and throughout the night people joined us as they became curious as to what we were doing, shared stories of their own, and even shed some tears. It became clear that people on the streets needed a way to grieve and to mourn.

There is a reason I refer to myself as a 'Survivor' of homelessness, and use the term for other who have been homeless. People who are homeless are more likely to die from almost every cause. More likely to die from addictions and overdoses, more likely to die of illness, more likely to be a victim of homicide, both premeditated and as a random act of violence or hate crime, more likely to commit suicide. There is also the constant threat of exposure to the cold. There is no real hospice care for the homeless, though some doctors hit the streets directly and try their best. No opportunity to live in dignity or die in dignity. Many funeral homes go empty as friends who would love to attend are often never made aware of funeral arrangements, or are themselves trying their best to survive or work. To honor their memory one night a year might be the only dignity they would ever be granted.

These are not just people experiencing homelessness. They are brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, uncles and aunts and grandparents. They are friends. They are street family and blood family.

These are just some of the members of my street family I remember every year in no particular order:

I miss each of you every single day. Godspeed my chosen family.

The 2017 Longest Night of the Year Homeless Memorial Service will be held on Dec. 21st at 5pm at Shaw Millennium Park in Calgary. I wish to thank the members of the Client Action Committee at the Calgary Homeless Foundation for fighting with me to make this a reality. All are welcome to join, whether homeless, a survivor of homelessness, family of someone homelessness, friend of someone homeless, or anyone else wishing to pay their respects and honor our loved ones and friends.
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RELEASE: A Response to the National Housing Strategy

Thursday, 23 November 2017
For the past couple of days, people have been wanting to know my response to the National Housing Strategy revealed by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Government, so here I have prepared my response:


A National Housing Strategy is long overdue, so while I'm grateful for the discussion on the subject, and the acknowledgement of the homelessness crisis in Canada, this is NOT the strategy we need.

There are good things in the strategy, to be sure. The Government has finally decided that the right to housing be guaranteed and recognized. The UN has been reminding us of this constantly and if you ask any homeless person in Canada, I don't know a single one of them who would deny wanting a home and needing one. I acknowledge that this is a step in the right direction. Additionally, for many organizations that provide affordable housing, updates are greatly needed. There are too many spaces sitting empty right now because they need refurbishment and funds to upgrade those units are desperately needed.

However, my view about the strategy as a whole is that it falls far short of what is needed in this country. Members of the homeless community are dying every day in Canada, and the Government would have us wait until after the next election - almost two years away - before making any commitments. The homeless cannot afford to wait.

Furthermore, a previous private members bill regarding a National Housing Strategy - that all but four Governing MPs voted against - included amending the Canadian Human Rights act to include protected status from discrimination against the homeless community. The proposed strategy as far as I've read includes no such measure. What this means is that the Liberal Government literally voted against human rights for the homeless community, and have endorsed continuous acts of hate crimes, violence, abuse, mistreatment, segregation against the homeless community. This is not just simply a class issue. Indigenous peoples make up a disproportionately large amount of the homeless population in Canada. Women are often homeless because they are fleeing abuse, or struggling to make ends meet as single parents. This is a class issue, yes. But it is also a race issue. A gender issue. This means that people who would normally be protected under the Charter are not protected, strictly because they are homeless and the Government has determined it is okay to discriminate and abuse members of the homeless Community.

And with the strategy only calling for a 50% reduction in homelessness, that still leaves a large number of homeless individuals who need protections.

In short, this strategy falls far short of it's potential and does not do enough to protect the homeless community. I call on the government to not only implement protections for our societies most vulnerable, but to enact them immediately.

Nigel Kirk
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Homelessness as Culture

Thursday, 15 June 2017
The argument that homelessness is a cultural identity is not a new concept, with much written on the subject since the early 90's as peer-review submissions as well as thesis submissions for requirements. While I can't give full proper citations because I don't have subscriptions to academic journals, I can offer the following papers in no particular order which discussed the matter according to their abstracts:

  • Ravenhill, Megan Honor. A Culture of Homelessness: An Ethnographic Study. Dissertation. London School of Economics. UMI 615614
  • Davis, Ruth E. "Tapping into the Culture of Homelessness." Journal of Professional Nursing, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1996, pp. 176-83
  • Phillips, Kaitlyn. Homelessness: Causes, Culture and Community Development as a Solution. Thesis. Salve Regina University. 2012
While those papers don't fully discuss the implications of homelessness as a culture, nor do they - as far as I can tell based on abstracts - argue that homelessness should be considered a cultural identity, I think it's important that the argument is recognized. Homeless persons communicate with each other differently than how they communicate with non-homeless persons. There is a segregationary aspect surrounding homeless persons where non-homeless persons are more likely to associate with each other rather than non-homeless persons and as such, community, relationships, shared experiences and a common shared identity arise. This is in part due to the nature of how class and social position work, however, government failings and policies have accelerated this to the point where the concept of homelessness as a cultural identity can no longer be ignored.

Speaking anecdotally, I had been on and off the streets for about 9 years. I have been enjoying my current apartment for over a year. But I still identify as homeless. It's part of my cultural identity and even still, despite being housed, part of my community. This isn't entirely unique to me. Efforts to "integrate" homeless persons into broader society result in many guest management issues as people try to maintain their communities in the face of disbursement. Some residents sleep on the floor in their own homes despite owning a bed because homelessness is ingrained in who they are. For many who had experienced some of the longest periods spent in the shelters or on the streets, almost every decision they make is influenced by the time they spent there. The oppression, segregation, human rights abuses, criminalization, and lack of adequate services we experience frames our worldview and what we feel we need to feel safe and secure.

Of course there is intersectionalism. Homelessness isn't the only identity we can carry. Just like it's possible for someone to identify as both black and gay, or as a woman and trans, cultural identity within homelessness is intersectional and compounds on many other ways minorities are already marginalized. A person who is indigenous and homeless then find themselves assaulted by discrimination on two fronts: being indigenous and being homeless. They may face some discrimination for being indigenous without homeless discrimination, or vice-versa, but more often face discrimination for being both simultaneously.

So if "homelessness" is not simply a state of not having a home, but is an identity and culture, there are serious implications that go with this. Firstly, it means in Calgary we have a minority group of 3500 individuals with no human rights protections currently facing voter suppression, segregation, and criminalization. Homelessness needs to be included in Human Rights Legislation, as well a change in societal attitudes towards the homeless communities and culture. I stated in a classroom recently "Personally, I think it's wonderful that we're starting to accept than people can use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, but we're still arguing over whether homeless persons should use a bathroom at all!"

Secondly, and this is equally important but a harder pill for some people to swallow: current efforts to "end homelessness" is cultural genocide. Organizations are ignoring the concept of homeless persons having a unique identity and needs and forcing integration into the mainstream of society on them. Furthermore, housing efforts do not make any attempt to preserve homeless culture and preserve homeless communities and the relationships formed among those who lived on the streets. They make no efforts to guarantee services for people who identify as homeless exist in their communities. Because the standard for acceptable living and rules governing how must one behave in their own home are not created with homeless as identity in mind, it is also setting up homeless persons for failure to which they lose their housing. Strategies to "end homelessness" removes the right of self determination from homeless persons, self determination in how to obtain adequate housing and self determination to preserve their culture in their own home.

Furthermore, it displaces and breaks up communities, scattering homeless persons all over the city (or in some cases, ships them to another city or province), destroying the bonds, relationships, and social supports that create a feeling of comfort and security for the homeless community.

The right to cultural preservation doesn't have to conflict with the right to adequate housing. We do need a complete overhaul in how we address this. Firstly, recognition of homeless persons as a minority group is imperative. Furthermore, homeless persons need to be consulted as to our definition of adequate housing. Efforts must be made to ensure homeless communities and relationships are not broken up when housing the homeless and that services unique to the needs of homeless persons are available in the areas they are moved to. Also recognizing the right to self-determination means that homeless persons should not be forced to move or relocate anywhere if they feel their current situation is adequate without penalty and those who do opt to move into housing must have a say in where they move to without fear of penalty and must be allowed to decline offers if they feel housing offered does not meet their needs.

Cultural sensitivity must be written into tenancy law. Clearly we don't want fire hazards from overcrowded accommodations, but guest management is an issue with homeless persons because it's how we preserve our culture and maintain our relationships and communities, and must be taken into account when housing homeless persons.

If agencies and governments adopt a homelessness as culture approach to addressing the lack of adequate housing for homeless persons, we can save lives, save resources, preserve a culture, and create dynamic and vibrant communities, as well as ensure human rights and dignity for 3500 Calgarians, 10,000 Albertans, and almost 300,000 Canadians.
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Why I still Maintain the Democrats and Republicans are the Same Party

Tuesday, 9 May 2017
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which."

-George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

I know the  title itself is going to piss off a lot of people. I imagine it will probably piss off people who identify as Democrats the most. And I don't blame you. The title itself exudes privilege, and I do have the luxury of living in a country that is not the United States of America at a time of such political turmoil.

I'll be clear: In terms of policy, there is a huge difference between Democrats and Republicans. In the 2016 election, that policy gap became significantly wider. However, the politics and tactics of both parties is the same, and conduct of the supporters, especially 'the base' of both parties is the same. This gives us a good opportunity to explore tactics in politics and ethics within the framework of Liberation Theory.

 "No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption."
-Paulo Friere, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"

Friere clearly warns the dangers of assuming the behaviors of the oppressor in a quest for liberation. Throughout his treatise, he differentiates between oppressors and oppressed as people, and as behaviors of people, with a focus on education through dialogue to develop critical thinking. The oppressed, he reminds us have the "great [...] historical task" to "liberate themselves, and the oppressor as well."

Friere points out that education and dialogue where all participants are students and teachers is the means to that. An institution without hierarchy. Well, that's all well and good, but in the context of this essay, that's just too narrow, and for the issues facing society today, that scope is much too narrow. Rather, too broaden that point: we have a moral duty to reflect that in all aspects of our life. As oppressed people, regardless of political stripe, we must throw aside any notion that we are teachers and that others are students, and must engage in critical dialogue.

That's great, but how is this relevant to the current state of political parties and their supporters? During the 2016 US election, we saw Donald Trump rise to popularity by appealing to the lowest common denominator: racists, classists, homophobes, ableists, mysoginists, religious zealots - particularly fundamentalist Christians. He ran a campaign based on the denial of science, belittling women, and spreading fear of everyone who was nonwhite. In his campaign, he would often make up stories about terrorist attacks that never happened to spread fear, and would discredit any attempt to correct him as "fake news." He appealed to the lowest common denominator by taking their worldview and legitimizing it, regardless of truth or facts. This is not just oppressive behavior, it is the very behavior that defines an oppressor.

So why do Democrats and Republicans look so similar?

Trump won his election, became President, and then it began. Trump has slowly began legitimizing every fear Democrat supporters ever had. And the reaction of the Democrats? To appeal to their lowest common denominator. They've created a worldview surrounding US politics under Trump and began their attack. Now, I in no way wish to minimize the affects of Donald Trump's policies and behavior. People are dying and people will die. I do not intend to minimize any of the harm that will be done to the Muslim community, the African American community, the LGBTQ Community, the Latino community, the disabled community, people with mental health issues, people living in poverty, the homeless community. There are genuine fears to be had.

But instead of focusing on how to combat those issues, we hear catchphrases and pep rallies. We legitimize Trump's cry of "Fake News" by pumping out actual fake news. Take the Russia scandal, for eample. All we really know for certain is that it's likely Russian spies obtained confidential information regarding both the Democratic party and Republican party, and only released certain information regarding the Democratic party to the public. Now, I'm entirely skeptical that the Republican party had no dirty laundry that Russia would find interesting, but we don't know what information Russia found, or if they still have it.

We also have zero evidence that Trump was willfully colluding with the Russians. Let's face it, when he asked at a campaign rally if Russians could crack Hillary Clinton's emails, we know he was being tongue in cheek. We all know - at that precise moment - he wasn't literally asking Russia to spy on his opponent.

Now of course, the possibility that Russia has blackmail on the Republicans should be alarming. We also know Trump and his family has business dealings with Russia that he legally cannot benefit from while in office, as do many of his staff and former staff. But there is no compelling evidence that would pass even the most liberally biased courts that Trump himself is involved in treason. Not to say no evidence is out there somewhere. Just right now, in this moment, there is none. But of course, Democrats will share on Facebook that picture claiming Michelle Bachmann said "We need a wall. China built a wall and they don't have Mexicans" completely unironically. A quote, for the record, which was completely made up and that she never uttered. They'll tweet out the latest article written by some obscure news site about a friend of a friend who overheard a conversation between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump about taking Russian Money.

Democrats are pushing things that fit their worldview: That Republicans are stupid, are ignorant, and that Trump colluded with Russia. Worst of all, they are doing this with very little evidence and not using any meaningful or reliable source.

How about the fact that the very people who blamed Bernie Sanders for "dividing the party" are still doing so? Sanders and his supporters are still being bullied by the Democratic base. In one conversation they were even called "mysoginistic for refusing to vote for a woman." An overwhelming majority did back Clinton in the election. And those that didn't were certainly more inclined to vote for Jill Stein - a woman. So the Democrats are making up their own alternative facts.

You might not agree with Sanders' policies, but it is a democratic right that everyone be able to cast a ballot for the person of their choice. How dare Sanders guarantee everyone had the chance to do that before he withdrew from the contest. But the Democrats don't want to take responsibility for losing the election. They want to blame anyone and everyone else. That's also oppression.

And that brings us to the American Health Care Act. Democratic Politicians were caught celebrating the vote because they believe that it will assuredly result in them winning the next election, as if they've never heard of gerrymandering or are in denial that it could happen before 2018. Any liberals in the states need a reason to convert to anarchism? Here's one: These elected officials care more about keeping their jobs as elected officials than they do about how that bill treats women, children, minorities, and people in poverty or the homeless.

Or how about Sally Yates testimony, which didn't really reveal anything new to anyone, but was highly entertaining and rallied the Democratic base without changing the mind of a single Republican. Don't get me wrong, Yates gave excellent testimony and held her own against some of the toughest Republican senators. But Democrats watching at home were salivating over the possibility she'd reveal Trump was directly involved in Russia. It's almost as if they want it to be true, so they can get rid of him. I couldn't imagine a world where I'm hoping my elected official committed treason.

So how does this all tie back to liberation theory and Paulo Friere and George Orwell? How do we address the genuine oppression that is happening in an ethical manner? Again, people are dying, and if they haven't it's reasonable to assume they will. It's reasonable to believe that most of these people are going to be from ethnic minority groups, or will be women, or living in poverty or disabled. It's reasonable to assume that there will be violence, as people who were afraid to act out in violence a year ago are now legitimized by the current government.

There is no easy way. That's how oppression works. But firstly, sinking to the same level that Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters did is not the answer. We must continue to hold on to the moral high ground. We can't give in to alternative facts and spread misinformation because it conforms to our worldview. I don't have the answer to the Trump problem. I don't know how to get rid of a tyrant. But I do know two things: Adopting the behaviour of the oppressor only means we're better poised to become oppressors ourselves if given the chance, and if that's the case, then we change nothing. And I also know that what Democrats are doing right now isn't working and is only making them appear to be hypocrites. We need to maintain rationality if we are going to solve the Trump problem.

Critical Thinking and Skepticism are acts of resistance.
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Single Entry at Calgary Housing: What it means.

Friday, 12 August 2016
Now I know a lot has happened, but I have been a bit busy. I promise to catch up on news that I've been away for, such as the Airliner Hotel, Rosedale and NIMBY, and more,but I wanted to write this article right now to get it out there since the news is still current.

An ongoing issue with Calgary Housing has been the constant need of someone to prove they need assistance. Prove their poverty. This isn't unique to Calgary Housing, as we've heard about in the Federal Election tales about a war vet having to literally prove he lost his leg to Veteran's Affairs. Annually, as though in the past year his leg might have magically grown back.

Now, that's Veterans Affairs. But if he lives in social housing, then he would also have to prove himself to his housing agency as well. If one organization can mitigate this, they should, and really every organization should, so I certainly applaud City Council for introducing Single Entry so persons in housing don't have to constantly prove their poverty.

However, there are going to be some hurdles for Calgary Housing to go through first. Namely, while certainly not rampant in the system, there has been a history of a tiny handful of High-Income earners living in Calgary Housing. Now, my own personal opinion, but I really don't mind, provided the individuals and families were low-income when they moved in initially. After all, without Calgary Housing, these individuals and families would probably not have been able to get out of poverty. It's a sign that Calgary Housing is doing what it's should do. End Poverty, not merely manage it. And I also believe it's important that Calgary Housing be a permanent option for those who want it. To force them out of their housing just because they've become successful is discrimination based on class. And if I oppose discrimination based on class when it's used against the poor, I feel obliged to take the same stand when it's used against the middle and upper classes.

But that's my view. Not everyone agrees, and understandably so. It does put a burden on housing availability funded by public interests - namely tax dollars. So I would understand why others disagree with me on this. The point is, that without regular examinations onto income levels, it will be more difficult to see if Calgary Housing is helping people. And it also feeds ammunition to those who criticize Calgary Housing for the High-Income earners.

I mention this, because it is fair game. While I have my explanations to justify it, I know people will disagree with me on it, and I don't want to hide that from them. It is something that will have to be dealt with somehow, and I won't sweep that possibility under the rug or ignore it like the proverbial elephant in the room. It is certainly something Council needs to prepare to deal with, either actively or strictly in a Public Relations sense.

Another issue is that streamlining intakes generally adds bureaucracy, not lessens it. And while much of the bureaucracy is not taxpayer funded - rather operated through non-profit agencies - this layer possibly would be taxpayer funded, which would add further fuel possible criticisms.

Finally, I would imagine the intake process would become that much more rigorous to compensate for the lack of routine intake processes happening. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, but will be even doubly of importance now. Advocates or Mental Health Workers to help people going through the intake process debrief afterwards. This should have been implemented long ago for every time someone has to prove their situation, but I think now is the perfect time to implement this.

Of course, this is all done without hearing exactly how the City intends to implement streamlining access to Calgary Housing. Maybe they will deal with much of these issues. Maybe they'll find a way to do it that saves tax dollars or uses them more wisely. Maybe it will be a complete gong-show. But it is still something I hope they keep in mind while undergoing this process if they want to make it successful.
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An open letter to the Wild Rose Party Faithful

Friday, 10 June 2016
Dear Wildrosers:

Odds are, you don't really care about what this "socialist" (who isn;t really a socialist) or "Communist" (who also isn't a Communist) has to say. But I'm gonna say it anyways, because "Free Speech! Fuck yeah!"

You have to make an important decision. Do you want to form government, or die on your hill of Grassroots? Because at the rate you're going, your party will be going the way of the SoCreds. The Wild Rose Party made a great grassroots movement, and gave a voice to those who felt left out of the post-Klein era, but had no chance of forming government until it was built by leaders who saw the big picture and needed to expand the Wild Rose tent.

Sadly, you are about to throw your second consecutive party leader under the bus.

Danielle Smith brought you from Obscurity and Virtual Non-Existence to 16 sitting legislative members, the largest opposition in Alberta since the mid-90's. Her Libertarian values appealed to many PC members and brought them into the fold. But the thing about Libertarians is, in addition to standing up for their liberties, they also respect others, and you had some troubles with that.

Daggers out, you essentially chased her out of your party for that very Libertarian idea, leading to the first time in history a party leader crossed the floor to join another party. And took 8 other MLAs with her. Oh, we all thought it was horrible back then. She single-handedly decimated the opposition, and left the Prentice cons virtually unopposed. Oh, how everyone crucified her, even PC supporters who were suspicious of her motives and how undemocratic we felt the exodus was.

But it turns out you didn't want a Libertarian, you wanted a religious nut with lakes of fire and misogynistic pies, and a hatred of gays and natives. You needed to rebuild and selected Brian Jean as your new leader to help you do so. And how did he ever. You went from five seats to 21, and then another seat in a byelection. But he learned from Harper to keep his members on a leash. When he began declaring that saying certain things was unnacceptable, you started turning on him. When he actually disciplined an MLA over (accidentally) agreeing with a homophobic tweet, you went ballistic. You turn against him for his constant apologies for the behaviour of your elected members because it shows he has no control as leader. And then you complain when he exercises control over his members. He is the one member at least constantly being accountable for not only his actions, but also those of all your other elected representatives. He's shown himself willing to be responsible, and like Smith before him, he realizes that the Wild Rose Party will not form government as long as it is the party of Homophobics and Old White Men ways.

And now, after losing his son during the leadership race, losing his house in the Fort Mac fire and STILL coming into work every day, and working to make his party more appealing, you're getting set to throw him under the bus too.

I want to do a quick lesson with you folks. You gained 7 seats in the last election, but your percentage of the popular vote dropped overall. Now, seats are clearly the more important number, as they are what counts when trying to form government, but without votes, you don't get the seats. At this point, unless you make your party appealing to more people, like Smith and Jean had been trying to do, you won't ever see many more seats. You're close to your limit. Recent polls put you in the lead ahead of PCs and NDP, but remember, PC's came ahead of you in Popular Vote in 2015 and it didn't translate into more seats from them. You need to appeal and get percentages beyond your hardline base. You need to be willing to sacrifice your principles of homophobia and white rights vs aboriginal rights. You need to say "These things aren't as important as low taxes, so we can support low taxes and gays and indigenous peoples."

Or you can keep being the Health and Wealth ultra-religious tent. But that tent is getting even smaller every day. And people are noticing.

Brian Jean may not be the guy you hoped for at the grassroots level. But he could be the guy that if you listen to him, would ensure you actually win in 2019.

But hey, it's your party, your choice. If you don't want to form government that's up to you.
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