I despaired at the inability or unwillingness of human beings to rise to the call of their humanness, in service to another.
I was self-righteous today, and over zealous in my challenging of others who would not – or could not – be bold, and do something right simply because it was right, and logical and humane, though it did not fit within the guidelines and the procedures they are saddled with.
Here’s the situation:
I found and arranged a rental for one of my young clients in a property owned and managed by Toronto Community Housing Corporation. She moved in on September first. I got a message from her last week that she wanted help with her utilities, but I only learned today that she’s not had any heat or hot water throughout these two plus months.
Today I was on the phone with representatives of Enbridge, the utility company concerned, a number of times, speaking to people in various departments, in a vain attempt to get service for this young woman. The problem is clear: a previous tenant allowed the utility bill to go unpaid for quite a long time, and service was ultimately shut off. Enbridge has been attempting to recoup its losses from TCHC and so far, TCHC hasn’t made good. Enbridge is refusing to give my client service, isn’t allowing her even to open an account, until their demands have been met by TCHC.Today, I spoke with no fewer than six Enbridge employees, including two mangers, in various departments, including service, collections. They all acknowledge that my 19-year old client is not in any way responsible for the problem. They also know that she has done everything in her power to have the matter resolved. She remains ready – as she was when she moved in – to open an account and to take responsibility for paying for the service she hopes to receive. But all those I spoke with today remained adamant on the point that she will receive no service until the unpaid bill left by some stranger has been paid.
I am so infuriated at this situation. It’s getting cold here in Toronto. This young woman has so much on her plate already: issues around her income, plans around education and training, relations with friends and family, and her mental and emotional health. And now, two massive corporations, entrusted with responsibility for basic public services, are using her as a football to kick back and forth, over a matter involving a few hundred dollars.I don’t see any justification for this treatment. It isn’t a life and death issue. Lots of my clients face far more serious issues than this. But there’s something so fundamentally unfair about this young woman being held hostage over a matter she has no responsibility for and no power effect. And I’m infuriated that two vast commercial entities, entrusted with the public wellbeing in their respective areas of concern, could be so unmoving and unresponsive on this matter.
I hope that when I am next in a situation when it is me who has an opportunity to be bold in the face of a rigid and impersonal structure , that I will rise to this level of consciousness and empathy that I have been championing all day. I know that it’s so much harder to act in such circumstances when you feel your own security to be at risk, when there’s a danger that the unthinking and unfeeling machine – massive with inertia – will turn on you should you dare to be insubordinate.But if we can’t do this...what then?