Archive for April 14, 2013


10 January 2011

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, but there aren’t any stores close by.”

“That’s okay, I’ll make out.”

13 February 2011

I worked at the Shepherds 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 offence. 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 2011

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 2011

I sat with Joy this morning. It was very cold last night and Mo’s friend had slept outside. He 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 $67,000. 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.

14 April 2011

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 tha police and they took him away (again).

Joy has lots of friends. This morning I had to stand in line to talk to her. 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.

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.”

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 $30.00 today or they would throw her out. She had been sitting on the sidewalk since 6:00 am ( through the rain) and only had $10.00 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 has to sleep. She has a place for now, so I hope things go well.

15 June 2011

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 1:00 to 6:00 pm.

24 June 2011

Joy was more cheerful, even though she had to keep dodging rain showers. She has found a place to stay until next week and a social worker is helping her to fill in 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 $150.00 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 2011

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 with 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 2011

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 2011

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. Mo is hoping to move to a friend’s basement in the near future.

She has cracked cartiledge in her nose with a gash across the bridge, two black eyes and pneumonia in both lungs. Her boyfriend ,(who is 6’3″ and weighs over 200 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.

Mo’s friends have told her that this guy will kill her one day, and she believes it. Originally, they were to move into their friends basement together. Now, the friend says that Frank is not allowed to move in. He has been responsible for all the other beatings Mo 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 2011

“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 tho 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 surveilance 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 at me 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 Sep 2011

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 lawyers), “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 penetentiary 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 19. 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 peneteniary 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 2011

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 5, 6, 13 and 14, staying at the house. I end up doing a lot of babysitting, cooking and cleaning. Some of the adults and some of the kids 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 2011

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 leave. It’s not like they were contributing anything. Now it’s just my roommate and his 14 year old son. I get along fine with him.

“I just got tired of the responsibility of caring for somebody elses 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 5 year old girl hadn’t had a change of underwear in four days. It’s heartbreaking that some parents are allowed to have children”.



18 December 2010

I was accepted for an orientation session for volunteers at the Shepherds of Good Hope. I trained for the Drop-In Program from 5:00 to 9:00pm. 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:

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

Tom Waits

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} 

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.

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 Shepherd’s of Good Hope, 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 agoraphobic, but I’ll see. Thanks again for inviting me.

25 December 2010

I spent this evening at the “Shepherd’s of Good Hope” I was wiping and clearing tables, then 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 I was thanked for the work I did.

All in all, it was a very pleasant evening.


My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the legal firm where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below-freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes, and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past, I’ve been unemployed, unable to pay my mortgage and other bills, went through a bankruptcy, lost my house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I’ve been told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”

“That would be nice,” she replied.

When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past two years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.


Throughout the past few years (2010-2017), I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentleman who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.

Shakes was doused with gasoline and set on fire. His lower right leg is severely scarred and still tender when touched.

Craig slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive. Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.

Joy is a close personal friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in the back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.

I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, a hug to comfort, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.

I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.