Raising the Roof, a Canadian non-profit organization, just released a heartbreaking, self-explanatory viral video titled “The homeless read mean tweets.” You don’t need an Internet connection to recognize how society has normalized inhumane feelings about homeless people, though. The issue is closer to home than we’d like to think.
It would be naive to believe discussions about the “revitalization” of Edmonton’s downtown is independent of the “revitalization” of the city’s most vulnerable — or, as they’re often treated, the most inconvenient. The benefits of an arena district touted by city planners (the increase of “eyes on the street” and “legitimate users” of the space, for example) euphemize the driving-out of homeless people that will follow its development. This PR-packaged language sanitizes the ideal image that’s crossed most of our minds: less shopping carts and more suave, affluent folks — like us! — in business suits. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that much of the controversy surrounding the arena has focused on its funding and design, and not the populations it will affect.
Of course, there’s little we can do to halt the revitalization of downtown’s core. But, after watching the video and feeling empathetic for those less fortunate than you, take a moment to consider your empathy for those in the back alleys of our own backyards.