A Parable

The Theft of Smell

(A version by Marilyn Kinsella)

Once there was a man who had no job, no home, no family and very little money. He survived on the good will of his fellow villagers who gave him bits of food. As he walked along the cobblestone roads, he often stopped next to the bakery. Such delicious smells wafted from the open window and into his welcoming nose. On Mondays, he smelled homemade apple pie, on Tuesdays, he smelled sweet doughnuts, on Wednesdays, he smelled yummy meat pies, on Thursdays, he smelled cinnamon cookies, on Fridays, he smelled rich, chocolate cake, and on Saturdays, he smelled the delicious aroma of baking breads. 

"Ahh," he said to himself after taking a whiff, "I may have no money, but at least I can enjoy the delicious banquet of aromas." And he closed his eyes and dreamed of eating a royal feast. 

One day, while he was taking in the scent of baked bread, the baker came out and saw the man enjoying the aromas of his labours. "What are you doing out here? I thought I smelled a rat! You are stealing my scents." 

"What!" cried the poor man, "stealing your scents...makes no sense!"

"We shall see about that," said the baker. "Police, police, come and arrest this man!"

Unfortunately, the poor man was hauled off to jail, where he awaited his trial.

When the day, came to meet the judge, the police came and took him by handcuffs to the court. The judge looked down over his wire-rimmed glasses at the two men. "What have we here?"

The baker, still angry, started shouting, "This man, this bum...has been stealing from me!"

"I see," said the judge, "and just what has he been taking from you?"

"Everyday this man comes and stands outside my bakery. He never buys anything and yet, he enjoys my baked goods."

"That is terrible," said the judge, "you mean that he steals your food!"

"Not exactly, your honour," said the baker, "in fact, he never even sets foot in the bakery."

"Then, I don't understand how it is that he is stealing?"

"Well, he smells the aromas of my cooking without paying for them."

"Oh, now I see," said the judge. "He enjoys the scent without paying a single cent!"

"That is correct, your honour."

The judge looked at the homeless man and said in a stern voice, "Is this true? You have been accused of the theft of smell. What do have to say for yourself?"

"Your Honour," the homeless man began, "it is true. I do stand outside the bakery. The smells that come from the bakery make me forget my miserable life and, for just a few seconds, I can dream that I am feasting on fine food. I did not know that what I did was wrong."

"I see," said the judge, “but ignorance of the law is no excuse."

The baker nodded and smiled at the judge's wise words.

The judge looked at the baker and said, "To recompense you for this theft, I want this thief to go home and get every bit of money he has and bring it to the court early tomorrow morning." The homeless man was distraught. It was the last of his money, but he did as the judge asked, and returned the next morning with a bag filled with assorted coins.

 The judge took the bag and said to the baker, "Now, come close." The baker smugly approached the bench.

The judge took the bag and shook it vigorously, "Do you hear that?"

"Yes," said the baker.

"Then, that sound is your payment for the theft of smell! And, since you wasted the court's time with such a ridiculous lawsuit, I hereby, declare that you make a baker's dozen of every thing pastry and donate the 13th baked good to the food pantry. That way other poor people cannot only enjoy the aroma, but the taste of your fine ware.

Setback or Distraction?

Members of City of Toronto Council have published the first draft of the 2018 Budget.  There is little in this budget to commend itself to those of us who want the Council to enable their own anti-poverty initiatives.  Beyond that there were glaring gaps in funding, including money to pay crossing guards and lifeguards.  These may prove an opportunity for the Mayor to act as a White Knight and come to the rescue.  He has shown no indication that he will do any jousting for the poor, although there is an unfunded strategy he helped author four years ago lost somewhere in his castle.

In the meantime he has declined to respond to a request from community agencies to provide emergency shelter for the homeless in city-owned armories, where there would be washrooms and cots instead of more mats on the floor of already-crowded shelters.  Does he want us to focus on this instead of the poverty reduction strategy he is ducking funding?

Here is Rafi Aaron's take. Rafi is an advocate and part of our interfaith work to bring dignity to people's lives.  

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you all for your support of the homeless at such a critical moment in our City's history.

The Mayor's Declaration is Not Good News

At City Hall on November 30th we stood with the most compassionate and dedicated front-line organizations in the City. They included:

Sistering, Street Health, PARC, Queen West & Parkdale Community Health Centre, Regent Park Community Health Centre, Toronto Drop in Network (which represents 50 sites), Sound Times, Sanctuary, Houselink, and St Stephens.

All of us had called for the immediate opening of 400 beds in the shelter system and another 1000 beds to be opened in 2018. We has also called for the Mayor to use the power that he has to declare an emergency in the shelter system, and to open the Moss Park and Fort York Armouries. Each provides 150 cots (so we're getting people off the floor), have adequate washrooms and showers and are spacious.

What the Mayor Proposed & Why It Won't Work

1) He wants to add 400 mats to existing shelters and drop-ins. Shoe horning additional mats to already crowded facilities that are at or near 100% capacity is not the answer. Most of these facilities do not have sufficient washrooms or any showers.The proximity to which people are forced to sleep are breeding grounds for disease. Over crowding has resulted in chronic insomnia for those who use the system exacerbating the mental, emotional and physical challenges of those who use the system.

2) Advancing the opening of 3 new shelters for the GSR (George Street Revitalization) in 2018 instead of 2019. These are all replacement beds for ones that are being closed at Seaton House, so they in no way can be counted as new beds. GSR is only for men and there is a great need for womens shelters.

3) Motels rooms. They do not serve the single women, men, family sectors. It's uncertain how many of these would be used, and as in the past how or when they would be activated.   

Needless to say these half measures that don't help the homeless have been devastating for front-line workers and I have been inundated with e-mails from them.

We can put pressure on by signing this petition.

The account in the Gospel of John (chapter 5) of Jesus healing the paralysed man at the Pool of Bethsaida includes the adjuration to the healed man to take up his mat and walk; demonstrating to himself, if no one else, that he can live a different life. Maybe the Mayor will take up his mat and walk in a different direction.