Stories by people who have been homeless
I still think it takes a lot of time to heal from being homeless. Standing in front of cars, hoping they’ll take my life, sleeping with random guys on overpasses in the dark, hoping one will give me a place to stay. Having the cops threaten to throw me in jail, and me saying, Okay, and them going, “Why do you want to go to jail?” And I say, “For three square meals and a roof over my head.” And then they tell me, “Well, you’re not going to jail.” Make up your minds!
I know how easily it could all change. Me back on the street again, wandering, trying to find something better. So I need to appreciate each day I have in my subsidized apartment, warm and out of the rain, and affordable.
I slept in tall grass along the highway – in between the neatly pruned prickle bushes and at the edge of parks. When I couldn’t get a room, I built a lean-to, covered it with tarps and weathered the downpours of winter rain, shivering and freezing all night, only to wake up and find everything wet.
Homeless in winter is the worst – short days and long nights, feel wrinkled and white from the wet and cold and that squishy sound the runners get when they’re always wet. So we hung out in churches and prayer groups, ate meals at the Union Gospel.
Sometimes when all our bedding and clothing was wet, they let us use the dryer, gave us a warm place for a few precious hours. And sometimes helped us find housing, for getting in the hostel was only for a few days. We did what we could.
I have been homeless four times in my life. Rebellious teen that I was, my mother kicked me out of the house in 1970 for disobeying the rules. There has to be a trigger for suddenly losing your home. At first I slept at my friends’ house (hidden homeless). Then I gravitated to downtown Montreal, St. Catherine St., and stayed wherever I could (absolute homelessness) until I found a job working in a hotel and living in a rooming house (relative homelessness). For my most recent episode, in 2010, I had a disagreement with my neighbour and was evicted within 10 days according to the Residential Tenancy Act. I walked around the Downtown Eastside and stayed up for two days (absolute homelessness). Then I found a space at the Beacon (relatively homeless). Then I was lucky enough to have an experienced, well-connected case worker and was placed in social housing.