Archive for September 2, 2014

New Amazon Review

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart-wrenching,Heartwarming,Insightful, September 2, 2014
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People (Kindle Edition)
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations With Street People is a title by Canadian author Dennis Cardiff. The title alone was enough to draw me in and I was not disappointed. This is not an easy read because the subject matter is brutally honest and there has been no attempt by the author to water it down or make it easier for the reader to handle. I appreciate this tremendously. Just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be looked at and taken seriously.
This work deals with the homeless and panhandlers that the author came in contact with en route to his various work engagements. They were a fixture in his life and their different personalities and stories fascinated him. Cardiff decided to write these encounters and experiences down and give those of us may have been a little too quick to judge, a glimpse inside the everyday lives of these people. Some of them have families, some even have jobs. The “why are they on the street?” angle is explored but not so much as just letting the reader peek behind the veil. You may, after reading this book, find yourself feeling a bit more compassion towards people you pass on the street. I feel that this may have been the author’s purpose in putting this book together.
Cardiff also does a wonderful job of showcasing the sense of community between the characters in this book. The book is based on actual people and actual situations, but you get such a good look at the sense of community that is shared between people. People with literally nothing, step up to help out. It’s quite remarkable.
Gotta Find a Home takes a gritty, unfiltered look at homelessness and while it is not always pretty, it is most definable eye-opening and real. A great read and I would highly recommend it.




Hi Andre, how was your weekend?”

“The weekend was fine, but I had a depressing morning. I got this letter from ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program), saying that I have to go down there right away or my payments are going to be cut off. I get there, apparently I missed an appointment last Wednesday. I had two appointments on Wednesday. I remembered to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a special diet. I figured that was the important one. I totally forgot about the other one. Now, they’re holding my check until September 15. I said to the guy, ‘I’ve had a heart attack. It killed some of my memory cells. I blank out some times. I’m supposed to be on a special diet. What am I supposed to do? Go home and eat my socks?’ People looked up when I said that. He gave me my street allowance, because I caused a scene.

“I’m supposed to be taking medication for my stomach, but I find out now that I’m not covered. Luckily, my brother-in-law is on the same medication, so he was able to give me a few pills.  I’m also supposed to be getting new teeth, that’s also on hold. I’m trying to stay sober, but I’m getting no help at all, just stress. It was better when I was a drunk on the street. Now I got responsibilities, I’ve got a roommate, if I screw up with the rent, he’d going to be without a place to live.

Debbie said, “I feel the same way. I could use some help now. I don’t need money, but I’m having problems. Staying sober is tough.”

Mariah said, “I visited Joy the other day. I’m also going to see her tomorrow to take care of her check and pay her bills. She thinks she has approval to move into a two bedroom apartment with Big Jake. She’s still pissed off with him for wrecking her bed. I’ve got some photos here of my last visit with her, also some I took on Canada Day. Here’s Precious, my cat, wearing two Canadian flags. Here’s one of Debbie with big glasses and a hat that Jacques gave her. Here’s a picture of Little Jake and Jacques trying to ride a tricycle that Hippo brought. They didn’t stay on very long. That tricycle had no brakes. Jake went down the hill, saw a woman pushing a baby carriage and bailed. He came back with his leg all bloody.

“Did I show you the ring that Jacques gave me? I don’t usually like big rings, but I like this one. It’s mother-of -pearl. It’s like a mood ring. When I put it on my finger it changes color.”

Wolf said, “Dennis, I finished this Jack Higgins book. Do you want to read it? It’s one of his new ones?  It’s called a Devil is Waiting.”

“Thanks, Wolf, but I’ve got a lot of books on my to-be-read list.”

Inuktuk asked Mariah, “Can I buy a toke from you for five bucks. Here’s my change. I’m too drunk to count it.”

“Okay, let’s see what you have here. You’ve got four bucks, but that’s okay. Pay me a buck when you have it.”

“I found another two dollars.”

“Okay, here’s four quarters back. Now, we’re all square.”

I asked, “How are you feeling now, Mariah?”

“I’m okay, the pain comes and goes.”


Amazon Review

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
3.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective, but not all rainbows & flowers, September 2, 2014
I was very curious about this book, Gotta Find a Home. Conversations with Street People by Dennis Cardiff. The title and the description of the book were the things that caught my attention. However, for some reason, the beginning was pretty rocky. It made me wonder if maybe this is the sort of book that you read in slices, a bit now, a bit later, a bit tomorrow. It depicts, after all, pieces of people’s lives; it’s not fiction, but real life. But as I read, I was curious how those lives evolved and in the same time I was wondering if their lives could be more static. It felt like a slow read probably because it was written like a journal, with dates and months written before every entry. Through a journal you don’t rush, you take in every day.

But first things first: this book is about panhandlers, about homeless people. They live in Toronto. The information about their lives is gathered by Dennis, the author and the narrator of the book. He worked near the meeting place of the panhandlers. There’s a group that keeps showing up in the book, the usual suspects as they are referred to. There are also some other names that are brought up. It’s a really vast universe. It was a bit tricky to keep up with all those names, but you soon realise that those who are the real “characters” are quickly etched into your mind.

Every panhandler has a distinct personality. So different. I must admit that I started this book curious, but in the same time with a baggage of judgment towards these people. I started with the ideas that most people have when they have to get in contact, even for the briefest of moments, with panhandlers and homeless: once an addict, always an addict. While this is not whipped away in the book, I like that they are given the chance to show why they are in the situation they are in at the moment. I’m not giving them excuses, but it’s nice to see a different perspective on things. I definitely didn’t expect such a wide spectrum of backgrounds. Some of the people in the group came from a respectful background, some attended college [“It seems funny now, thinking that I would have gone into law, since nearly everything I do is illegal.” — Irene], some had families, kids, jobs and bosses waiting for them when they decided to go back. If you’re looking for a reason why they chose the life on the streets to the life “back home”, this book isn’t giving you one. Probably more than justifying them, it just aims to offer a look into their lives.

My favourite thing about this book is the narrator’s attitude through all this. I love that rather than giving them money, he is quicker to offer breakfast cards, coffee, is willing to buy them breakfast. He helps them in a practical way, serving their needs rather than their wants. This probably sounds harsh, but it’s how I see things. I was glad to see that the narrator avoids talking or even writing his thoughts about the panhandlers from a right or bad point of view. Another aspect I loved so much is that he wasn’t trying to interfere in their lives; he doesn’t adopt a Good Samaritan attitude, or better said the attitude of a social worker. He’s there just to chat, ask questions (but not intrusive ones). He accepts them and is not a controlling outsider. This was really refreshing to see, for some reason. “I’m not trying to control his life, or give him my opinion of what I think he should do. I’m trying to enable him to have more control of his life, the way he wants it.”

Throughout the book I couldn’t help but see the panhandlers as the members of a different world within the world of the everyday normality. There are intertwined relationships forming and breaking every day, week, month, year. It’s the learning about the fellow panhandler through the grapevine, what other said, but soon is proved to be not that accurate… It’s a wonder, really. It’s the world of the regulars who’ve been in the same place for years, but in the same time the world of the passer-by who’s just looking for his place in the panhandling world. It’s the world in which good does triumph over bad, panhandlers helping one another through bad times. It’s a fairy-tale like world, with bad characters and good characters, but unlike the classic fairy tales, you don’t know for sure that good will conquer the bad gradually, as you turn the pages. It’s the day by day real life. “It’s like a daily soap opera, lives and loves exposed for all to see.” But few have eyes to see beyond the façade.

“It’s nice waking up in the morning. If I don’t, I know something’s wrong.” (Little Jake)

Goodreads Review

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
Joseph‘s review

Sep 01, 14

bookshelves: canada, society

Read from August 10 to 17, 2014


GOTTA FIND A HOME by Dennis Cardiff
Book Review by Joseph Spuckler

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People by Dennis Cardiff is a unique look at the situation in Toronto. Cardiff is not from the expected background for this work. He is not a sociologist, but a poet and an artist and like many people has had his close call to losing everything.

What makes Gotta Find a Home different from all other books on homelessness is that is not a study on the how and why of homelessness. It is also not investigative journalism trying to create sensationalism rather than finding a solution. It, perhaps most importantly, is not political and does not assign blame. It is a work based off of friendship and trust.

Cardiff records the day to day conversations he has with the local street people. Some people have stories of great woe or loss, but those are quickly replaced with conversations that seem rather typical of most people. The talk centers around what most people talk about. Talk and concern over friends, money, rent, food, and perhaps more than the usual amount of talk about alcohol. Cardiff has work his way into the group and is not seen as an easy mark for money. He will buy coffee and for Joy, breakfast. He offers bus passes and encouragement and will not buy alcohol for anyone.

The reader will learn about the homeless community and the social order and rules of the community. Most know each other well and know who can be trusted. They watch out as a group for the police, their biggest security concern. No one wants to get ticketed (even though they can’t pay the fine) or arrested. It is not crime, but loitering and drinking in public that are the major concerns. Business owners treat people differently. Some business are tolerant other have security run people off.

Homelessness does not necessarily mean sleeping on the streets. Many find shelters and others share apartments with many other people. No dwelling is considered more than temporary. There is also some squatting on public and private property.

Cardiff puts a personal face on the street people. They are not the just people in the way. The book made me wonder why people would choose to remain homeless. I don’t recall any mention, save one, of someone who said I am going to end this and re-enter “society.” There was no argument of I want to work, but I cannot get hired. There is alcoholism, but our society has plenty of functional alcoholics in every level of employment. I do not believe the argument that homeless people want to be homeless. Canada and the United States seem to share this same problem. Government and charity programs seem to treat the symptoms but not the cause. They seem to make life more bearable, but do not fix the problem. Cardiff’s personal look at the individuals in an honest way may provide the understanding that will lead to meaningful change.

Joseph Spuckler gives 5 Stars to Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People