Slowing Down, Catching Up

Welp, it’s been a few months since I’ve updated my website. Working retail—while disabled, middle aged, and mentally ill—means that November and December are the pit into which all my energy falls. During those months, I pause my writing by necessity. While this is tough (and sometimes makes me blue) it also gives me a chance to refill my creative coffers, rethink my output, and allow my fields of inspiration to lie fallow for a season.

In the meantime, I’ve had a few publications come out. I will be posting them for you as I catch up.

To start with, I’m really pleased to be contributing to the Spoonie Authors Network, sharing some of my thoughts about writing while managing spoons. My first piece, Writing Through the Depressive Lens, talks about the gradual process of embracing rather than fighting the way my neurodiversity informs my writing. The second, How to Zoom While Neurodivergent: So Not a Guide, examines how expected behaviours in virtual spaces can read like a list of neurotypical behaviors, making Zoom meetings inaccessible for neurodiverse creatives.

If you’re a disabled creator of any ilk, you’ll probably find something useful in the articles and podcasts up at Spoonie Authors Network. There’s also a weekly Twitter meet-up! It’s a fantastic resource and I’m chuffed to be a part of it.

CENTRING OUR CREATIVE COMMUNITY

While hanging out on Spoonie Twitter™, I heard about an anthology called Nothing Without Us that features short stories by disabled writers, including pieces by other Spoonie Author Network contributors. This collection is especially good for those days when your brain just can’t handle the commitment of a novel. From helper golems to talking canes to the trials of performing disability for cash in a near-future dystopia, the stories run the gamut of genres, styles and perspectives. Truly, one of my favourite books.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Regarding the Shelter at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre

A screen shot of a tweet by @cityoftoronto. It reads, "The City of Toronto is opening 560 new spaces between November and April to help those experiencing homelessness through out winter services plan. More space at warming centres and enhanced street outreach will also be activated during extreme cold weather alerts." There is also an imge which shows a large, warehouse like room in which glass barriers separate cots. The rooms are about twice the size of the cots. The glass walls provide no privacy. The cots resemble lawn chairs and feature a thin mattress.

This letter was written in response to a City of Toronto press release. In it, we see a photo of the proposed emergency shelter at at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre. This is being offered as a no-choice alternative to Toronto’s tent communities. I will be sending this letter to the Mayor and my council representative.

Dear Mayor John Tory,

I’m writing today to ask you to reconsider your current plan to house people experiencing homelessness in the Better Living Centre as it currently exists.

There is a word we come back to when discussing people who are currently without a home: vulnerable. And it’s a fair descriptor. Our homeless community includes a disproportionate amount of refugee and asylum claimants, physical and sexual abuse survivors, group home and foster care survivors, formerly institutionalized or incarcerated people, folks who were homeless as children, disabled and chronically ill people, Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour, veterans, and members of the 2SLGBTQQIPA+ or Queer community.

When I say vulnerable, what I mean is that homeless people have inevitably experienced trauma—and they continue to experience the ongoing trauma of being discarded and neglected in a nation of plenty.

When Toronto proudly shared their vision for emergency overnight accommodations for the winter, it was clear that it wasn’t designed with the survival of vulnerable persons in mind. To suppose that all that matters is a roof and a cot is to ignore the crossroads of vulnerability that people exist at if they are homeless in Toronto. How is a rape survivor supposed to sleep in a glass box? How is a group home survivor supposed to find rest in a space where they have no privacy or autonomy? How is a residential school survivor supposed to accept this as a place to warm on a cold night when cameras, and cells, and security guards make it more like a prison?

People are not dry goods. A warehouse is not an answer. To re-traumatize already traumatized people is to lengthen the time it will take them to rebuild if and when they find housing. I know I’m still recovering, some 25 years later, from my experiences with homelessness in Toronto. I’m sure it costs more to address the after-effects of that trauma now than it would have to just make sure my rent was covered all those years ago.

You say you consulted experts to design this space, but perhaps you need to spend time—actual ongoing time—with the community members who will use it. They are the real experts in their own needs. I know if you sat down with me I would tell you that homelessness has its own gravity. Once you are close to it, an inordinate amount of strength is needed to pull away. Because of this, an inordinate amount, and quality, of resources must be provided. The bare bones approach changes nothing, save re-traumatizing vulnerable community members by relocating them to what looks more like a debtor’s prison than a community care centre. I implore you to consider this when you create spaces for your fellow human beings.

Thank you,
H. E. Casson