I interviewed George Mitchell who has a show through the facilities of Trent Radio called Homeless on George Street. I was interviewed by George at the same time, on issues of homelessness and the environment. I also have a show called Environmental Soup through the facilities of Trent Radio. The topic of conversation was regarding gentrification and the lack of power homeless people have in decision-making. George Mitchell carries a poster with him called “You Evolve or We Die” which at first seems radical. This is not the case, as oftentimes homeless people are not heard because of a lack of resources, and political leaders do not often go to where they are. It was explained to me that the lines on the chart refer to the ability of the homeless to be involved in the community. The blue line represents a situation where individuals can only maintain what they are doing. The black line going up represents someone who has support and is able to participate in activities, and the red line going down is what all too often happens.
Interviewing George showed me that individuals in leadership roles, in media, and politicians have to change in order for the voices of homeless people to be heard. For example, I can not send an email after an interview if I missed something or to confirm if I captured all the information, to someone without these resources. There is a good chance that there will be only one opportunity to capture ideas. We talked about the effort it takes to attend city hall with limited resources and how going to city hall is disorienting, and that if you can not engage in dialogue at city hall, with no emails it is also difficult to reach politicians. City Council meetings and events where community members are expected to come out to be heard are not effective at reaching the most vulnerable. Sometimes homeless people are not heard at these events for different reasons, but mostly because they are timed, or individuals dominate large discussions when expectations are not communicated.
During the budget process only a couple of people were able to speak as an unregistered delegate, meaning that people who lack a phone or internet are not able to speak as freely to Councillors. They are timed to four minutes instead of seven, and have 20 minutes in total. This is understandable, as long meetings don’t lead to better results, but it is also a reason to meet homeless people where they are. On Monday, February 10 and in a later Council meeting on February 18, Councillors will meet to discuss funding for an Emergency Shelter. It is important that both Councillors and the public ask the question that George’s poster points out: “is it to, for, with, or by the homeless?” In Peterborough’s recent past, the answer might be in decisions we made regarding Tent City. You can tune in to Homeless on George Street on Wednesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. during the 2020 Spring Trent radio season at 92.7 CFFF FM.
Correction (February 29): Breanon Narendra also hosts and co-produces Homeless on George, on every Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00 pm on CFFF 92.7 FM broadcasting through the facilities at Trent Radio.