Posts Tagged ‘assistance’


29 November 2012

As I arrived at ‘the heater’ I could see that the security guard was already there. He was smoking a cigarette but had already told the group to move along. Jacques, Chester, Donny with the motorized wheelchair, Loretta and I walked across the street to the traffic island. Jacques spread a folded blanket on the cold cement ledge to make it slightly more comfortable. Timmy arrived shortly after.

“Hi Timmy,” I said, “You’re not riding your bicycle today.”

“No, it’s too slushy.”

“How did it go with your workers. Did they visit the apartment yesterday?”

“I went to see them this morning. They had the date wrong. It’s today they’ll be viewing the apartment. Tomorrow, they’ll let me know when I can pick up the keys.

Two workers from the Salvation Army came by, “Is Shakes around?” they asked.

Jacques said, “He just left with his daughter Fran. We should be able to get a message to him sometime today.”

“Will he be on the bridge later?”

“Should be.”

“If you see him, would you let him know we have the keys for his apartment?”

“We’ll tell him.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you heard anything from Joy? Did she phone this morning?”

‘Yeah, she phoned. She sounded better, but you never know. Some people don’t say much on the telephone. Maybe she’s worse. Mariah was supposed to bring me keys, but she didn’t come down today. Joy’s check should have come in the mail today. I guess Mariah picked it up for her.

“I was going to visit Joy this afternoon, but I don’t have her check. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.”

I said, “Joy said to me that when her check arrived she’d try to go to Money Mart to have it cashed, but now they have her attached to so many tubes and wires that she can’t leave her bed.”

Jacques said, “There’s a bank in the hospital. She could cash her check there. There may be a small fee, but it’s a government check, there shouldn’t be any trouble cashing it.”

Loretta was feeling emotional. “I get so fed up. My old man is nice to me sometimes — I really love him — but then he’ll call me names, tell me to go back to where I came from.”

I asked, “Where did you come from?”


Kugluktuk (Inuinnaqtun: Qurluktuk, “the place of moving water”; Inuktitut:   formerly Coppermine until 1 January 1996) is a hamlet located at the mouth of the Coppermine River in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, Canada, on Coronation Gulf, southwest of Victoria Island. It is the westernmost community in Nunavut, almost on the border with the Northwest Territories.

“I’m a bit wasted now. Do I look alright? Will I be okay to get on the bus?”

I said, “You look fine.”

“Did Joy tell you that she came to visit me at my place in Orléans? I have a past like hers. That’s why we get along so well.”

“Joy told me that she drinks to forget her past, to help her with the pain and to help her sleep.”

“I’m the same way. sometimes I’ll hear somebody say something and it brings it all rushing back.”

“Yes, she told me.”

“I moved from there to a place next door. I’ve applied to go to a mission, especially for Inuit women. They told me it was okay to move, but now they say that because I’m already in a ‘safe house’ I can’t go to the mission. I was so mad. It was on October 30th. I got drunk, got arrested and spent Hallowe’en in jail.”

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22 November 2012

As soon as I arrived at Joy’s spot she said, “Sit on my crate. I have to go to the bathroom and I’m not allowed in Severino’s (Pizza). They say that I’m bad for business. Go figure.”

When she came back I asked, “Did I miss anything yesterday, after I left?”

“No, nothing much happened. Weasel showed up.”

“Yeah, I saw him on the sidewalk as I was leaving. Any word about your health card?”

“I think it’s all going to happen next week when they bring my furniture.”

I said, “I can’t believe that it’s taking so long.”

“I know, I’m not too happy with one of my workers. The young one with all the stuff about love and crap. She’s the one that was crying yesterday. I told her, ‘I need someone who can keep it together. The other worker has been to sessions at E. Fry with me where I’ve really spilled my guts. I’ve told things that I’ve never told anybody before. If you start crying, I’ll start crying.’ She said, ‘I just want you to know that you’re loved and that we care for you.’ Anyway, I don’t need that shit. The sooner I’m done with them the better.”

I said, “Outcast said something strange to me yesterday. It was when André was talking to the worker in the van. Pointing to André he said, ‘There’s something fishy going on. If I’d been charged like André, I’d be behind bars. Instead, he’s free as can be, doesn’t even need to report to a probation officer.”

“I don’t trust anyone anymore. Of the original crew, there’s only Jacques — Digger’s around but he’s in a home — there are Snake and Irene, but she’s sort of new. Shakes, I’ve known since I was about twelve years old. He’s seen me grow up.

“André has a cousin, five times removed, that’s on the police force. Maybe, she’s doing something for him. I don’t know.

“He was pissed yesterday that I left with Outcast. I got a hammer and nails from Chester and wanted some help hanging a quilt on my wall. André’s shorter than I am, so he’d be no use.”

At noon the weather was unseasonably warm at fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit. At the Traffic Island were Donny with his motorized wheelchair and a half dozen other friends.

Hippo was reading a grocery flyer. “What are you looking to buy, Hippo?”

“Cat food.”

“I didn’t know you had a cat.”

“I didn’t until last night. It was mewing at my door at 1:30 am. I opened the door and in he came. He’s awfully scrawny.

He said to Jacques, “Here are the sausages I like. $3.00 for a three pack.”

“That’s pretty good.”

I said to Jacques, “You showed me your winter boots from Stella. Is there anything else you need for winter?”

‘No, I think I have everything. Instead of longjohns, I like to wear jogging pants. They hold more warm air next to your skin.”

I said, “I have the kind of tights they use for skiing.”

“Yeah, for sports they need something that will stretch when they move. Us here, we don’t move so much. Just raise our arm to drink a beer, that’s all.”

I noticed that Shakes was wearing a white watch. I asked, “Is that watch new, Shakes?”

“Yeah, I just got it yesterday. I bought it for two or three dollars from Danny. I stayed at his place last night. I got a new bag, ’cause my old one was stolen. Look what else I got!” He pulled a giant plastic beer bottle, meant for storing change. He put it to his mouth as if he was drinking. Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

I said, “The cops are sure going to be surprised the next time they stop by.”

“Yeah, they sure will.”

Mariah’s cell phone rang. She checked to see who was calling then said, “I don’t want to talk to him. I’d rather be in the sun and fresh air, not stuck inside somewhere.”

I asked Jake, “How are you feeling today?”

“Better than yesterday. I was panning today, made six dollars. I go to my HIV doctor tomorrow and my other doctor next week. I have to find out what’s going on in my head.”

“Are you having headaches?”

“No, seizures. I had one yesterday. I think it’s due to all the medication I’m taking. I have to make sure I eat when I take the antibiotics, otherwise, I feel really sick.”

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21 November 2012

Joy was in her usual spot this morning, talking to Delmar the garbage man.

“Hi Delmar,” I said.

“Hello, Dennis.”

Joy said to him, “So handsome, when are you coming over to visit me in my new place, or would your wife object.”

“I think she’d object.”

I had a newspaper to sit on, but instead, I knelt beside Joy, “How are you making out today?”

“So, so, I came down with seven dollars, I’ve had drops of three dollars plus some jingle for my cap.” I was there for about ten minutes and half a dozen people dropped change into her cap. “You’re lucky for me, Sunshine, I was doing lousy before you came along.”

“Do you have heat?” I asked.

“No, the landlord came down with a plastic card that looked like a fridge magnet. It was a thermometer. He waved it around, looked at it and said, ‘It’s a balmy eighty-six degrees in here.” I took the card and put it on the heater it registered eighty-two. I kept the card overnight and put it in the hall to the outside. There is no heat in there at all, it’s the same as the outside temperature. The thermometer read seventy-seven degrees. Last night it went down to freezing. So, I’m done with that. I’ll be getting a space heater from my worker and until then I’ll leave the oven on.”

“How about your neighbor, is he still noisy?”

“I talked to him last night. He was stomping around so I got a shovel and banged on my ceiling. He came down a few steps and kicked on my door. He said, ‘What’s the idea with all that banging?.’ I said, ‘That’s what I hear every time you walk across the floor. So, you can either walk more quietly or you’ll get the same in return, your choice.’ I told the landlady about it. He said, ‘Maybe we should let the police decide.’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and rhymed off the number for him. ‘When you’re on the line ask for McQuaid, Curzon, Santorini, Warrington, Harris. Just tell them that you were talking to Joy, they’ll know who you mean.’ He asked, ‘So, you’ve been in trouble with the police?’ I said, ‘No, man, these are family. They’re married to my sisters.’ That shut him up.

“Here comes trouble.”

Andre was scowling as he approached. “I’m so pissed off. Alphonse and Magdalene sat down beside me. Alphonse asked me for a smoke, then he asked if I had anything to eat. I gave him some pizza, He said, ‘I don’t like it.’ Then he said, ‘You’re sitting in my spot, would you mind moving on.’ Can you believe that? He’s lucky I didn’t kick him in the head.”

Since there were already two people talking to Joy I decided to head to work. “I’ll see you at noon, Joy, André.”

“We’ll see you, Dennis.”

At noon I stopped to talk to Wolf and to scratch Shaggy. Wolf said, “Hello, Dennis. See the leather coat some lady gave me. This will have to be my Sunday coat, not my going to the store coat. I certainly won’t wear it when I’m panning.”

Outcast didn’t have his dentures in, so he was a bit hard to understand. “Isn’t this a beautiful day we’re having? Forty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the sun is shining. Tomorrow is supposed to be the same, then we get snow on Saturday. I guess we should appreciate days like this when we have them. Today we’re blessed. I’m going to go for a whiz, so I’ll see you later.”

At the traffic island, the Salvation Army Outreach van was parked. Joy was standing on the passenger side leaning in the window talking to her worker. André was standing on the driver’s side talking to his worker. They were also handing out socks and purple print underwear.

Seated, hunched over was Shakes. Outcast brought him a pair of underwear. Shakes said, “These are large, I need a medium. I don’t want to have to be hitching them up as I walk down the street.”

Jacques said, “They gave me these socks. I think they’re nylon. They won’t be warm for the winter. See the nice boots that Stella brought for me this morning — real winter boots. I’ll put some oil on the leather so they’re waterproof and I’ll be all set.

“See this paper I got.” It was a letter from Jacques’ former landlord claiming back rent of fifteen dollars a day for eight days and a storage fee for his belongings of ten dollars a day.

I said, “You’re in your new place now, aren’t you?”

“Yes, he handed this to me when I was picking up the last of my stuff. Some people stay fourteen days and he doesn’t charge them. I’m not going to pay this.

“Oh, Oh, here comes Willy. He’s staggering. When he’s drunk he likes to fight. You know, he served twenty years for murder.”

When Willy came across the street Joy started singing:

Oh, where have you been,
Willy Boy, Willy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Willy?

Shakes asked, “Have you ever been to sea, Willy?” He was referring to an old Captain Highliner commercial. He said to Willy, “Over at the van they’re giving out socks and underwear if you want some.”

“No,” said Willy, “I don’t want anything to do with those bastards.”

Outcast came over, “Dennis, I got an invoice from the city for unpaid liquor violations from December 2010 to now. The total amount is $5,600.00. They’re going to be waiting a long time for that.”

Joy came back from talking to her worker. Outcast said, “Tell Dennis about the problem you’re having with your neighbor, and who you saw today.”

“I told my landlady about the problem I was having with my neighbor. I said to her, ‘When he walks across the floor my cabinet doors shake.’ She doesn’t speak very good English and thought that my cabinets had fallen off the wall. When I came up here, snow fences were being put up across the street. Guess who was installing them … My neighbor. I went over to talk to him. He asked me, ‘Why did you rat me out to the landlady?’ I asked him, ‘Why do you think, you stupid fuck?’ Then I gave him the finger, smiled and said, ‘Your turn will come.’ He doesn’t know who he’s messing with.

The landlady phoned my worker, the one I just spoke to. They both had been in a panic. My worker drove down here to meet me. She was crying. So, we have that straightened out. I asked her, “So, I’m not being kicked out am I?’ That was my big concern. ‘No,’ she said, ‘You’re not being kicked out.’ I’m going to lay low for a while. I’ve asked the landlady for more things in a week than I’ve asked other landlords in years. I don’t want her to think that I’m a nuisance. I’ll just see how it goes.”

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20 November 2012

At noon on the traffic Island were five of my friends. Joy was layered. She pulled up the cuff of her pants to show the pajama bottoms she was wearing for extra warmth. She also wore a tee-shirt, heavy sweater, hoodie, then her army parka.

She said, “I look like the Michelin Man, but that’s okay. I like guys to think I’m fat, then they leave me alone. We don’t have any chubby chasers around here. The only one I have trouble with is that one (pointing to Andre), but he’s learning. Then there’s Weasel. Yesterday, I saw him talking to Wolf across the street. I heard him call me a goof. Wolf said to him, ‘Joy heard you say that.’ I walked over and said to Weasel, ‘Whenever I have anything to say to you, I’ve got the guts to say it to your face, you goof.’ I was hoping to see him today, but he didn’t show.”

I asked her, “Have they turned on your heat yet?”

“No, I talked to the landlady last night. She’s nice, but she doesn’t speak very much English. She thought I was complaining that her TV was too loud. I said, ‘No, it’s your husband walking so heavily on the floor.’ She said, ‘I told him about that.’ Then I heard her yelling at him. I keep the oven on at a hundred and fifty degrees with the door open. It shuts off by itself. The top of the room gets warm, but it’s still cold near the floor. My worker said that she’s going to bring me a space heater.”

From across the street came Little Jake, wearing a surgical mask. Mo asked, “So, masked man, what did the doctor tell you?”

“It’s either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB. They’ve doubled my antibiotics. I’m wearing this mask so I don’t infect any of you guys.”

Joy said, “What did I tell you? I said, ‘It’s either a lung infection, pneumonia or TB.’ I was right.”

I asked Jake, “How are you feeling? Do you have pain in your lungs?”

“Yeah, it’s worse in the morning. You should see what I cough up. It’s disgusting.”

Timmy said, “I was talking to my worker this morning, she said, ‘We might have a place for you soon.’ I asked, ‘Should I call you back in a couple of days?’ She said, ‘Call me first thing tomorrow morning.’ While I was in her office I saw an email. It had Joy’s name on it. There was a list of furniture items: a table with two chairs, armchair…’

Joy said, “I hope they had a futon on that list.”

“Yeah, a futon was on the list.” I heard her say, ‘Now we have Joy taken care of.'”

Joy said, “I don’t know where I’m going to put a table. I guess I’ll use it to put my toaster on. I also need a TV so I can see Coronation Street. I’ve already missed two episodes. That Tracy sure needs a bullet between the eyes. Chester was saying something about a gay guy and a girl getting together, but I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Does anybody know where I can get a TV? Even one of those small black and white portables would be better than nothing.”

André said, “They’ll take you to their warehouse. They have hundreds of TVs there.”

“All they gave me was a coupon for a hundred dollars and it has to be used at either their Vanier or Somerset store. I don’t think I’m going to find anything I want.”

Joy said, “Yesterday, I saw Evan holding hands with Sharon. I asked him, ‘When are the wedding bells going to be ringing?’ He didn’t say anything.”

Timmy said, “I really don’t like that Sharon. I had a party one time. I bought six cases of twenty-fours. I asked her if I could have a sip from her bottle. She didn’t exactly say no, but she put the bottle in her bra like she does. After that, I didn’t want a sip.

“One time, early in the morning, I was walking under the bridge. On the hill was a woman with her pants pulled down to her ankles and her shirt up overhead. I went closer and saw that it was Sharon. I kicked her in the foot. She woke up. I said, ‘Get yourself dressed.’ She said, ‘I promised myself that I wasn’t going to do this anymore.’ Later, I saw Gerald. I told him what I’d seen. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s the way I left her last night.’

“She’s so young. She should be in school or something, not getting drunk every day like we do. Does she think that when she’s forty-five she’s going to be able to get any kind of job? I don’t think so.”

Joy said, “Yeah, I see so many of these kids. Some of them could be at home, Like Chili, she’s only twenty-four and look at the shape she’s in. She phoned me from the hospital and asked if I would come to visit her. I yelled at her, ‘No, I’m not coming over, because if I did I’d probably punch you in the mouth. You were doing so well when you visited your family in P.E.I. Now, your doctor has you on medication and your also smashing crack into your arm. You’re going to kill yourself.’ ”

Timmy said, “The last time I saw her she was in a wheelchair. I think she has to have a hip replaced, and she’s having trouble with her knees.

“Someone that really likes her is Rocky. I was at his place a couple of weeks ago. He has a really nice place.”

Joy said, “Rocky really gives me the creeps. A couple of years ago me, Rocky, Jacques and Shakes were drinking in the park. Jacques and Shakes passed out so it was just Rocky and me. He said to me, ‘I’m horny.’ I said, ‘Dude, that’s a personal issue. It’s got nothing to do with me.’ He said, ‘No, I mean I want to have sex with you, right here, right now.’ Big Jake was down at the market with Rodent, so I said to Rocky, ‘I’ll tell you what. You go down to the market and ask Jake’s permission to have sex with me. If It’s okay with him, it’s okay with me.’ Rocky had this look in his eyes like, I’m going to take what I want now. I just got up and walked away. I’ve never trusted him since. He’s just too creepy.”

Timmy said, “That surprises me. Rocky’s had girlfriends. He seemed to treat them right. I guess you just never know.”

Jacques said, “Has anybody seen the article in the Sun about the Salvation Army? I have a copy here:

Salvation Army says it’s victim of massive fraud

By Doug Hempstead ,Ottawa Sun
First posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 01:23 PM EST | Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 11:13 PM EST

Ottawa’s Salvation Army has fired its executive director following an internal audit.

Toronto-based Major John Murray of the organization’s public relations and development division, said $240,000 has gone missing from the George St. Booth Centre’s administrative resources account.

“We anticipate that is going to be all,” said Murray, who called it a “rather sophisticated fraud.”

The missing funds isn’t money that was donated, but that which came from government funds and partners, Murray said. He said the amount gone missing wasn’t immediately noticeable because the Salvation Army is a multi-million dollar organization in Ottawa. For the same reason, the money won’t impact the operation of any of the Salvation Army’s programs.

It’s not known how long money has been disappearing, but Murray said the executive director had held the position for eight years, so that is the period being examined.

He said “financial irregularities” were first noticed at the Booth Centre about two weeks ago. The executive director was placed on a paid leave of absence while a 12-day internal audit was done by Salvation Army staff, brought in from Toronto.

Following the internal probe, the executive director was “terminated” and the information was given to Ottawa police fraud investigators.

Police say they can’t comment on, confirm or deny an ongoing investigation.

In the meantime, the Salvation Army has hired auditing firm KPMG to do a “parallel” investigation of its own. Murray said the costs of this should be covered by insurance.

The Salvation Army was in damage-control mode Monday, just as its most important fundraising season approaches. The Christmas Kettle campaign launched Nov. 15 and the organization was keen to demonstrate that is was forthcoming and transparent.

“It’s a difficult time for the workers at the Booth Centre,” said Murray. “It’s disheartening, disappointing.”

He said the Salvation Army is a compassionate organization, even towards the person they’ve accused.

“Our heart goes out to him and his family,“ he said.

Connie Wolloschuk, a former executive director at the Booth Centre, will serve in the position until a replacement can be found. Murray expects that will happen around June next year.

“She will help us through this period,” he said.

The position of executive director had been held by Perry Rowe, who could not be reached for comment.

Rowe is a member of the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness steering committee and was a former chair of that committee.

Executive Director Lynne Browne said the committee will discuss Rowe’s future with the organization at its next meeting, Dec. 7.

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19 November 2012

This morning I noticed that Joy was wearing the army parka that Stella had given her last week. She also had two garbage bags with her, filled to overflowing.

“Someone dropped these blankets off for me, but how am I going to carry them? My backpack is already full with my blanket and other stuff.”

I said, “Perhaps, André will come by.”

“He’s already been here, I told him to move along. He said, ‘People are used to seeing me here. I’m not going to scare off any of your traffic.’ I said, ‘Yes you are, Mondays are slow enough without you hanging around.’ Anyway, he has his court appearance today.”

“How about Jacques?” I asked.

“I’m going to give some of these to him anyway, but I don’t know if he’ll be coming by.”

“I can take a bag to work and bring it to you at lunch if that will help.”

“That would be great. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so I’m not in a very good mood. The guy in the apartment above me was stomping around, up the stairs, down the stairs. I think he gets up to eat about once an hour. I can hear him get up from the couch, walk to the fridge. There will be silence for about a minute, then he walks back to the couch.”

I asked, “Have you tried earplugs?”

“No, but I don’t think I should have to. I left a note on his car windshield. I’ll see what happens after he reads that.”

I asked, “How was your weekend?”

“It was quiet, for the most part.”

I knew that Joy wasn’t much in the mood for company, so I said, “I’ll let you get back to work and I’ll bring this bag to Jacques at noon.”

“Thanks, I’ll see you at noon.”

At noon, Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy were at the place where the benches used to be. I gave the bag to Jacques. He thanked me then headed across the street.

Wolf said, “Can you help me up. I was lying around all weekend reading my two books. I took Shaggy for her walks, but I guess I need more activity, or calisthenics. When I woke up this morning, my back was so stiff I could hardly get out of bed.

“Right now, I have to go for a pee, so I’ll see you a bit later.”

I walked across the street to where a half dozen of my friends congregated. Shakes was by ‘the heater’ dozing.

“How has your day been, Joy?”

“I made enough for a bottle, that’s about all.”

Joy said to Mariah, “I was kept awake last night by the guy upstairs stomping around.”

“Yeah, I heard him too. He’s been told about it. I don’t know how somebody can eat as much as he does. I know I couldn’t.”

Joy said, “I’d think he’d be fatter than he is. It must go right through him.”

“I’ve caught him with his clothes off, he has a round belly, but your right, he must have a fast metabolism. That’s probably why he can’t seem to stay still. I wouldn’t want to have to pay their bill for toilet paper.”

Joy said, “I wouldn’t want to pay their grocery bill.”

André came across the street, beaming. “I went to court this morning on the charges of stealing meat from Loblaws. My worker gave me a really good character reference, saying that prison time would undo all the progress I’ve made in the past six months. The judge asked me, ‘Why did you steal the meat, Andre?’ I said, ‘Well, your honor, I had no money and I was hungry. I know that I could have gone to the Mission, but I was trying to be self-sufficient.

‘I’m an alcoholic. If I’m prohibited from drinking I’ll be back in court next month. I’ve tried, but I can’t stop drinking.’

“The judge said, ‘One year’s probation with no reporting, and stay away from Loblaws.’

“I was just standing there with my head down, shaking. I couldn’t believe my good luck.”

Rhino said, “I got one-year probation with reporting. At first, I had to see my probation officer once every two weeks, then they reduced it to once a month. I think I’ve still got about six months left.”

I asked Rhino, “How is your apartment. Have they fixed the leak?”

“No, they sent a Housing Support Worker. He said, ‘It’s dripping alright, but I can’t do anything about it. We’ll have to send a plumber.’ That’s what I told them in the first place.”

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26 November 2013

Joy was surrounded by packages.  I asked, “Have you been Christmas shopping?”

” A lady brought me some winter boots.  She said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, they’re used.’  I said, “Thanks, I don’t care if they’re used. I only care if they keep my feet warm.’ I looked at them. “They’re in good shape and they have felt liners. These will keep you really warm.”

Joy was looking at a hole in her woolen glove. “That reminds me,” I said, ” I found a pair of winter gloves on the bus. They’re too small for me. Try them on.”

“They fit great, thanks! Jacques brought this little fake Christmas tree. I asked him if he was coming down tomorrow. He said, ‘Tomorrow, haven’t you heard? There is going to be a big snowstorm.  Me, I’m going home to hide until it’s over.’ So, I won’t be leaving home either, but I’ll be here most mornings. I need money for Christmas.”

I asked, “Were you able to contact your worker? Did he bring over some groceries?”

“No, he said he’d been busy. I said to him, ‘You’re not the only one in the office, couldn’t you have sent somebody over with a bag of groceries?’ He said he’d try to get over today. I must have lost twenty pounds in the past three weeks.

“I hope I get my check before the end of the month because my worker said he’d help me get a futon. They have the metal ones on sale at Crappy Tire for $129.00. If I don’t get my check in time I miss out.

I said, “I guess this is the day that Big Jake gets out. How do you feel about that?”

“I don’t know what’s happening. He hasn’t answered my letters. Maybe he’s been revoked. In that case, he’ll be getting out in January. That will be the full term of his sentence. I hope he doesn’t get out today. I guess it’s mean of me to say that, but I’ve just got too much to deal with now.

“For all I know he’ll be waiting at my place when I get home.”

“That’ll be a parole violation, won’t it?”


“And he’ll get sent back to prison, just like last time,  right?”

“That’s right. It’s his problem. I don’t care what happens.

“I need to get some Orajel. I’ve got an ear infection. The pain goes right down to my jaw. I’m trying to keep my mouth closed because the cold air makes the pain worse.”

“Can you go to your doctor? It sounds like you need antibiotics.”

“I guess I could go to my old doctor without my Health Card.  I don’t really like him, because he’s a turban-head.”

I said, “He’ll only be looking in your ear.  Are you expecting him to say, ‘Okay, take off all your clothes and I’ll have a look at your ear.’

“No,  I don’t expect him to say anything like that.”

“A lot of doctors have been charged with sexual misconduct. One of my former doctors lost his license to practice because of that.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard.

“My neighbors upstairs have been going at it again. First, she came home and was banging around. That lasted until about eleven. My head was just splitting by then. He must have started a new shift because he started banging around at about four this morning. I like it when Hawk comes over with Dillinger. When he hears a noise he starts barking. They’ve seen Dillinger and know enough not to get him riled.”

“How is Mariah?”

“Same old, same old. She has her problems. I was up to see her yesterday. She’s okay.”

I said Chuck Senior was telling me stories about the old Alexandra Hotel.  He used to be a busboy there. He said there are all kinds of tunnels running under Bank Street. There was one from the kitchen of the Alexandra to the McLaren Apartments, down the block.”

“I remember the McLaren Apartments, on Bank and McLaren. That’s where Jacques use to live. They tore it down. It’s a high-rise with the housing department in it.”

“Chuck was saying that hookers would go from the Alexandra to meet their clients at the Mclaren. Everything was below ground, complete privacy. They’d also have their beer delivered through the tunnel.”

“That sounds neat. I think that was before my time. I’ve only been here since ninety-three.”

I checked my watch. It was ten minutes to nine. I said, “I’ll have to get going. Do you think anyone will be at the park at noon?’

Joy said, “I think it’s too cold. I’m going straight home to bed.”

As I walked to work, I stopped to talk to Chuck, “Hi, I don’t have time to talk, but I wanted to say Merry Christmas,  if I don’t see you before them.”

“Thanks, but I should be here a few times before that, depending on the weather. I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“Take care, Chuck.”





16 November 2012

This morning Metro handed me a newspaper and said, “Joy’s up there.”

“Thanks, Metro, have a good day.”

There was a large yellow garbage truck parked in front of Joy, who was talking with the driver. I walked up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis. I always say hello to you, but I don’t know your name.”

“It’s Delmar, I don’t give my name out to too many people. It’s a habit from my past.”

Joy said, “That’s a nice name. I’m the same. When someone asks my name I ask, ‘What do you think it is?’

I said, “Or you say, ‘What name did I give last time?’ I generally don’t carry a wallet or identification. I just don’t trust people.”

Delmar said, “It’s time to get back to work.” I held out my hand to shake his. He said, “You probably don’t want to shake this hand, because of where it’s been.”

Joy and I sat down. I asked, “So, how was your night? Are you getting used to the place?”

“Now, that my workers have me in an apartment, it seems they want to forget about me. Hippo got a brand new bed from Sears when he moved in, so did Little Jake. I want a new futon, so I can fold it up during the day. My worker offered me a hundred-dollar gift certificate for their store. She said, ‘Maybe you can get a futon there.’ I don’t want someones used bed that they’ve cleaned up a bit. I’ve had enough trouble with bugs.

“I’ve never liked the Salvation Army. They’ve never helped me before, so I never donated money to them, or the Mission either.

“They fixed my bathroom sink. They checked the heating and said that the pressure was low. He adjusted it, but I’ve still got no heat. I’ll call my worker again. I turn on the oven to low. That keeps the apartment warm, but at night, because of menopause, I get night sweats and have to open the door from my apartment to the hallway, to get some cool air in. That works fine.”

I asked, “Aren’t you worried about security, leaving your apartment door open?”

“No, there’s another door to the outside. Only me and my landlord have a key to that door.

“I haven’t been sleeping too well. I’ve been sick, throwing up every morning. I asked André to get me a bottle of sherry this morning to settle my stomach. I’m feeling a bit better now. I’m pissed off with him though. I’ve never led him on. I’ve told him I’m not interested in him and never will be; not if he were the last man on earth, but he keeps picking, picking. This morning he bent down to kiss me. I said, ‘Go away, man.’ He said, ‘It was worth a try, anyway.’ I said, ‘I talked to Debbie and she told me how you treated her.’ ‘Yeah, well I got a cut on my cheek.’ I said, ‘You deserved it.’ Here’s a woman who has opened her door to this guy, she feeds him. After he gets out of the shower, he comes out stark naked, with a hard-on, and says to her, ‘Take your clothes off and lie down on the bed.’ She said, ‘No fuckin’ way, man! Now, get out of here!’ He punched her in the chest, then backhanded her. If it was me I would have knocked him out, dropped him in the hall and threw his clothes on top of him.”

I said, “Apparently, he doesn’t believe in romance or foreplay.”

Joy said, “I asked her, ‘Did he at least have the decency to put on a condom?’ ‘No,’ she said. That was the day of the Dr. McGillicuddy’s fiasco.”

“What does that mean?”

“Andre and the boys were drinking Dr. McGillicuddy’s Peach Schnaps. That stuff’ll kill you. Chester was drunk too. He asked me why I was leaving, I said, ‘It’s cold. I want to go home and lie down. My legs are sore.’ He said, ‘Well, fuck you then. Maybe, I won’t let you have the rest of your stuff back.’ He staggered halfway across the bridge and did a face plant. Somebody phoned the police and he was taken by the paramedics to Hope Recovery.” If he did hold onto my stuff I’d feed his dentures to him piece by piece.

“I was always told to respect my elders. It doesn’t seem like Chester and I are that far apart in age now, but he’s nearly twenty years older than me. I take care of these guys, and they treat me like shit.

“I remember when my son called my mom a crusty old bitch. I sat him down at the table and said, ‘Don’t you ever talk to your grandmother like that again.’ He said, ‘She pissed me off.’ I said, ‘Don’t talk like that, and if she pissed you off it must have been something you did to cause it.’ He said, ‘So, you can talk that way and I can’t.’ ‘That’s right because I’m your mother.’ He said, ‘You lay a hand on me and I’ll call 911.’ I leaned towards him and gave him a head butt — knocked him out cold. My mother came in and said, ‘What did you do?’ I said, ‘I just knocked him out. He’s not dead or anything.’ When he came to he asked, ‘What did you do to me. That’s not right.’ I said, ‘I didn’t lay a hand on you. Now, I want you to apologize to your grandmother.’ He went over to her and said, ‘I’m sorry grandma, I won’t talk to you like that again.’ He never did either.”

At noon on the traffic island, I met eleven of my friends. Darren said, “I see you nearly every noon hour. What brings you up here?”

I said, “The conversations here are more interesting than what I hear at work.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true, eh? We all have a story. I went to my worker to try to get my rent money, but she wouldn’t give it to me. She’s going to hold onto it until the first of December, then give it directly to my landlord. I didn’t fight it. She said to me, ‘If I give you this money you’re going to spend it on booze. Am I right?’ I wasn’t going to lie to her, I’m an alcoholic, the first thing alcoholics think about is booze. For me, it’s beer and the occasional joint.”

“I can understand that,” I said.

Joy saw Alphonse and Magdalene approach. She said, “Alphonse, the Salvation Army Outreach workers were looking for you this morning. You should call them.” Alphonse borrowed Jacques’s phone and arranged that the workers would meet him and Magdalene at the traffic island.

André passed Joy a joint, he said, “Don’t give it to Little Jake, because he’s been told he has a spot on his lung. It could be TB. He was honest about it, you’ve got to give him credit for that.”

Outcast said, “TB is the most contagious disease there is. You don’t want to share a joint with a person who is even suspected of having TB. It’s rough for Jake, but that’s the way it is.”

I sat next to Jake on the sidewalk. “How is it going in your new apartment? Do you have any more furniture?”

“I’ve got a bed and an air conditioner, still in the box. That’s all. Chris has a TV for me. I just have to find a way to get it to my place and get the cable hooked up.”

“It must be nice to have a place you can come home to, where you can lock the door, where you’re warm. It was only a few months ago that you were sleeping behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks.”

“Yeah, it’s good. I just wish I was feeling better. I’ve had a chest x-ray and a spot showed up on my lung. I don’t know what that’s all about. I’m throwing up every morning. I’ve got no appetite.” Jake also has HIV.

I asked, “Have you been eating?”

“No, just the thought of food makes me sick. I’m on two thousand milligrams of some kind of penicillin. When the pharmacist saw the prescription he said, ‘There must be a mistake here.’ I said, ‘That’s what the doctor gave me.’ He said, “That’s a very high dose.”

“Hippo,” I said, “How is your new apartment?

“I got a leak coming from the water main. It’s dripping down my wall. They’re going to have to replace the drywall. Apart from that everything’s fine. Tomorrow they’re having the Santa Claus Day parade.”

“Are you going to come down and see it?”

“No, I’ll just watch it on TV. Jacques, do you know when the Santa Claus Day parade starts?”

“I think it’s ten o’clock, I’ll have to check.”

It was time for me to leave. I shook hands all around and Shakes asked me, “Dennis, are you walking towards Laurier Street?”


“Could you help me walk. I’ve been sitting too long and my knees are wobbly.”

“Okay, Shakes, no problem.” As we were walking I asked him, “Do you have problems with arthritis in your knees?”

“Yes, they get stiff.” As we passed the Lord Elgin Hotel Shakes said, “I’m going to stop in here. I’ve got to go for a whiz.”

“I’ll see you next week, Shakes.”

“Thanks, Dennis. I’ll see you.”

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14 November 2012

As I approached, Shaggy started barking. Wolf said, “She’s okay, she just wants you to scratch her. She leaned against my leg and I scratched behind her ears and along her side.

It took me a few minutes to recognize Serge. He had new pants, shoes and a winter jacket. His hair and beard was just starting to grow out since they shaved him. He still had a bump on his forehead and the left side of his face has some yellow bruising. I said to him, “It’s good to see you Serge. Do you remember me visiting you in the hospital?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“William said he was going to visit you. Did you see him?”

“No, I haven’t seen him since before I went to the hospital. I have to go there every day. They put a needle in my arm.”

I walked across the street to the traffic island. The usual congregation was there. Eventually, Serge walked slowly across the street to join the group.

It took a while for Jacques and the others to recognize him.

Jacques said, “I saw that guy over there and I wondered to myself, who is that guy, he looks familiar. I wonder what he’s doing there.” Jacques and Chester both spoke to Serge in French.

I said to Joy, “It must be nice having your own place to go home to.”

“Yeah, except for the fact that I’ve got no heat. The bathroom faucet sprays all over me when I try to brush my teeth, so I use the kitchen sink. My air mattress leaks. They brought over some furniture: a wooden chair that looks like it’s been used for painting, a three shelf bookcase with a hole kicked through the middle shelf and a lamp. The only thing I like is the lamp. I phoned my worker. I told her that my fibromyalgia is really bothering me, so I need a decent place to sleep and a comfortable chair.”

Jacques said, “What you need is one of those folding garden chairs, the lazy boy recliners with a thick mattress on it.”

“Do you have any extra?” asked Joy.

“No, I only have the one. I had some other garden chairs, but they got all wobbly from people sitting in them crooked. I threw them out. What I’m looking for is bunk beds — the metal kind. I’ll sleep on the bottom and on the top I’ll have plastic milk boxes. I won’t need a dresser, I’ll just put all my clothes and stuff in the boxes. It’ll make it easier for moving.”

André asked Joy, “So, when are you going to invite me over to your new place?”

“Never, can’t you get the hint, André. I don’t like you. We aren’t friends. The only thing I’d like to do is take a gun to your head.”

“Joy, I can just see you in army fatigues, holding a gun. You’d look so hot.”

“How about I take a machete to you?”

“That image is even sexier.”

“André, I’d rather do myself than have you anywhere near me. You’re drunk. You think you’re being entertaining, but you’re not. You’re just babbling and nobody’s listening”

André said, “I guess I got told.”

I said to Joy, “Your place must be quiet.”

“Yeah, the only thing I hear is The Bear.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Mimi brought me down a radio. I’ve been listening to The Bear FM. They’ve got some good music.”

I said, “You should try Dawg FM.”

“Yeah, I have. They play some cool blues.”

Alphonse said to me, “At three o’clock today we go to sign the papers for direct deposit. Housing Outreach will pay a third of our rent, directly to the landlord. We’ve already signed the application for the apartment, so we’re one step closer. We’ll also be getting O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program) and will be getting bus passes.

“Thank you, my friend, for helping us. We won’t forget it.”

Shakes said, “I’ll be getting a place on December first. It’ll probably be in the west end on Morisset Avenue. Around that time, I’ll have to take a few days off from coming down here. I’ll be refurnishing.”

I said, “You’ll be near Little Jake and me. Welcome neighbor!”

“I’ll need to get a bus pass.”

“Yeah,” I said “I take the 176 to come downtown in the morning, and the 14 to come home at night. I think you’ll like the neighborhood.”

Sarah walked across the street. Joy said to Danny, “She’s got the hots for you.”

“Yeah, I know, but she spells trouble with a capital T, make that three T’s. I’ve been out with Inuit women before and when they drink they want to fight.”

Joy said, “I don’t know what it is with you white guys and these mukmuks. The last time I saw that one she was an inch away from my face and she spit when she talked. I put my hand on her head and pushed her away. She went to take a swing at me, but Inuk clocked her. She said, “You don’t touch my Joy.”

Little Jake came from across the street. He had been talking to Wolf.

I shook hands with Shakes, he was smiling. He held on to my hand and nodded toward Jake. “Jake,” he said, “did you give that bottle to André?”

Jake said, “What bottle?”

“The one Dennis gave you to give to André?”


Shakes asked me, “What day was it, Dennis?”


“I don’t know anything about a bottle.

“Oh, I remember. I waited until nearly six. André didn’t show up. None of us had anything left, so we drank it.”

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9 November 2012

This morning was very cold. Joy and Andre were sitting together. Joy borrowed a cell phone from one of her regulars and requested that her appointment with the Salvation Army worker be moved up to 9:30 am.

“Chester had better be home when I go there to get my stuff. He’s been a real asshole lately. He’s drinking beer and mixing it with sherry. It’s making him act really crazy. Last night he was opening and slamming doors all night long. I got even. When I got up four this morning I made sure that I opened and slammed every door at least twice. He asked me, ‘You washed your dishes and left mine in the sink?’ I said to him, ‘Chester, you’re just a hair away from having your face punched in, so watch what you say.’ I’ll be so glad to get away from that place. He’s even started stealing my sherry. He snuck into my room and I saw him drink out of my bottle. I bought a carton of cigarettes, I haven’t even opened the bag, but I can see there’s a handful missing.”

“Did you hear that Blackie bit Andre this morning.”

I asked, “Were you sleeping outside last night, Andre?”


“Weasel lets that dog lick his sores. Blackie could have HIV. He could have infected me.”

Joy said, “I told him, ‘Weasel, if it weren’t for Blackie, nobody would have anything to do with you, not even Stella. He said, ‘That’s not true.’ I said, ‘You don’t look after Blackie, you’re always passing him off to someone else. You take advantage of people. Nobody likes you.’

Andre said, “When I see him later, I’m going to ask him, “Do you know what a dog bite feels like? Then I’ll pop him. It was the same when my step father would keep bugging me at the table. My mother could see that I was starting to shake, so she told my step dad, ‘Keep that up and Andre’s going to hit you.’ He kept it up, I stood up and knocked him right out of his chair. He was laying on the floor and my mother bent over him and said, ‘I told you.’

Mo said, “We have some good news about Serge. Some of the guys and I have been visiting him in hospital. He’s looking a lot better. He looks strange with his head and beard shaved. They had to do that because of the lice, he had them bad. Apparently he’s lost a lot of weight. They’re giving him some beer and sherry, trying to get him off the Listerine. He asked me, ‘Joy, could you get me a bottle?’ I said, ‘No way, I can still smell that stuff on you.’

Andre said, “It’s just like when I was in hospital last with my heart attack. I lost a lot of weight.”

I said, “I remember that Andre, you were pale, weak, your face was gaunt.”

It was time for me to go to work, Both Andre and Joy said, “If we don’t see you this afternoon, we’ll see you Tuesday.”

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26 October 2012

As I approached Joy, she started getting up. “Go ahead,” I said, “I’ll watch your stuff.” She headed off to the library.

When she returned I said, “I visited Serge, yesterday. His breathing tube is out, he was sitting up, muttering away in French. He didn’t recognize me or the names of his friends, except William. He scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. What do you think that was about? Do you think William pushed Serge?”

Joy said, “I’ve never liked that guy. I’d rather punch him in the face than talk to him. I told Serge that his bruises looked more like they had been caused by a fist,  and not a fall. I’ve had a lot of experience in that area. I’m going to have a talk with William.”

“Did you sleep at home last night?”

“Yeah, I was tired. I walked in, took one look at the kitchen, and lay on my air mattress. I slept until about three o’clock. Chester came home, I said, ‘Look at this mess. Didn’t you tidy up at all while I was away? I looked in the cupboard and you’ve eaten my last can of soup. What am I supposed to eat?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything to eat either.’ I said, ‘Take some of the change you’ve got on the table and buy yourself something.’ His check comes tomorrow, maybe he’ll buy groceries, but I’m not counting on it. I’ve even thought of going back to Cornerstone, just until they find me a place.”

A woman stopped and handed Joy a huge lollipop. “What flavor is this?” asked Joy.

“I don’t know, all the other ones have been really good.”

“Through the wrapper, it smells like strawberry. Thanks!”

To me, she whispered, “This is the last thing I need. Look at all the food I got: chocolate bars, a club sandwich with chicken, lettuce, bacon and tomato, some kind of bagel, an apple, a banana. Here, you take the banana, it hasn’t even touched the sidewalk. After my stomach operation, my doctor told me not to eat bananas, too much potassium, it could kill me. In the winter when I’d get a banana, I’d put it on the sidewalk and when I’d pick it up, half of the peel would be stuck to the concrete. The apple I’ll give to Jacques. What I really want is a drink.”

“How was your appointment with your probation officer?”

“I’m so happy. I asked her, ‘So, when do I come back next? Do I have to report twice a week, Once a month?’ She said, ‘You’re done. No more visits, although I would like you to meet with Doris from the Elizabeth Fry Society. You seem to have made some progress with her.’ I agreed, I said, ‘She’s away for a week or so, but when she’s back I’d like to see her, but nobody else.’ I didn’t like the way that other woman talked to me on the phone, let alone sitting in a room with her and spilling my guts. Doris even lets me drink there. I told her, ‘If I’m sober, I’m not going to say a word. If I can drink, I’ll relax a bit and will feel more comfortable. Some of the shit I went through is still upsetting.’

“I got a letter from two of my sons.  The youngest calls me Aunt Joy, but he was really close to my mother — I don’t mind that. They’re both doing well. I’m going to write back to them. Finally, I have contact with two of my sons again.”

At noon I met with six of my friends including Curly with his skateboard, and Danny in his motorized wheelchair. Joy looked very relaxed.

I said, “You must be happy, with no probation to worry about.”

“I’m happy alright, I’m also drunk. As long as I don’t get arrested before November 11, I’m free and clear. This afternoon I just want to go home and sleep. I have to switch keys with Chester because he’s staying out. When I have his keys, with the electronic card for the outside door, I feel like I’ve got the keys to Fort Knox. I can do anything I want, eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want on TV.

“Chester, when I get home, do I have dishes to do?”

“No,” said Chester, “I did them.”

To me, Joy whispered, “I’m going to have to do them again. He’s lousy.” She counted her change and gave Chester enough to buy a couple of beer.

“Sometimes I wish I looked more like a woman. A guy asked me why I wear a do-rag. I took it off and asked him, ‘Would you give me money if I looked like this?’ He said, ‘No, I guess not.’ ‘Well, there you go.’ Some people think I look like a dyke. I like men, it’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s property. I like my independence and privacy.

“Hey Barfly, do you know you’ve got a cigarette burn in the crotch of your sweat pants?”

“Yes, I know. These are my court clothes. I was in court this morning.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you found an apartment, yet?”

“No, I’m going to be homeless at the end of the month.”

“Are you going to get a locker, and take a room for a while?”

“I checked on the lockers this morning, first thing at nine o’clock. They want you to keep it a minimum of two months, and it costs seventy dollars a month. I can’t afford that. I’m going to talk to Shark, maybe he has a little place in a corner where I can store my stuff. I don’t have much, me:  my fridge, my microwave, my George Foreman grill and my cooking pot. That’s all. If I need anything else I might find it in the garbage. Every week people throw stuff out. I found a toaster, I took it home, plugged it in and it worked great. Did you see my new bike?” He pointed to a new looking bicycle with front shock absorbers. I bought that for five dollars. It’s no good to me. Can you see me riding something like that? Imagine Shakes trying to ride that. He can’t stagger straight, let alone ride a bike, same with Jake. He might start off sober in the morning, but in the evening he’s all over the place.  I sell it for what I paid for it.

“In the place that I’m in now, I pay five hundred and ten. That’s with everything. That’s a good price. I don’t need anything big. I threw out my old mattress because of the bed bugs. Every time I move I throw away about  70% of my stuff. I don’t like to pay for movers, so I just take what I can carry on my back and what will fit in my cart.

“I spoke to Shark’s landlord. He had a place that I really liked but it was eight hundred a month. I can’t afford that. There was another that I liked — he rented it. There may be something in Vanier. I like where Hippo is living. He could only get a single bed, the place is so small, but that would be okay for me.”

I mentioned to Jacques, “I visited Serge yesterday.”

“Yeah, you went? I hear he’s sitting up in bed, looking much better. William is going to visit him later today. They are good friends, they both speak French.”

I said, “When I mentioned William’s name, Serge scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. He was clenching his fists and pulled out his intravenous needle.”

“That’s strange,” said Jacques.

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