Quotes from The Crack Game* – “It was so hard.”

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(Warning: The following contains disturbing details and graphic imagery.)

Defeated, she sits on the edge of the bed belonging to a fragile senior resident whom she has known for years, has harbored her before, and shares some of the same habits. After a three week crack binge, which I doubt is yet over, she is famished and for the privilege of making and eating four grill cheese sandwiches in a flash is massaging that woman’s sore feet and shoulders. Anything to ensure she doesn’t get thrown out again. Far from her home across the city, without money and in no condition to bargain, she knows no-one else will open the door for her tonight. Running amok for days, several violent outbursts against people and property have angered and alienated her peers, so she is lucky to have this temporary sanctuary.

“I black out. You know I black out? I have an anger problem. I was living with my mom (who has mental health and anger issues herself). We moved out of housing to get away from this, I went to talk to the counselor two times a week. I’ve been working so hard to stay straight. Why did I come back here?”

Continue reading “Quotes from The Crack Game* – “It was so hard.””

It’s a date!

As the traffic idles on the red a man takes the time to place a small paper cup on his dashboard, opens a thermos and pours. Streetgirl watches, thinking it might be espresso. Hasn’t had one of those since Salvatore passed; along-side a shot of ouzo, burning coffee beans on top, accompanied by dessert after dinner in a restaurant of her choice. That was their thing. May he rest in peace. The driver doesn’t seem to notice her standing at the curb. He slides something onto the lid of the cup, a chocolate perhaps. Then, to her surprise, opens his window and offers the drink to her.

“It’s a date!” he declares. Continue reading “It’s a date!”

Quotes from Streets: “Stay Warm!”

“Stay warm”, the man said to the panhandler in sincerity, passing her a bag of stuff.

When she got home after pulling off the many layers and warming up a while, Streetgirl unpacked the contents, crackers, chocolate, and Campbell’s Beef Broth. The can was strangely heavy. Hearing loud rattling when shaken, she put it down quickly; because for a second it flashed that the product could have been sabotaged and might possibly explode in her hands. Panners are sometimes targeted by haters and there are those who will not consume food or drink given them for fear of poisoning. Once, a young man spit in a coffee, passed it to her, and laughed with his friends as he drove away. She has heard far worse stories. Cautious yes, but it’s not like her to be paranoid, so she picks it back up and realizes that while the outside is no longer cold, nor is she, the soup inside is frozen and a shiver runs up her spine.

She thinks of Jeff who she’d seen at the ramp earlier. Been worried about the wee man and made a point of wishing Happy New Year and inquiring if he wanted to come home with her for a night or two. Once again he declined, so feeling helpless she gave him a five out of her small stash. She is broke but not homeless. Even when she had been years ago, the nights Streets slept outside were few, fortunate to have been directed to a Fred Victor Shelter early on and with workers’  support obtained permanent housing. Sleeping rough going on six years, he is a modern day hermit. Scottish ancestry, an East Coast Canadian, someone’s brother, father and grandfather alienated and marginalized, stuck in a lifestyle that is taking him nowhere except sadly one step closer to demise. He sleeps in his man-made shelter a mere minute walk from Yorkdale Mall and Yorkdale Condos being constructed upon the destruction of the local Toronto Housing community; which when completed is certain to create a traffic nightmare. Continue reading “Quotes from Streets: “Stay Warm!””

Excerpt from ‘Homeless Not Hopeless’

Late August 2009

Blustery weather brought her to mind the most and when the heavy downpour and a crash of thunder jolts him awake, followed by a bolt of lightning that brightens the night-sky and plays havoc with his poor eyes, he is immediately aware of her presence on Earth.  He claims to be a descendant of the Sun and the Moon, darkness and light consume him; declares himself a deity, grand and immortal like a Roman God. She is alive and travels with the winds, at times soft and breezy, a soothing gentle caress. As the storm increases in intensity, gusts of cold air twisting and encircling, sharp drops stinging his skin, he trembles in the fetal position of post-slumber. A fierce blast rattles the limbs of the trees that are his shelter, snapping branches, showering leaves, warning of her impending approach. He imagines he can feel the woman’s wrath in its wail. Continue reading “Excerpt from ‘Homeless Not Hopeless’”

Diversity of Compassion

*previously published on http://www.homelessguide.com/

The morning sun brightens Streetgirl’s long hair and tans her face as she stands at the ramp holding a sign that says, “BROKE + HUNGRY – PLEASE HELP – GOD BLESS – PEACE.” A line from the chorus of a Rag’N’Bone Man’s song is rolling repeatedly through her mind, “Don’t put your blame on me.”  The earworm has been wedged for days, but should clear out soon to be replaced by another. Last week it was The Beatles, “Here comes the sun.”

On the red light a female driving a black van and wearing a niqab pulls to a stop. She happens to lock eyes with Streets who beams broadly, because that is the way she is. It’s impossible to tell if the devout Muslim smiles back from beneath the heavy veil, but she is moved by the moment, reaching for her clutch and scooping out a handful of coins to pass to the panhandler without a word.

Soon after, a woman of Asian descent, behind the wheel of a small red car, silver electrical tape holding the side mirror together and rust circling the door; she stretches out her arm with an offering of two sweet clementine in hand. Continue reading “Diversity of Compassion”

We are Canadian

DSC_8156I took this photo late November 2012. Looking at it today, I am still stricken by the incongruity of the Nike symbol on the shoes and the Canadian flag hanging so prominent; bold statements in a harsh environment. Jeff is resting his bare feet behind this makeshift shelter when I snap the shot. Unbeknownst to both of us at the time, in the frigid winter of 2014 the homeless man will lose two toes to frostbite and never wear his shoes the same.

Much appreciated

Streetgirl was up at the Ramp on Saturday and spotted a pile of samples of Aveeno Yogurt Skin Moisturizing Lotion which were strewn upon the ground beside the garbage bag used by panhandlers who frequent the spot. Someone must have dropped them off only to have their gift tossed aside. She hates seeing things wasted, so decided to pick the jars up. Continue reading “Much appreciated”