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By Location Alaska Albuquerque Allentown Amsterdam Anaheim Anchorage Ann Arbor Atlanta Austin Baton Rouge Bend Binghamton Boston Boulder Canada Cardiff Charlotte Chatsworth Chicago Chippenham Cleveland Columbia SC Columbus Dallas Denver Des Moines Detroit Edmonton Eugene Fayetteville Fort McMurray Fredericton Gainesville Glendale Great Falls Greensboro Harbor City Harrisburg Hawaii Hawthorne Hollywood Honolulu houston Ithaca Kalkaska Kelowna Koreatown Las Vegas Lima London London (Canada) Los Angeles Louisville Manchester Miami Minneapolis/St Paul Montreal Nashville New Orleans New York City Nickelsville Norway Oakland Ocala Oslo Ottawa Oxford Paradise Pasadena Peru Philadelphia Phoenix Pine Ridge Pittsburgh Portland Reseda Sacramento Salt Lake City San Diego San Francisco San Jose San Luis Obispo Santa Monica Saskatoon Seattle Shawnee Skid Row Springfield St John's St Louis St. Petersburg Syracuse Tacoma Tampa Toronto Traverse City Tulsa United Kingdom Vancouver Venice Beach Vermont Victoria Wales Washington DC Wentzville Westwood Wichita Wilmington Winnipeg Yellowknife By topic Addiction Advocacy Affordable housing Art and Music Awareness Charity Cold Weather College Students Community Involvement Coronavirus Couch Surfing Couple Criminalization Data Disabled Divorce Domestic violence Drug testing Education Employment Eviction Ex-convict Faith based Families Family conflict Female Financial crisis Foster care Harm reduction Health care HIV/AIDS Homeless count Homeless deaths Hostels (UK shelters) Hotels Housing First HUD Human trafficking Identification Incarceration Indigenous Invisible People Invisible Stories Job loss K2/Spice (Synthetic Marijuana) LGBT Libraries Lived Experience Male Mental illness Mobile Homeless Natural disasters NIMBY Outreach Panhandling Peer Support Pets Poverty Pregnant PTSD Public Feeding Racism Recycling Relationships Research Rural Schools Seniors Sex Offenders Sex Worker Shelters Single Parent Social Media Social Security Socks Solutions Street Soccer Survival sex System Failure Systems Change Technology Tent Cities Tiny Homes Transgender Travelers Veteran Vietnam Veteran Violence Waiting list Welfare Working poor Youth EVENTS @home contests PBS road trip road trip 2009 road trip 2010 road trip 2011 road trip 2013 to fight youth homelessness sober birthday campaign SXSW TEDx INTERVIEWS Learn More Canadian Homelessness Coronavirus and Homelessness Criminalization of Homelessness Family Homelessness Homeless Seniors Homeless Veterans Homeless Youth Homelessness Mobile Homelessness Panhandling Tent Encampments U.K. Homelessness MISCELLANEOUS 360 video Awards Cause Marketing Dream Center Gates Foundation Google Glass Media Patreon Tribute World Trade Center YouTube More Updates

Karla

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It’s freezing cold in Toronto, Canada. It’s hard to imagine homeless people sleeping out outside in this weather, but the numbers of homelessness continue to increase. I was walking around handing out socks and hand warmers. As I was talking to an indigenous homeless man who goes but the street name of “Bushman” and a young girl who probably wasn’t even 18 yet, a homeless woman goes by wearing two backpacks while pushing a cart with a suitcase precariously balanced on the top.

Homeless woman in torontoWhen I asked the homeless woman if she’d like some socks and hand warmers, her cart came tumbling down. By now I learned her name. Karla told me she has been sleeping outside homeless in Toronto for four years. Karla and I worked together to get her cart back in order and somewhat balanced. She told me she had asked someone to watch her stuff and this person did something that rearranged the order causing the cart to be unbalanced. My heart broke just thinking about how Karla lugs all this stuff around everywhere she goes. Some people say homeless people are lazy when it’s the exact opposite. Surviving homelessness is hard work, and there are no days off – ever!

After being arrested, Karla was sent to a halfway house. When that didn’t work out, Karla tried to go into an addiction treatment program, but because she was using suboxone at the time, they would not accept her. That’s how Karla first ending up on the streets of Toronto.

It’s nearly impossible to stay sober when living on the streets. Karla got addicted to heroin and fentanyl. She’s tried methadone treatment, but when the clinic closed on a holiday, Karla got dope sick.

It’s hard to describe dope sickness or opioid withdrawal to anyone who has not experienced it. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, hot and cold flashes, muscle aches and spasms, and even the sensation of bugs crawling on or under the skin all lead to one of the worst experiences imaginable. Dope sickness or even the fear of dope sickness leads to creating the cycle of addiction. A person may first start using opioids to escape emotional trauma. Once the addiction sets in, the addict now needs drugs more than they need air.

Karla is determined to wean herself of off drugs. I have huge respect for Karla for having the courage to be candid about her addiction and for working hard to get sober. She reminds me of another homeless heroin addict I met named Cameron. Cameron received help and is now married with children. He is proof that people can get sober even from the hardest drugs if we are there to help them. Watch his original interview here.

For everyone who is going to judge Karla for being a drug addict remember that as a taxpayer we pay huge money per homeless person per year that’s out on the streets. Blame them all you want – you still pay for their homelessness. The smart move is to house homeless people because housing doesn’t just save money, it saves lives. Please watch this video on Housing First to learn more.


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