2020 Social Issues Vision

by Kimon Bisogno – Social Issues chair –

Every Wednesday for the last 2 years I have been using life skills to teach the homeless of the area how to calm their mind at the Youth Solutions hall in Shelley Street and better manage their stress. The program’s intention is to encourage the individual to gain confidence and motivation to take the next step and leave the street, either by gaining skills that will assist in finding a job, moving to a shelter or joining a rehab. In uniting with organizations such as New Hope, The Zanokhanyo network, OBSID, Obs Pasta Kitchen, the local church and our community leaders, it has been a learning curve on how to help the homeless in the best way.

My vision for 2020 is to partner with The International Association of Human Values Communities for Peace program which aims to encourage existing organizations supporting social upliftment in addressing the underlying issues – the root causes of violence – or stress. The first step would be to host a workshop between local community leaders, police, community organizations, residents, homeless, teachers, and any other interested parties. This asset-based community workshop would unite the group and emphasize that with the right tools to manage stress and heal trauma we can take on issues together and have a broader vision for peace and how to create peace in our community. These techniques involve mindfulness, breathing, and knowledge that I’ve qualified for teaching in 2017 by The International Association for Human Values.

This wish of mine is reflected I see in the OCA’s contribution Online report:

* Helping many community projects within Observatory

* Initiating the Social Issues Forum to allow NGOs working with the less fortunate to collaborate on shared problems

Working with our community group of homeless and destitute has enabled me to gain trust with the local community and also to identify those members who are serious about their personal upliftment and transformation. Working with these members as community leaders amongst the homeless community can help to add a multiplier effect as they lead by example and show what is possible with the right focus.

Building a community with citizens who volunteer their time as well as creating partnerships with other local organizations mentioned above is key to creating a supportive environment where change is possible.

We can work together to empower individuals to empower our community.

Substance abuse
As a newbie in Obs arriving in 2015, I realize there are notably more and more individuals entering Observatory to escape into substance abuse-led lifestyles where daily begging can afford your next fix available in close proximity.

Recently I walked through Tenderloin, San Francisco where the street was buzzing with people and noticeably many homeless people with substance abuse issues. It was then that I noticed a container “safe space” on wheels with access to a shower, toilet and safe needle collection. Ever since I saw this, I can’t seem to get the vision out of my mind. It has caused me to wonder how to create an awareness of the very obvious substance abuse issue in Observatory, and how to involve the active community in taking action and solving this problem together. Ideas include an advertising campaign with posters in backpackers, hostels, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other public spaces highlighting the fact that cash handouts are filling syringes and that the victims of the drug trade need our support (let’s do it in the right way!).

OBSID has been working on this vision and I believe with a round table with Obs residents, The OCA and awake citizens of all ages we could brainstorm a campaign to change Obs’ image from heroin to Hero! Ultimately we need to create a dialogue of change to create awareness (of the problem) and offer solutions to make a positive step towards decreasing the number of new users on the streets and assisting those who are already users with their recovery.

Long-term presence is key (3 to 5 years) and a commitment of this nature will be important to fully integrate these interventions into every Obs citizen’s daily life.

What can we do to support our current chronic homeless community living outside the Spar or between the railway lines? Again collaborating with all interested parties, we would workshop and discuss the ideas of shelter, safe space or alternative living solutions.

Reclaiming the Village Green for all – a designated “high-risk user zone” – may sound cheesy but wouldn’t it be lovely to have all the community enjoy this space, as for now, its informal shelter nature keeps the child’s play away.

Again I see this reflects in your contribution. The revamp of the Village Green
We need to re revamp!

I have dreams and wishes for an integrated Obs, a powerful association that would encourage locals to stand and unite against violence and substance abuse and create a safe space for victims to recover and find their way home. A colorful dynamic Obs like we see on the day of Streetopia, a clean Obs, a happy Obs!

Dates for workshops dealing with the above will be finalized shortly and invitations sent out. These would be scheduled ideally every quarter per focus (Substance Abuse, Homelessness, and Community) with the final quarter culminating in bringing all of these together.