Like many Vancouver residents, I first learned of Tracy’s life when I read of her death. There was no room at the inn for Tracy the week before Christmas; even when there literally was room, she knew from experience that she would be forced to leave a shelter if she had a schizophrenic episode that made her hard to handle.
And so, Tracy died on Davie Street on December 19 when the candle she lit for warmth set her tarpaulin on fire. A mental image of that painful death continues to haunt me.
In early February, about two dozen of us gathered at St. Paul’s Church to celebrate Tracy’s life. While many of us had never met Tracy, all of us wanted to honour her and to acknowledge her as a child of God.
One of the questions posed by the Rev. Markus Dünzkofer in his homily was: what is a life worth? The world appears to believe that the lives of financiers and entertainers are worth a great deal while the lives of people without homes have no value. And yet our faith calls us to offer hospitality to all.
Since reading the results of studies showing that the homeless and addicts are seen as objects, I have challenged myself to speak to the ‘binners’ and to those asking for money and to see them as fellow children of a loving God.
I am no longer willing to accept that homelessness is just “an issue.” Some days it’s very hard to meet my own challenge; other days, I am overcome by individuals’ astonishment that someone cares.
If I had a magic wand, I would waft it over decision-makers who would then care enough about others that all would have a place to sleep and something to eat, who would receive the mental health and addictions care they need so that they can become full participants in the community.
Absent the wand, I pray in the words of hymns based on Amos: “Let living streams of justice flow down upon the earth; let all the poor have worth.” May we accept the challenges posed by Tracy’s death.