A number of years ago when I was volunteering in a drug and alcohol rehab I chatted with a young man who had come from the streets to get off drugs.  He had been at the rehab for a few months and was back to himself being off dope and well fed.  He was reading the Ottawa Citizen and shaking his head.  I asked him what was troubling him.

“Homelessness”, he said, as he cited a very large number of people who were living on the streets in our country.

“That’s a lot of people to have with no place to live”, I said.

“A lot!  That’s not a lot – that’s an ARMY!”, was my young friends retort.  He went on to say;  “They’re all living on the street and they don’t care because nobody cares about them. What happens when they decide they’ve had enough?”

I remember being unsettled by my young friend’s view of ‘the problem of homelessness’.  I saw it as their problem but he saw it as a potentially bigger problem for me.  ‘Me’ – being all of us well fed, well housed and well clothed ‘stake holders’ in society.  There was an ‘army’ at our gates.

Andre Picard’s article in the Globe and Mail reflects on a huge largely ‘silent’ problem that looms in our cities and suburbs.  His  reflections on the terrible violence that erupted at our war memorial points to a potential ‘army at our gates’;

Some of the information that’s emerged about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s interactions with “the system” should give us particular pause. At best, he was a lost soul. At one point, he robbed a McDonald’s using a pointy stick with the aim of being arrested, hoping it would help him kick a drug habit.

There are many other troubled, disenfranchised young men like him. They populate our prisons, our schools and our urban streets, not to mention the basements of many suburban homes, festering away playing Mortal Kombat. Almost none of them will end up being murderers or terrorists, regardless of their mental health status. But it’s still a terrible waste. Our health, education, social welfare and economic systems are failing them.

As long as these young men are in the basement playing ‘Mortal Kombat’ and raiding mom and dad’s refrigerator they are no threat.  What happens when they are ‘kicked out’ for being lumpish freeloaders or leave the nest because ‘there’s too many rules’.  Many end up on the streets and then they may be recruited into a ‘hellish army’.

CBC news has reported that;  “At least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night” and; “Single adult males between the ages of 25 and 55 account for almost half the homeless population (47.5 per cent).”  (30,000 Canadians are homeless every night, CBC News Posted: Jun 19, 2013)

Andre Picard says compassion is needed as much as increased security.

In disturbing cases like last week, we want easily digestible explanations and quick, effective solutions. Sometimes, though, these don’t exist.

The malaise and desperation that results in young men killing themselves and others is not going to be legislated or policed away. We are going to need at least as much compassion as crackdown.

(We can’t legislate lost souls, André Picard, The Globe and Mail, Published Tuesday, Oct. 28 2014)

Why is. the need for ‘compassion and understanding’ so often an afterthought rather than a proactive measure?  Young men without a home, without a future, without a family are drawn to those who will accept them and give ‘meaning’ to their ‘lives’.

Do the hateful recruiters of invisible terrorist armies know better than us?