On Vancouver's busiest shopping street, the faint voice of a middle-aged man goes unnoticed. He begs for food, money, clothes and basic necessities, underneath the steps of a restaurant next to a drug store and an ATM. How ironic!
Few people seem to care about his silent cry for help. He has been reduced to a social outcast without proper identity.
Wearing worn-out clothes, the man looks for familiar faces among passing pedestrians. Occasionally, he raises his voice and speaks in Persian: “Please help me, I'm sick.” His voice stutters out of shame and guilt. He is Vancouver's first homeless Iranian.
The man's past is a mystery; his fate remains uncertain. He crawls through life, one hour at a time. Yet, few acknowledge his presence on the sidewalk.
At the very edge of Canada's scenic west coast, Vancouver is home to a growing Iranian community with its own distinct challenges. While waves of new immigrants make the daring journey half-way across the world, personal stories of individual hardships remain unrecorded. And the tale of the homeless man on Robson Street remains untold.
Images of the homeless Iranian are vivid and painful. They are a reflection of carelessness in our society. These images ought to awaken our collective conscience. There are certainly more examples of the working poor, students living in substandard conditions, and fellow compatriots in extreme psychological and emotional distress.
But does anyone care? Judging by the lack of media and public attention to the case of Vancouver's first Iranian homeless, it is fair to assume that our community is either careless or simply too busy to care. Either way, one cannot justify apathy and inaction.
Poverty and homelessness are global concerns which do not disappear by laying blame on governments, social classes, individuals, or other external factors in life. It is equally unacceptable to view them as someone else's problem.
What happened to good old traditions of caring and looking after one another? Why cannot we work in unison to generate greater awareness on existing social problems in own our backyards, to raise funds, and to organize food drives for the poor and the homeless?
The younger generation could be best able to launch innovative ideas towards complementing government sponsored social programs with grassroots initiatives. However, it requires the efforts of an entire community to address immediate and long-term social needs.
Behshad Hastibakhsh, 33, is an award winning Political Scientist by training, Marketing & Public Relations Specialist by experience, and published Writer with passion. Behshad leads a professional career in the high-tech business sector and maintains vast interests in global politics. See: behshadh.com