Archive for July 11, 2020

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1 February 2012

Today was a learning experience. The weather was what the meteorologists called “freezing fog”. I walked to ‘the heater’ where I saw Chester and a woman. Chester, I’d met the previous day, the woman I had seen, but we hadn’t been introduced.

Chester said to the woman, “Debbie, this is … What did you say your name is?”

“I’m Dennis.”

I shook Chester’s hand then extended it to Debbie. She withheld her’s and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to visit friends. I was hoping Joy would be here.”

Chester was very friendly and talkative. The previous day he hadn’t said a word. “He’s solid, Debbie, he was here yesterday talking with Ian.”

Debbie noticed the cloth bag I was carrying; on it was printed The Hope Mission. She said, “There was a man who was barred from The No Hope Mission, The Salvation Army and the Rescue. The temperature was minus forty degrees. No place would let him in. He froze to death standing up, leaning against the brick wall of the Shepherd.”

“Why was he barred?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter why he was barred! Nobody should be forced to freeze to death!”

“I agree.”

Chester, in a kindly voice, broke the awkward silence, “Cathy and I have been friends for a long time — on the wagon and off. I was sober for 10 years. That’s when I was with Epeelee, an Inuit woman. When she died four years ago I fell off the wagon.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.

“I don’t like your voice!” said Debbie.

“I’m sorry,  I won’t talk.”

“It’s not your voice I don’t like, it’s the tone. It’s clinical and condescending.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come across that way.”

Chester went on with his stories. He mentioned where he lived, that he likes British Columbia pot, that he used to be a drug dealer.

“Chester, don’t give away personal information.” To me, she said, “I don’t like you!”

“Would you like me to leave,” I said.

“Yes!”

“Goodbye, Chester. Goodbye Debbie”

Today I learned that even the agencies whose sole purpose is to help the poor, the destitute and the homeless can be seen as the enemy. I learned that I will always be an outsider to homeless people. I haven’t had their experiences. I don’t blend. I am humble. I only want to help, but those who don’t know me may not always see that. I must show more sensitivity. Tomorrow, I hope to have a more positive experience, but I have learned from today

~~~

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People

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