10 January

This morning I saw Joy for the first time since Christmas. I was so glad to see her. When I sat down beside her I noticed that she had a black eye and other bruises on her face. I put my arm around her and said, “I guess your boyfriend came back?”

“Yeah, Jake came back, he always does, but he’s in jail now. I had a real shitty Christmas. Pardon the language.”

“Are you . hungry? Do you want a coffee or anything else?”

“No thanks, I’ve eaten breakfast and have had three cups of coffee. I could use some girl stuff.”

“I’d be glad to help you with that, Joy, but there aren’t any stores close by.”

“That’s okay, I’ll make out.”

13 February 

I worked at the Shepherd last night. I was washing dishes (not what I particularly enjoy, since there is not much interaction with the guests). I heard a tapping behind me (which I ignored), it continued so I turned around. Some of the regulars help sporadically with kitchen duties, although I haven’t been there long enough to know who does what. I turned around and J.P. was standing at the pass through where I stack the trays. He pointed at a tray of cups. I said, “Oh, you want a cup?” and commenced to hand him one.

“No, I wan’t the whole fucking tray, sir.”

It was so incongruous that I couldn’t take offense. I smiled and said, “Here you go, Thank you very much for your help.”

This seemed to surprise him, since he is usually the first to start fights, but he brought more dishes into the kitchen, for which I thanked him. and he grunted, which is probably the closest to a positive response that he is capable of. I am feeling more and more at home there. These people truly need friends who will help and encourage them.

23 February

Joy greeted me this morning, “Hi Sweetie, it’s good to see you. I’ve been sick lately due to this cold. The guy, who sometimes sleeps here, told me that he’s been staying at the Shepherds, but he finds it very rough and noisy. Still, I’m happy that he isn’t sleeping on the sidewalk. I stayed there once, but never again. It’s no place for a woman.”

When we finished our conversation she said, “Bye Sweetie.” It made me feel so good seeing her again, knowing that she was uninjured and relatively safe.

24 March 

I sat with Joy this morning. It was very cold last night and her friend had slept outside. He had said that being drunk helped him through the night.

Joy was feeling sick and her voice was hoarse. She had a black eye from her boyfriend. She told me that she has never had a job, a legal one, anyway.

She was told that she owes sixty-seven thousand dollars. While she was incarcerated her mother ran up a lot of bills in her name including fines for drinking in public. Whenever Joy talks about money, I get nervous. She’s a sweet person, but she has made her choices and will never change. I bought her breakfast and left it at that.

I don’t know why it hit me so hard today. I know I can’t fix anything and it’s going to keep happening. I gave her a hug. She said,”God bless you.”

14 April 

Crying and having trouble speaking this morning, because of a fat lip, Joy said that she’d been beaten again. She didn’t know that her ex had a key to her apartment. He let himself in and that’s when the trouble began. She called the police and they took him away (again).

Joy has lots of friends. This morning I had to stand in line to talk to her. Words of encouragement, my attention, a sausage and cheese on an english muffin, steeped tea (double,double) is the best I can do. Her smile is reward enough for any kindness that I can offer.


13 June 2011

It’s been a month since I’ve seen Joy. She’s been in hospital and has lost a lot of weight. She is now on kidney dialysis and uses a cane to help her walk.

She was evicted from the place she was living because, while in hospital, she couldn’t pay her rent. Her furniture, and other belongings, were all put on the lawn. She tried some of the shelters, but said that they were disgusting.

She is staying with, as she called them, ‘so called friends’. They told her that she had to bring home thirty today or they would throw her out. She had been sitting on the sidewalk since six this morning ( through the rain) and only had ten dollars in her cap.

I bought her tea and breakfast. There is only so much I can do.

14 June 2011

The good news is that Joy has started to pee again. She thinks that she will only be required to have dialysis for another week. Her biggest fear is infection, from some of the shelters where she’s had to sleep. She has a place for now, so I hope things go well.

15 June

I saw Joy this morning. She was feeling more cheerful. Her blood pressure is low, so they aren’t able to warm the blood that they circulate through her system. She feels very cold during the five hour process. She goes again this afternoon from one until six.

24 June 

Joy was more cheerful, even though she had to keep dodging rain showers. She has found a place to stay until next week. A social worker helped her to complete forms for assisted living.

Her dialysis is going well, she will be at the hospital again today. She is peeing more and tests on her kidneys indicate that they are functioning. She’s hoping that her problem will clear up in a few weeks.

14 July 2011

Yesterday, my boss noticed me with Joy. We were both sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. Her cap with change was in front of her. Her arm was around me and I was pouring my heart out to her. I explained to my boss that I occasionally buy her a sandwich and tea. She accepted that and said it was a kind gesture.

I talked to Joy this morning. Yesterday she had no shoes. A friend of hers noticed this, asked her size, then came back with a hundred and fifty dollar pair of women’s leather shoes, that he’d stolen from Sears. Another friend of hers was arrested for stealing a block of cheese. She admitted that her kidney damage was due to alcohol.

After I left her she was going to the bridge where she could be in the shade and play dice with her friends.

9 August 

It nearly broke my heart to see Joy this morning. She was sitting on the sidewalk, wrapped in a blanket, sobbing her eyes out. Doctors have found toxins in her blood which may mean kidney problems. This afternoon she is going to the hospital for a spinal tap to determine whether or not she has meningitis.

She has been kept awake by vomiting and diarrhea. I offered her a breakfast sandwich, but all she wanted was steeped tea, three sugar, one cream. She is losing weight and is fed up with being sick.

The good news is she now has a place at Cornerstone House, so she is able to shower, have a clean bed and eat good meals. Eventually, she will be able to save first and last months rent towards a place of her own.

10 August 

Joy was in better spirits today. She ate some chicken broth last night and her appetite was back today. She went to the doctor at 11:30 to find out her test results. Hopefully, everything will work out for the best.

2 September

Joy was crying and drinking sherry mixed with water. Her disability check was sent to the wrong address. There is a new resident at Cornerstone House who is driving her crazy. The resident is eighteen years old and does nothing but talk to herself. Joy is hoping to move to a friend’s basement, in the near future.

She has cracked cartilage in her nose with a gash across the bridge, two black eyes and pneumonia in both lungs. Her boyfriend, Jake, who is six foot, three and weighs over two hundred pounds, punched her in the face when she wouldn’t give him oral sex (she couldn’t breathe through her nose because of the pneumonia). He left her on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. A month ago he kicked her to the point that her whole right side was bruised, she had two cracked and two fractured ribs. In both cases she phoned the police, so hopefully this time he will be in jail a long time.

I sat with her, gave her a big hug and let her vent.

“I love Jake, but I have to take care of myself. I can’t be somebody’s punching bag. One day he’s going to kill me.”

I can’t believe that she lets him anywhere near her. She even felt bad about phoning the police. Then he stole her phone. I’ve been hearing these stories since I first met her. I can’t figure it out.

Joy’s friends have told her that Jake will kill her one day, and she believes it. Originally, they were to move into their friends basement together. Now, the friend says that Jake is not allowed to move in. He has been responsible for all the other beatings Joy has received in the past two years.

She apologized for venting her feelings to me. I mentioned that she had done the same for me. She said, “Yeah, that’s what friends are for. Right?” That’s when I gave her a hug.


12 September

“I’m moving into a house with a friend. It’s really nice; lots of room. We didn’t have an exciting weekend, we just spent time organizing the house. Everything seems to be going relatively well.” She was rubbing her hand and said, “My roommate was drunk and acting like a bozo last week, so I gave him a shot in the head. I think I broke my hand again. I didn’t go to the hospital, but it really hurts. That and the arthritis in my knees. Cops tell me to get up, and I say to them, ‘Where would you like me to sit, since I can’t stand?’ If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

“I got a letter from Jake, through a friend who lives at the shelter where I used to be. It had a dream catcher inside. I taught him how to make those. He doesn’t know my new address, my friend won’t tell him. In the letter, Jake apologized and said that he felt badly for nearly killing me. He asked me to appear in court for him and to change my testimony. He wants me to say that we were both drunk and that I don’t remember what happened.

“I don’t know what to do. I still love him him but I’m not willing to risk a charge of perjury, or obstruction of justice. That would put me back inside. Even if Jake does go to jail, he will be getting out some time and will be looking for me. He’ll find me, because we have the same friends and go to the same places. I don’t want to move to another city just to get away from him.”

14 September 2011

Antonio, a mutual friend of ours, was badly beaten as he slept on a park bench. Some guys came along and punched and kicked him for no reason leaving him with two broken ribs, a black eye, the side of his face purple and swollen. He also has a concussion. Now, he sleeps in another park with surveillance cameras. He is a tiny man, he probably doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds. I just feel sick thinking about him.

15 September 2011

This morning was very revealing. I was approaching Joy, and was about to enter the restaurant where I buy her sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin, when she waved and beckoned me to come over. She asked, “Can I change my order? I’d like a toasted sesame seed bagel with double cream cheese. Would that be okay?” (There is a point to this.)

I returned with her bagel and sat next to her on the sidewalk. She smiled and began eating the bagel, “Lately, I love cream cheese. People ask me if I’m pregnant and I tell them that if I am I’ll sue the doctor.

“I’ve been having trouble eating sausage. It gives me severe heart burn. It’s because I have this wire cage in my stomach — Long story short, I used to be a crack dealer. I’d mix the crack with flavored spritzers: grape, strawberry and pink lemonade. I sell this guy a pink one, he gets a buzz, everything is great — happy customer. He goes inside for a while then comes out again. He asks for another pink one. ‘Look man, I only got purple and red, but it’s all the same shit.’ He goes berserk and says I’m trying to rip him off.

“He reaches in his coat and pulls out a saw toothed machete. He stabbed me in the stomach, then pulled it up through my ribs. My stomach was cut up so bad they had to reconstruct it. Now, I have this chicken wire cage holding everything together. They made a small upper chamber and a larger one below. Now, food goes into the small chamber where it’s predigested. Sometimes it doesn’t stay, it comes right back up. I have to be real careful what I eat.”

Joy had to pee and asked if I would wait with her stuff. She said, “Any change you make you can keep.” When she returned she said that I looked really cool sitting there. (I didn’t make any money, but I had a first hand view of pan handling on the street — the dirty looks, averted eyes, One woman said, ‘Good luck.’ I think she meant it seriously.

20 September 

This morning Joy was hyper, tense and a bit drunk. She made a comment to a woman passing by (I think it was one of our new employees), “Hey, Sweetheart, you need to get more of a tan!”

The woman replied, “Thank you so much for the fashion advice.”

Joy’s bedroom ceiling was leaking last night during a rain storm. It was dripping onto her air mattress. She kicked her roommate off the couch (where he had passed out watching television).

She is nervous about her court appearance Friday for an assault charge against Jake. Her lawyer expects the case to go in her favor, since Jake has been charged four times with assaulting Joy. He is also well known to the police. He served one year last time, but it’s expected that, with this latest charge, he will go to the penitentiary  for a long stay.

“I have problems being in confined places with a lot of people. I was in a cell with four women who were very agitated and noisy. I checked myself into the psych. ward. I was fine, drawing with colored pencils. Then, another woman was brought in who screamed continually.

“I just lost it, man (pointing to her head). I started stabbing myself in my private places with the pencils. Then they put me on suicide watch.”

27 September 2011

Joy was in relatively good spirits, “I’ve got these abdominal cramps because of my period. Also I think I’m starting ‘mentalpause’. I remember when my mom had it.”

“My roommate wants to bring his son to stay with us. He’s in grade ten. I don’t know how that will work out.

“My court case has been moved up to October nineteenth. I’m not overly worried about it. It’s only a parole violation. There will be a pre trial, then a trial; but my lawyer expects that it will eventually be thrown out of court. Jake, on the other hand has been charged with assault, assault with bodily harm and attempted murder. My lawyer says he’ll be sent to the penitentiary for a long time. A friend of mine says that the next time he sees Jake he’s going to kill him, for what he did to me.

4 October

Joy said, “I have an appointment this afternoon with my parole officer, she asked, ‘Will you be drunk? I said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see.’

“Now we have four adults and four kids, aged five, six, thirteen and fourteen, staying at the house. I end up doing a lot of babysitting, cooking and cleaning. Some of the adults, and some of the kids, and I don’t get along. One of the kids said, ‘I don’t have to do what you say, you can’t hit me.’ I said to him, “I can’t hit you, but I know kids your age who can.”

I was surprised to see her on the sidewalk one morning when it was raining. She said she had to get away from the house because of the kids.

7 October

This morning was see your breath cold. I met Joy as I got off the bus. She gave me a big hug, said, “I was freezing my ass off sitting on the sidewalk, I’m going home.”

I asked her how things were working out with the kids. She said, “I gave my notice to my roommate, said I was leaving. He asked the other family to move out. It’s not like they were contributing anything. Now it’s just my roommate and his fourteen year old son. I get along fine with him.

“I just got tired of the responsibility of caring for somebody else’s children. I’ve raise my family. Anyway, I wasn’t being paid for it, or even thanked. The parents just neglected to care for them. The five year old girl hadn’t had a change of underwear in four days. It’s heartbreaking that some parents are allowed to have children.”

  1. Hi! I really like your blog, but is there any way to read it chronologically? it seems to jump from one date to another… i managed to read everything chronologically up until october 2011 but now i’m a bit lost concerning where to look for the rest!


    • dcardiff says:

      My blog does jump around a bit. After 2011 you can start with the Archives for April, 2013. I’ve been trying to post every day, so on weekends and on days when the weather is bad — meaning that no panhandlers will be out — I bring stories out from 2012. Eventually everything will be in chronological order.

      Thanks for reading,


  2. The mom says:

    Wow, that is heart breaking and heart warming at the same time! In glad our paths crossed so I got to read your blog. You seem like a very warm hearted and compassionate person. People like you are the ones who keep me believe that there is goodness in people.


    • The stories I hear on a daily basis are often heartbreaking. Peoples resilience to adversity is heartwarming. We just need to give people a chance, no matter how they are dressed. ~ Dennis


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