2010 – Homeless Shelter

8 December 2010

I was accepted for an orientation session for volunteers at one of the cities three main homeless shelters. I trained for the Drop-In Program from five until nine. This is the evening meal open to everyone without charge. First I had to learn the Rules for Food Handlers.

They served a very good meal with choices of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, gravy, barley soup, salads (green, couscous and pasta), muffins, cakes, donuts and sandwiches (some to go, if they wished).

I wiped tables, gathered dishes and served soup. It was five hours on my feet after a long day at work, but I enjoyed it. There was a sweet lady from England who served beside me. She was full of stories, was worried about her son who is an alcoholic. She loves peanut butter and was very interested when I told her that for breakfast I eat toast spread with peanut butter, covered by scrambled eggs (mostly whites). This lady seemed to know most of the guests and said to them how much she had missed them, worried if some didn’t show up, worried if they were sitting all alone and not smiling as usual. The guests and the staff were very nice. The dishwasher, who sings in a choir, sang Christmas carols as he sprayed the dishes, and everyone joined in.

A native man gave me two drawings. I didn’t want to accept them, but he insisted. He said that he likes to pay his own way. He showed me his biography that indicated he had exhibited widely and had many gallery exhibitions of his work. The drawings were signed Rain Dog. I was truly blessed by the gift of these drawings. In response I wrote a poem for him:

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Rain Dog

What brings you to the shelter?
Where will you sleep tonight?
Where will you wander tomorrow?

You have blessed me with your gifts,
giving of your art, your soul.
Blessing others with your smile.

I’d love to hear your tales
of places you have traveled,
of things you’ve seen and done.

I hope to see you again
so that I may learn from you.
Rain Dog, you write on my heart.

A Rain Dog is a dog caught in the rain, with its whole trail washed away by the water so he can’t get back home. A stranded dog, who wants nothing better than to get home. 

People who live outdoors, people who sleep in doorways, loners knit together by some corporeal way of sharing pain and discomfort. (The Urban Dictionary} 

 

by Tom Waits:

Inside a broken clock 
Splashing the wine with all the rain dogs 
Taxi, we’d rather walk 
Huddle a doorway with the rain dogs 
For I am a rain dog too

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22 December 2010

I sat with Joy this morning. Her eyes were blackened and she had a gash across the bridge of her nose. She was weeping. I asked, “What happened, Joy?”

“My boyfriend punched me in the face. I’m covered in bruises, my ribs are in bad shape and I’ve been coughing blood.”

“Did you phone the police?”

“No, if the police come again, we’ll be kicked out of the place we’re staying. It’s not the first time he’s beaten me. I’ve had broken bones, cracked and separated ribs. We’ve been together four years now. He’s okay when he’s sober, but when he drinks he gets crazy. I’ve kicked him out for good, but he always comes back saying he’s sorry and that it’ll never happen again.

“Also, I’m on probation. I served time at the Prison for Women for assaulting this same guy. I shouldn’t have been charged. There was a lot of blood, but it was all mine. Another time in prison, I was raped by a male guard and gave birth to his son. My probation officer is trying to arrange an appointment with a mental health counselor because, as a child, I was molested by my father, grandfather and uncle. Depending on the results of this interview, I may be eligible for better assisted housing.”

“I wish there were something I could do.”

“What I need is some girl stuff. I’m just starting my period.”

“I’d love to help, but there aren’t any stores nearby and I’m already ten minutes late for work.”

“It’s okay, I’ll ask one of my regular women friends who will be dropping by.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Joy. Take care.”

I made a decision that I would try to help Joy and other people like her. I don’t have any special qualifications, but I registered as a volunteer with The Shepherd’s of Good Hope. I expect to start work soon.

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23 December 2010

“Hi Joy, how are you feeling today? Your eyes are looking better”

“Right now I have a headache, a cold, a sore throat and I can’t seem to stop crying. On top of that, yesterday, going down the stairs I tripped over my roommate’s dog, Harley, and broke my tail bone. The pain is unbearable.

“It’s not just that. I was thinking about one of my friends, Leeanne. She was murdered three months ago on September 5th. She lived at the Shepherd’s. She was a prostitute. They found her body, with her pants pulled down, between a fence and the hydro substation on King Edward Avenue, between York and George. Who does that kind of thing? He didn’t even have the decency to cover her body.

“Six women, prostitutes or drug addicts, have been murdered in Ottawa since 1990, and the cops think it may be a serial killer.

“In 2006, Jennifer, was 36 years old, native, a mother of four who worked the streets for 20 years to pay for her crack habbit. She was found in a parking lot on Alice Street near the Gamelin Street entrance to Gatineau Park. She was face-down, lying in the dirt, naked and bleeding. She died in hospital and an autopsy showed she had been stabbed at least a dozen times while trying to fight off her attacker. She had stab wounds to her head, legs and wrists.

“Pamela was 39. She was murdered in 2008. Her body was found partially nude and beaten, near a bicycle path in Lincoln Heights Park. They found a pair of men’s reading glasses at the scene. It’s believed that they belonged to the killer and that he’s over forty.

“Carrie was 32, in 1995, last seen in her Lafontaine Avenue apartment in the early morning with man in late 20s/early 30s — he had short brown hair, tattoos on both arms, wore a light-coloured kilt. I’ve kept all the newspaper clippings.You’d think a guy dressed like that would be easy to spot. She was found strangled.

“In 1993 there was Sophie, she was 24, she turned to prostitution to support her children and unemployed boyfriend. She was last seen alive getting into a white van near Kent and Laurier. She was found strangled, her body found stuffed into two garbage bags in a Westboro parking lot.

“Melinda, was only 16, in 1990. She was beautiful and had only been working the streets for three weeks. It was a Saturday night, she’d been in the Cafe Deluxe on Dalhousie Street. People saw her jump into a car. She was found strangled in the Byward Market, her body in a parking lot dumpster on Murray Street. One snake-skinned stiletto heel was missing. Over twenty years later, it’s still missing, so is her killer.

“I don’t think the cops are even trying to catch the guy. Prostitutes are considered scum. The cops are more likely to beat them than to help them. The women are just trying to survive from day to day. They do what they do for food, drugs or alcohol. Most of them don’t see any way out. Just because they’re prostitutes, or addicts, is no reason to kill them. None of us on the street are safe.

“I used to do that, but I no longer have an expensive habit to maintain, so I don’t do it any more.”

I hugged her and said “I’m glad you don’t do it any more.”

As I sat with Joy, some ladies in a nearby office building bought her a large frozen turkey. She also had a bag of presents. I could see crackers, to go with the turkey and a pair of socks. A lady stopped by and dropped her $20.00 since she wouldn’t be seeing her again until after the holidays.

“I’m going to cook this turkey, freeze some and share it with my neighbors who aren’t doing very well.”

I said, “If your interested, you’re welcome to come to The Good Shepherd, Christmas Eve. They’re putting on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.”

“Thanks, I won’t promise that I’ll come. I don’t do well in crowds, I’m agarophobic, but I’ll see. Thanks again for inviting me.

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25 December 2010

I spent this evening at The Good Shepherd.  I was wiping and clearing tables, then I was I was assigned to wash dishes. It involved placing the cups, plates and cutlery in the stacking tray, so they could be rinsed with the pressure sprayer, before sliding the tray into the washer.

I didn’t see my favorite people there, but all the guests were helpful and polite. They brought their trays to the counter, scraped their plates and said, “Thank you very much sir, have a merry Christmas.”

The volunteers were also very nice; much nicer than the people I work with on a paid basis. I was asked if I was doing okay, if wanted to sit down, if I wanted a drink of juice, or something to eat. At the end of the shift was thanked for the work I did.

All in all it was a very pleasant evening.

Comments
  1. Your Rain Dog poem is both beautiful and profound. I feel sad for Joy and the numerous others who are in her shoes and who have lost their lives. Thanks for writing this heart touching blog.

    Like

    • Hi Pamela, entering this, what was at first a somewhat scary, environment was the best decision I made in my life. It has been life changing and has brought me into the company of many wonderful friends, who have taught me so much.

      Thank you for your kind words and for advocating for abused children through a national organization, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children), and teaching audiences how to overcome a difficult past and experience personal transformation.” ~ Dennis

      Like

  2. Catherine says:

    This blog has captured my attention. I shall return, and thank you for following mine. 🙂

    Like

    • dcardiff says:

      Hi Catherine, I’m glad I have captured your attention. We both believe in unconditional love. I’m sure we share many other beliefs as well.

      I enjoy your writing. It is very inspirational.

      Like

    • Hi Catherine, I also enjoy your blog and have put your book on my Amazon wish. “Yesterday’s Eyes” is a story about forgiveness, and learning how to overcome negative issues from the past.” I look forward to reading it. ~ Dennis

      Like

  3. Catherine says:

    Thank you, I write to give God the glory…

    Like

  4. Happy, Sad & Inside the Between says:

    Compassion
    I see compassion
    I feel compassion
    At first it’s scary to feel alone
    Then we realize we can be alone together
    And sometimes a light shine through the broken part

    Thanks for following my blog and for sharing so many stories…

    Like

    • dcardiff says:

      Thanks so much for reading my stories. I love your words,

      ”At first it’s scary to feel alone
      Then we realize we can be alone together
      And sometimes a light shines through the broken part.”

      My life feels exactly like that. I’ll be back to your blog often.

      Cheers,
      Dennis

      Like

  5. Your approach to this writing is unique and heart wrenching. I have been homeless four times in my adult life and slept in my car, I lived in short term shelter once and long term shelter another time. Foe more than 1/3 of my adult life I haven’t had a place that was mine, always sleeping in another person’s home.
    i came to read this blog because I received a note that you were now following my blog, Bagg Lady’s Buzz. As much as I appreciate this I am wondering if you could go to my other blog Keep Oregon Warm; it is a blog about helping the homeless and working poor; and follow there. Could I put your link on that blog? Maybe an interview with you? Please let me know.
    I am now following this blog.
    Ta Ta for now, Cathy the Bagg Lady

    Like

    • dcardiff says:

      Hi Cathy, I couldn’t find your blog Keep Oregon Warm. Thanks so much for helping the homeless and the working poor.

      You are certainly welcome to put my link on your blog and I would be pleased to grant you an interviewed. My e-mail address is dacardiff@gmail.com. I would be pleased to help you in any way I can.

      Cheers,
      Dennis

      Like

  6. It seems odd to ‘like’, but obviously, it is about appreciating the depth and color of your writing. I look forward to reading more…and love Tom Waits- perfect choice.

    Like

  7. theepiphanatorr says:

    Dennis,

    Compassion can truly move mountains. Most of the accounts from your personal experience are heart rending. Hope you succeed in your goal. You are doing a wonderful job. Listening wholeheartedly to a person, is offering a great deal of help. These are busy times where every one is busy trying to make something of their own lives, time is a luxurious commodity. Lending a ear to some one in distress, is commendable. God bless!

    Like

  8. kingpollux says:

    There is power here. Thank you for sharing these stories.
    Lives are horrible things to waste. Everyone has a story to tell and every person is worth listening to.

    Like

  9. Bless you, Dennis.

    Like

  10. Hello Dennis, thank you for your like of my post ‘The Philosophy of Plotinus: Part Two’ and for following my blog – I look forward to following yours. Some years ago I did volunteer work ‘teaching’ art at a drop-in centre for addicts and the homeless. Every week I arrived, there was a young man – Ross – sitting by the door in a big, dark brown chair – a similar colour to that of his very sensitive eyes. When he spoke, his sentences didn’t make sense – references to Kombi vans would be mixed with references to Ayer’s Rock and catamarans were mentioned frequently – he loved them. But the confusion that came out of his mouth was the opposite of what came out of his eyes. He told me that he lived in a boarding-house and said in a matter-of-fact way that the person who ran the place had thrown out the book he wrote his poetry in – I knew how much that had affected him. Each week I would ask if he would come to the ‘class’. He replied he would think about it – and never came. One week he walked into the class and said ‘I think I’ll do something’. Trying not to show my excitement I said ‘That’s great Ross’ and left him alone. Five minutes later, while I was talking with one of the staff, he came up and showed me what he had done. It was a pencil drawing of a catamaran, looking down through the structure. A boat designer couldn’t have been more precise or detailed. I was so excited and showed the drawing to the staff member. Ross stood behind me, talking to someone else. As I was having my conversation I listened to Ross and noticed something very different. For the first time, his conversation was completely coherent but even as I listened, it began to fall apart. I still have and very much value the drawing Ross gave me. This is not about me, it is about what we all can do when someone else shows us that they believe in us as a person. It is about what we all need and how badly it affects us when, for whatever reason, we don’t experience it. Congratulations on your blog, on what you do and best regards, Phil Stanfield

    Like

    • Hi Phil, thanks for your comment. It’s easy to underestimate people. Judging by the way they talk, dress or act can be very misleading. Many of my friends on the street have college degrees and are prevented from working due to diseases that are not readily apparent. I am often humbled when conversing with them. ~ Dennis

      Like

  11. dharmendr says:

    What you do is definitely a thing that requires a lot of courage and a good heart. If I could someday be able to help the ones in need, just like you, it would surely be a day of reckoning for me. I am from India and as far as I have read, research here shows that what these homeless people crave the most for is someone to talk to. I appreciate your work from the bottom of my heart.
    Also, thank you very much for following my blog.

    Like

    • I agree, homeless people are used to being shunned, ignored and abused. They appreciate very much when someone listens and shows them kindness. It doesn’t cost anything, but gives so much. ~ Dennis

      Like

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