Homeless happens

Ontario man walks for awareness

Brandon Anstey banstey@ganderbeacon.ca
Published on May 1, 2014

HELPING HANDS – Ontraio’s Jason McComb has spent his life struggling with homelessness. He’s been an outspoken advocate for the homeless since 2012 through his non-profit organization, Homeless Happens Helping Hands, and is taking his effort throughout Canada as he walks across the country to raise awareness about issues surrounding homelessness. He arrived in Gander on April 23, heading west from St. John’s where he began his walk on April 16.


Brandon Anstey/tc•Media

Thousands of Canadians experience homelessness on a number of different levels each year. Jason McComb is using his legs to bring awareness to their experience.

Originally from Ontario, McComb has battled homelessness since his teenage years, and is still struggling with finding somewhere to call home. Since 2012, he’s been a strong voice in advocating for the homeless through his non-profit organization, Homeless Happens Helping Hands. He decided it was time to go even further with his awareness campaign, and on April 16, he began a walk across Canada to talk about the issue of homelessness. He arrived in Gander on April 23, a week after starting his walk in St. John’s.

The reason for his walk is quite simple.

“We’re people too,” said McComb. “I’m not saying we’re entitled to anything, but we’re worthy. We’re worthy of compassion, and we’re worthy of being deemed a member of society. The oppression sucks.”

Since arriving in the province, McComb said he’s been showed a lot of kindness, and the toughest part his journey so far has been what he described as the “up and down” landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador.

While people in communities in Newfoundland and Labrador extend a lot of help to others, it’s stigmas surrounding homelessness that’s important to talk about, said McComb.

“We’ve all got stories, and we’re all a little broken, and that’s okay. We don’t have to be treated badly in life because we did something bad in life to get us into a situation that people are assuming they know. They don’t know the story behind the story. It bothers me so much that the faces on the dollar bill means more than the face of someone who’s hungry on the corner.”

McComb, who is a brain injury survivor, said a big part of tackling the issue of homelessness is for no judgment to be passed on members of society.

“I’m here saying ‘stop your judging and listen to the story and not just look at the story.’ I want people to see the person underneath the situation. Just because their situation is different than yours, don’t be uncomfortable about it unless you’re going to do something about it.”

Having lived a rough life, McComb is familiar with the power of helping hands, and that’s part of his message during his awareness campaign.

“I’ve been kicked, spit on, and beaten up in Ontario. I’ve gone through that sort of thing,” he said. “I’ve gone through people wanting to help me out. I’ve gone through people who just didn’t care and wanted nothing to do with me. That’s wrong, not just because it’s me, but I’m tired of watching it happen to all these people. It’s needless.”

Looking at all members of society as equals is another big part of his message, along with encouragement.

“Nobody is better than anyone else, absolutely not,” said McComb. “Their heart doesn’t beat any different; they don’t breath any different; they don’t sleep any different – we’re all living the same but just in different situations. I discourage giving handouts; I encourage giving a hand up to push along towards recourses that can help. By giving the handout over and over, you’re enabling a person to stay stuck.”

While he planned to start his walk in this province and to end in British Columbia, he hasn’t set any goal distance or time to cover his journey, and there’s a good reason for that lack of planning.

“All I planned was to get to Newfoundland to do this,” said McComb. “Essentially, when people end up homeless there is no planning for ‘what am I going to do if that happened’.”