Conversations With the Homeless

When I’m with the homeless I don’t judge. I ask a minimum of questions, only enough to keep the conversation moving. I don’t interrogate or ask about their past. Mostly, I listen and try to understand. I am often asked why I am there. Although the reasons are deeper, I usually answer by saying, ‘The conversations here are more interesting than where I work.’ I visit these people, on the streets,  on the way to my place of employment, and at noon hours.

What I have learned over the past four years has changed my life. These people, who I consider to be my friends, are alcoholics, drug and other substance users. Some work as prostitutes, some have AIDS, most or all have served time in jail for various offenses. All of them I would trust with my life. They have welcomed me into their street family. I am honored to be considered a member.

I have heard sickening stories of abuse as children and babies born with drug dependencies. Most have mental and physical illnesses, suffer beatings, broken bones, stabbings, and have a fear of abusive partners and  the police. Authority in any form is seen negatively, as a means to control their lives. The homeless shelters are noisy, infested with bed bugs, the scene of fights and a place where personal items are stolen. Many homeless  people prefer to sleep inside common areas such as bank foyers, outside under bridges, or behind dumpsters.

I have recalled conversations from memory, and recorded them on these pages. I’ve attempted to be as accurate and  truthful as possible. I haven’t used any recording devices, so  recollections may be faulty. I leave out details that I think may incriminate; but I don’t interpret, explain or edit. What they say is what you read. I have changed names and locations for purposes of privacy.  My friends don’t choose to be addicts. It’s a disease and should be treated as such. They need help. They can’t do it on their own,  but they want it on their own terms.

Moss Park is the central character in this drama. It is located in what was once the industrial district of  Toronto, Canada. Wikipedia notes that: ” In the 1960s a large swath of these buildings were demolished to make way for the Moss Park public housing project, a group of three large towers at Queen and Parliament Street run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.” Tara Walton of the Toronto Star wrote, “Three of the city’s largest homeless shelters are found nearby, meaning on any given night, as many as 1,000 homeless gravitate toward the corner of Sherbourne St. and Queen St. E.”

Comments
  1. I think that your blog is simply astounding. I too have a heart for the homeless…

    This post reminds me of two passages of scripture:

    “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” -Hebrews 13:1-3

    and…

    “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

    “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

    “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” -Matthew 25:31-45

    You know, society may not value these incredible souls… but God is WILD about them. He cherishes them beyond measure as they are his sons and daughters.

    You followed my blog. I have to say that I am honored. I am following your blog now as well, not simply because you followed mine, but because I think your blog is fascinating and that you are a noble, compassionate, kind human being. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned with us.

    XOXO,
    Ava

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ava, These homeless people are indeed my brothers and sisters. They have welcomed me into their street family. They are also my best friends. There is much we share together. They have opened my eyes and changed my life. Love, Dennis

      Liked by 3 people

  2. […] Conversations With the Homeless. […]

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    • Thanks for reblogging my post. It is much appreciated. I agree with you, “When people talk about prostitutes, homeless, addicts, bums, etc., I have at least a dozen names and faces in each category. This isn’t an undesirable mass of sub-human creatures.” Each of these people has a story. Each is a daughter, sister, son, father, mother. Each does what is necessary to survive. ~ Dennis

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello, Dennis. Please remember – and you likely do – that not all homeless folks are addicts, prostitutes, etc.. All of us, however, have interesting stories to tell, and thank you for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] via Conversations With the Homeless. […]

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  5. knoxvillefm says:

    Hey Dennis Cardiff , we own http://www.booksforthehomeless.com Just developing it, Let’s talk sometime. Here’s my facebook https://www.facebook.com/john.roark.94

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    • Hi, your project Books for the Homeless looks very interesting. Many of my homeless friends love to read. I signed up for your newsletter. ~ Dennis

      Like

      • knoxvillefm says:

        Thanks Dennis , I am working a that will put marketing in the hands of some homeless folks and give them a chance to get off the streets using internet platforms I am combining .

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  6. Hi! I wasn’t sure how to signal this, but in California they started an initiative that pretty much everyone can do for homeless people: http://thestreetstore.org/
    I was thinking of involving some association I started volunteering with in Rome. Hope this helps!

    Like

  7. gillswriting says:

    What a great blog and wonderful stories, thank you introducing yourself via mu humble blog. My work here with street children was so very rewarding, their stories are, as you say, heartbreaking but my time with them is heart warming. Say Hi to “Joy” for me and Keep up the breakfasts.

    Like

  8. Paul Nichol says:

    We are all just a few unfortunate events from homelessness and it is a fool who believes it might never happen to them. I wish I had given you my time earlier and visited your blog a year ago, to listen to your inspirational humanitarian story. An ability to listen is an ability to heal.

    Like

  9. Homeless people reside in my heart and prayers. 24 years ago I could of been one. With 2 babies (6 and 2) my parents stepped in to help me and their grandchildren with a single wide 72ft trailer. Of course we all know, not everyone has been granted a blessing such as that. Back to school in Jan. at 56, my goal is to assist with addiction life styles and reach the homeless. Kudos to you Dennis.. you may be the only friend they have in a day..

    Like

    • I’m so pleased that you are studying to help with addiction life styles and to reach the homeless. Addiction is one of the main causes that keeps people on the streets. Once they are able to break their addictions, often they are able to live normal productive lives.

      Like

  10. swamiyesudas says:

    Blessings on the Wonderful work You are doing, Dennis. Love and Regards.

    Like

  11. Hello Dennis,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog and find it truly inspiring. I too have been having conversations with the homeless here in Sydney, Australia. I truly respect your approach for their stories and would love to share some of the stories we have done, here down under.

    Like

    • I would love to share stories. We are all the same we seek happiness ad and end to suffering. I have been approached by a television news team who is interested in these stories. I’ll keep you informed. ~ Dennis

      Like

  12. RedShoes says:

    I think one of the things that people become when they are homeless, is defined as a social group, ‘The Homeless’, rather than being ‘Helen Alford’, or whoever you actually are. They lose their identity and take on a negative identity and once this happens it’s hard to shift, even once they find a home. Anything which helps the person to be seen as who they are, and not just a homeless person, is going to help.

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  13. Welcome to AMS. Happy to have you on board. I hope I continue to inform or at least entertain. If I offend; well I hope I don’t but I will tell the truth as I see it.
    So; you have Homeless people in Canada too.
    So sad and it would seem; so unnecessary.
    Nations such as ours should be ne’ are capable of providing safe havens for all of their people. Even for your friend who prefers to sleep outdoors.
    I don’t find that odd at all. I prefer to sleep outside when I can. I prefer to pee outside whenever possible.
    The need for room to breathe is not new and the desire for the open spaces is not either. A hundred years ago your friend could have moved west and been called a pioneer.
    The desire not to be closed in seems just good common sense; especially when you live where safety is an illusion.
    Aside from all of that however is the fact that a man should be able to sleep where he wishes without fear of being harassed or attacked and that applies to the homeless as well as those who merely choose to sleep on fire escapes etc. in their homes.
    Those who desire a home should have one; no exceptions. This is what I see as the most important and severe of the problems with Capitalism left unchecked; uncontrolled.
    It must be controlled; just as one would control a dog who was trained to kill for war. You would never allow it to range among the populace biting and killing at will.
    You would allow it to run free only in the appropriate environment; a war zone; combat.
    This is how it must be with Capitalists. Many of the most successful are not just good businessmen.
    Many are actually Sociopaths whose bent is toward legal endeavors or not serial killer endeavors at least.
    They might have gone the other way.
    As it is they are still people without a conscience and because of that and the fact that even those who are not sociopathic, are definitely suffering from an inadequate sense of humanity and compassion; means that for the protection of the masses; there activities among civilian populations must be limited and regulated.
    Their profits must be limited and their taxes for the purpose of caring for those who cannot care for themselves must be increased so that everyone in society can live with dignity regardless of their illnesses or quirks.
    I don’t see any more severe of a behavioral quirk than choosing to hoard and hoard more and more while allowing everyone else to starve.

    But I do run on eh?
    Peace

    Like

  14. I want to thank you for this post. I noticed you’ve made quite a number of visits to my blog, and I thank you for your kindness. I’m sorry I have not taken the time to stop by.

    This post was especially resonating in that I live twenty minutes from a homeless shelter. In fact, my workspace is within one, although I won’t reveal too much. Much of what you have said mirror my observations. Having experienced a bed bug infestation when I had no place to go at one point, I don’t look at these complaints with doubt. Especially because these poor individuals always have the bites to prove it.

    I used to be saliently judgmental, and I still have issues to work on in that regard. But taking the time to speak with a homeless person you meet on the bus stop, or encounter on your walk to work, enlightens you. They all have stories, and they are all unique. They all hurt. And they deserve to be treated with respect, like anyone else.

    I look forward to reading more of what you’ve posted on this subject. It is indeed a topic of intrigue, and heartbreak too.

    Best,

    Kris

    Like

  15. […] Conversations With the Homeless […]

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  16. […] to draw attention to a blog as a whole, rather than a specific post. Namely Dennis Cardiff’s Gotta Find a Home, devoted to his encounters with homeless people. Dennis has written a book based on those […]

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  17. secretangel says:

    Dennis, May God pour out His blessings upon you for all that you do to help those less fortunate. Too many people think that this would never happen to them but they never know. Thanks for your heart that helps so many…

    Like

  18. You must be a fantastic listener. I worked at a local soup kitchen for a couple of years following my divorce. I don’t think the people there realised that they gave to me far more than I gave to them in self esteem and purpose – just humanity really. Pleased to be following your blog.x

    Like

  19. Ellen Antill says:

    Love what you’re doing, Dennis . . . thanks for gathering and sharing these important stories. Will check out your book, “Gotta Find a Home.” Yes.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for checking out my book. All proceeds go to those on the street, or tho the ottawa Innercity Ministries, Street Outreach Program. They are mostly volunteers who are very kind and humble people.

      Like

  20. Chibimoekko says:

    Thank you for stopping by mine and thank you especially for caring about the less privileged 🙂

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  21. I think what you are doing is great. Love reading your stories!

    Like

  22. Manon Tremblay says:

    Hi Dennis. I am just discovering your blog after you started following one of mine (Downtown Eastside Chronicles). I have been homeless in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in 2004-2005 and a little bit in Vancouver in 2006. I also stayed in shelters for a few weeks last fall in Montreal and in the “infamous” Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside when I decided to move back to BC last fall. But what a change there is in the way I look at things now! I really can relate to what you say when you write “The conversations here are more interesting than where I work”. I now live in Downtown Eastside and I simply love it as I love the homeless people which whom I connect so much more significantly than with the so called “normal” working people! I really liked your text “Conversations with the homeless” and I will take a look at your other articles soon. Very glad you are following my blog since it made me discover yours. Have a great day and take care…

    Like

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