Posts Tagged ‘drugs’

.

.

26 September 2012

Ottawa Citizen

Acclaimed Inuit artist comes to terms with her greatest work.

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook has given birth to a baby girl, a month before she was due, at a Lowertown shelter.The premature child, named Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt, was born about 4 a.m. Friday in a washroom of the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street. Pootoogook says she was in the washroom, experiencing labour pains. Suddenly, her water broke and out came the baby.

Pootoogook’s cries were heard by staff and others staying in the shelter, who rushed to help. They had her lie on blankets on the floor until an ambulance arrived to take the mother and baby to the Montfort Hospital.

William Watt, the baby’s father and Pootoogook’s boyfriend, says Napachie is only 1.64 kilograms (three pounds, 10 ounces) and is in an incubator at the Montfort, where she is expected to remain for a month.

“But) she’s doing fine,” says Watt. “Her motor skills are fine. She’s a perfectly healthy baby. She’s just tiny.”

Pootoogook says she “feels good. I could go dancing.” Watt says his girlfriend doesn’t look any worse for wear. “She was in labour only five minutes.”

Pootoogook says she was released from hospital at 4 p.m. Friday, had dinner at a native drop-in centre on Rideau Street, and then stayed the rest of the weekend with friends, until she was reunited Monday with Watt. He had spent four nights in jail. That’s why Pootoogook went to the shelter late last week, he says, as “she didn’t want to be alone” because of her pregnancy. Coincidentally, Watt was in jail last January for theft when Pootoogook found out she was expecting.

Tuesday afternoon, Pootoogook was back on Rideau Street where the artist has been seen drawing during the past three months. The parents visited Napachie earlier in the day. It was the first time Watt had set eyes on his daughter.

“I’ll be (at the hospital) every day,” says Watt. “I heard on the Oprah show that you have to hold them, nurture them and show you love them.”

Pootoogook, 43, and Watt, 49, have a meeting with her social worker today. They think the possibility of giving up the baby to the Children’s Aid Society for adoption will be raised.

“The CAS is involved,” says Watt, who is optimistic they’ll be able to keep Napachie because “I’m a good fighter.”

CAS involvement was expected after the couple detailed months and months of homelessness as well as drug and alcohol abuse in a Public Citizen story in July. But the couple claimed they were cleaning up their lives for the baby’s arrival, and, at that point, had not had any drugs or alcohol for six weeks. They were also looking for a home.

The couple spent most of the summer sleeping outdoors in Lowertown and eating at shelters. A social agency recently found the couple a one-bedroom apartment near Bank and Walkley streets, where they moved on Sept. 15.

Watt is paying for the unit with income he receives from the Ontario Disability Support Program. Watt says rent and hydro will take most of his monthly cheque, so the couple will have to depend on food banks and shelter kitchens until they can get into a subsidized unit.

“It’s very nice,” Watt says of their new digs. “It’s an upper-class building.”

Pootoogook is considered one of Canada’s most pre-eminent Inuit artists and began her career in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island. She was discovered about 10 years ago by a Toronto art gallery that began buying her work through the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset.

Pootoogook’s work, often depicting disturbing and chilling scenes of Inuit life, has been exhibited in major shows in Europe and the U.S. She was given glowing reviews by various American papers, including The New York Times, and honoured with the $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2006. Her earlier drawings, done with coloured pencils, sell for as much as $2,600 at Feheley Fine Arts, the art gallery that help her raise her profile as an artist. Limited edition prints go for as much as a $1,000.

But Pootoogook, who has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs — disappeared from view for the past few years. She has lived in Ottawa since 2007, with a variety of acquaintances and at homeless shelters. She started drawing again this summer, while awaiting the baby.

Passersby on Rideau had been paying her $25 to $30 per drawing when the Citizen caught up to her in July. The money paid for her cigarettes. She says she now receives upward to $300 per piece and was trying to sell a drawing Tuesday for $260. Many people just stop to say hello. Some give them a few dollars to help them by.

The couple say they do not expect to hang around downtown as they used to, mostly because they now have their own place and then a baby to look after once she’s released from hospital. But Watt says sleeping outside over the summer didn’t bother them.

“I know it sounds sad, but we slept good. In retrospect, it was nothing because I was with the love of my life.”

Accommodation was offered to the couple by Citizen readers. However, they turned down the offers.

They say their apartment is sparsely furnished. They have been sleeping on a couch left behind by the previous tenant. Watt says they expect to be getting a bed as early as today, and then they can start worrying about furnishings for Napachie.

Says Watt about his daughter’s birth: “It’s a happy ending to the story

This afternoon at the park, I sat with Andre, Shakes and Little Jake.

“Hi, Jake, how is everything at your new apartment.”

“Fine, but I still don’t have any furniture, just an air conditioner still in its box; that’s what I sit on.”

“When will they be getting your furniture?”

“Around the first of November, that’s what my worker said.”

“So, you’ll be without any furniture for over a month?”

“That’s the way the system works. Yesterday, my worker — you’ve met her before — took me to the doctor. I’ve been having raging migraines, ringing in my ear, pain in my sinuses and behind my eyes. When I try to roll a cigarette, I notice that the skin on my fingers is very dry. I think I’m a bit dehydrated. The doctor had me close my eyes, stand with my feet together, with my arms straight out at my sides. I nearly fell over. He’s going to send me for a CAT scan to see what’s going on in my head — I hope it’s not a tumor.”

“Did the doctor suggest to you that it might be a tumor?”

“No, he wants to see some pictures first, before he tells me what’s wrong. Yesterday morning I took a Seroquel. It was a drop. This guy said to me, I’m sorry, I don’t have any money, but here are three Valium and two Seroquel. Joy and I shared the Valium, I took the second Seroquel before lying down for the night. That knocked me right out.”

“I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about having a tumor. There may be a lot of reasons for balance problems. Perhaps, you have an ear infection. It may be something simple that can be treated with antibiotics.

“Shakes,” I asked, “Did you find your bag?”

“No.”

“What did you have in it?”

“My clothes, my bottle, my cigarettes, my weed, my house — everything.”

“How are you doing, Andre?”

“This is kind of an off day for me. I was drinking last night, then at 3:00 am I was wide awake. I drank a couple more bottles and slept until 5:00. I came down here and haven’t moved more than six feet since. See that sweater on the curb? That’s mine. It’s there in case anybody wants to sit down. That’s where I started this morning. I’ve been watching and thinking about people. I try to figure out where they’re coming from, what their motives are.

“Joy said to me yesterday, ‘if you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. So, you shouldn’t point at people.’ By the way, do you know where Joy is today?”

“She had an appointment with her worker. They were going to take the bus to the Elizabeth Fry Society for Joy’s anger management course.”

A woman walked by. Emile said, “Hi darlin’, blue really works well on you, it brings out the color of your eyes.”

“Andre,” I said, “her eyes were brown.”

“Doesn’t matter. This is what I do all day long. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

A soldier in uniform passed by. Andre said, “Thank you sir, for protecting our country.” The soldier waved.

To me, Andre said, “I really mean that. I have a lot of respect for the military.”

Lucy passed in her motorized wheelchair and waved. We all waved. Andre said, “Hi, sister, take care.”

Shakes reached for Emile’s insulated travel mug. “No you don’t,” said Andre. He threw Shakes an unopened bottle of sherry. A few minutes later he asked, “Did you honor it, before you took a drink?” (Honoring means to fill the cap of the bottle with liquor and to throw it over one’s shoulder.)”

“Yes, I did”

“Good, ” said Andre. “I don’t know where I slept last night, but I have green stuff all over my pants. I’ve been picking it off all morning.”

I asked, “Did you sleep outside?”

“Yes.”

Jake said, “I’m going home now.”

I asked, What are you going to do, Jake, watch your air conditioner?”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Andre said, “I’m just sort of floating right now. Everything is mellow. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what I’m going to do for the rest of the day.

“Shakes, I’m going to take you someplace where we can get something to eat.”

“That sounds good.”

“Eating is good,” I said.

It was time for me to go back to work. I shook hands with Andre and Shakes.

“See you, brother,” they said. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you, brothers.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

.

 

.

bench

.

12 September 2012

Joy was in good spirits this morning. The sun was shining.

“Hi Joy,” I said, “you have an appointment with your worker today, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be meeting Janice and Darla at the park at 10:30. I have the same workers as Andre.”

“What will they be talking about today?”

“Just details of the place I’ll be moving into.”

I said, “You must be excited. This is the first time since I’ve known you, that you’ll be having an apartment of your own. You’ve always shared with somebody.”

“Yeah, it’s exciting and scary. It’s been so long since I’ve lived alone, I’m not sure how I’ll cope.”

“It has to be better than living with bed bugs, and you won’t have to put up with Chester’s noises. You’ll be able to watch English television, whatever programs you choose. There’ll be no one to beat you.”

“Yeah, that will all be good. I just worry about my mind. The last time in prison I was in the psych ward, under suicide watch because I kept stabbing myself with pencils. That was when they put me on Seroquel, it’s an antipsychotic for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m on that I don’t hear the voices. Lately, it’s been television commercials that are going around in my head, like the one for Yop. It has kind of a reggae beat:

When I wake up in the morning I’m still asleep
I really don’t want no toast
I want no water, no tea, no cereal
give me a yogurt drink I’m wanting first.

Ooooooh! Give me Yop! me mama oh
Yop! me mama when the morning come.

Give me Yop! me mama
Yop! me mama
Yop! for when the morning come…

I said, “Andre was really wild yesterday.”

“Yeah, he was being a real asshole.”

“He said he got rolled. Where did he get $140.00”

“The workers arranged that for him. It was his street allowance. On Monday he got a check for $150.00. With the last of his money he bought three bottles. Little Jake invited him over to his new place. Andre didn’t even have bus fare. Jake, of course, is all proud because he has a bus pass.

“Andre is going to get the shit kicked out of him, or else he’ll be exiled. I’d rather take the beating. Being exiled is hell.

“I saw Hippo this morning. He’s been hiding out with Jacques at Dow’s Lake. He’s afraid of Bearded Bruce.”

I asked, “How did that all come about?”

“Hippo was drunk. he was ten feet tall and juiced to the gills. He was in Starbucks performing when someone called the cops. They knew he was staying behind the dumpsters so that’s where they went. They recognized Bruce because of his record, and were holding him up against the fence. Bruce was upset with Hippo. He said, ‘I could have been breached.’

“That doesn’t make sense to me. Bruce said he took jail time instead of probation, because he knew he’d never show up for appointments. For missing appointments they’d put him back in jail. If he’s not on probation he couldn’t be breached.

“There’s something funny. Bruce tried to sell crack to an undercover cop and he gets probation? Crack is a narcotic, that’s automatic jail time. I know. He does the same thing again and they only give him 180 days. That’s unheard of! I think he’s a chatter, someone who will rat out his friends. It’s the same with Weasel.

“The exterminators are coming today. I just hope that Chester remembers to tell them about the day bed. The stuff they spray will completely soak the mattress. I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the room on an air mattress. I was thinking, there’s no way they’ll be able to hold onto plastic, but sure enough they were there. I could feel a bump in my sheet, and it moved, so I squished it and smelt my fingers. It had that rotten wood smell of bed bugs. In the morning I saw a streak of blood where I squished it.

At noon the regular crew was at the park. As soon as I sat down Shakes asked me, “Dennis, how do you like my shades?”

“Very nice Shakes! Are they yours? I guess they’re yours now.”

“My worker took me shopping for clothes today. They didn’t have everything I wanted, but I did get a nice winter coat and a belt. Now, I don’t have to wear this dog leash to hold my pants up. When we got to the cash the guy said, ‘Shakes, you need some sunglasses, don’t you?’ I asked, ‘Can I have these?’ He said, ‘Go for it, Shakes.’ ”

Joy sat next to me. I asked, “How did it go with your worker today?”

“Really great!” she said. “Friday I go to see a place. Janice said it was the biggest bachelor apartment she’s ever seen. The guy who owns the building is friendly to homeless people. I guess one of his family was homeless and they died.

“I asked what I should wear. She said, You don’t have to dress fancy, but lose the bandana.”

“I told her that I had paid all my bills and didn’t have any money left. She said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll cover it.’ ”

I asked her, “Are they any closer to getting you a health card?”

“They’re going to take me to a clinic doctor tomorrow. I said to her, “Things aren’t right in my head. I hear voices and they keep me awake all night. With them and the bed bugs I’m not getting much sleep at all.

“I told her that when I pee, there’s blood. I cough up blood, then my nose starts bleeding. I’m bleeding everywhere. That’s not right. I’ve got no energy. I can’t keep food down.

“If I get this place, and it could be as early as September 20, I’m going to cut back on the drinking. She asked me, “Why do you drink?’ I said, ‘I drink to pass out, to get away from the pain in my legs. My hip feels like it’s burning. I’m having seizures. I’m glad I haven’t had any here. Yesterday, I had two at Chester’s place. He didn’t even notice. My eyes just rolled back in my head and my mind went blank for a while.

Jacques answered a call on his cell phone. He handed it to Joy. “Chester,” he said.

I heard Joy ask, “Did the Health Department guy come by to spray. He said he would… You told him what? I’m going to be coming home soon.’

Joy handed the phone back to Jacques. She said, “That stupid, stupid man.” Then she started sobbing. The sobbing turned to gasping. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her inhaler. After four puffs, the gasping stopped. Tears were still falling from her eyes.

I asked, “Did something go wrong with the exterminator?”

“Chester wouldn’t let him spray. He said it would be an invasion.”

“It is an invasion,” I said, “an invasion of bed bugs.”

Joy said, “After we sprayed Chester’s room the first time, they don’t seem to have gone back there. We found their nest under his bed and we soaked it with spray. Maybe they bite him and he doesn’t react, but I see him scratching. I’m going to have to sleep on the balcony. That’s the only way I can get away from them. They don’t like the cold.

“That really pisses me off. I paid him $400. for rent, I filled the fridge with groceries. He was supposed to buy more but he hasn’t. He says he has no money. He shouldn’t be spending it on the muk muks. I clean, I cook, I just can’t take it anymore.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

.

ottawacops

.

24 August 2012

Even though it’s still August, the mornings have been cool but not jacket weather, yet. At noon it’ll be hot. Joy had a big smile for me when I arrived.

“How is it going this morning, Joy? Do you mind is I sit down, or will that interfere with your panning?”

“I don’t care. It’s been a good morning. I’m happy, surprisingly. My legs are sore from the fibromyalgia. My left hip is stiff and it feels hot to the touch. I guess that’s arthritis. I wonder if it’s the same thing that Big  Jake has. Rodent gets his letters from Millhaven. He also contacts him, through prison message boards, on the internet. He told me that Jake’s using a cane. He’s having trouble with the same hip I am. Rodent asked me if it’s catching.”

I asked, “How long do you think they’ll keep Little Jake at Hope Recovery?”

“Just overnight, he’s probably out now. I remember once, when I was staying at Cornerstone — the women’s shelter — I got really wasted. I couldn’t even ring the doorbell. I did a face plant against the front glass doors. At the desk they said, ‘It’s Hope Recovery for you tonight, sister.’ I said, ‘No, just help me to my room and I’ll pass out like I do every night; but no, they phoned the outreach workers and they came to pick me up.

“The next morning when I woke up I couldn’t remember anything about the night before. I had two hundred dollars in my jeans pocket, three bottles of sherry and a gram of weed in my backpack. I have no idea where I got the money. For days, I was looking over my shoulder. I thought maybe I had robbed somebody.

“I don’t know what happened to Little Jake yesterday. He seemed fairly sober when I went up there in the morning. Chester went on a liquor run, then Jake mixed one of his Jakenators — beer with sherry. All of a sudden he was wasted.

“It didn’t help that Andre was throwing his bottle around, and making comments to women passing on the sidewalk. They don’t want that on their lunch breaks. I’ve seen some women give him real dirty looks. I saw one stop at the bottom of the hill and make a call on her cell phone. Ten minutes later the police arrived.

“The last thing we need is someone drawing attention. Andre has been in town for five years. He knows the rules.

“I’m glad that Shakes’ is getting treatment at Innes. They probably have him on Lithium, Valium and an alcohol drip. That’s what I was on the last time I was there. It prevents the shakes from alcohol withdrawal. I was just there for the weekend. I slept most of the time. They just left the jug of tea outside my cell. I had no appetite, all I wanted was something warm.

I said, “Silver’s looking awfully thin. He says he has stomach problems and has made an appointment with his doctor. He says that he’s not eating enough.”

Joy said, “I think he’s back on crack. He gets a check every month, but he eats at restaurants. He has a small fridge, he could stock it with vegetables, and in his little freezer compartment he could have frozen meat. He’s alcoholic, he has to eat.

“Chester’s coming down later to have a coffee. He was by earlier, but I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have a Tim Horton’s card yet.’ We’re going to the food bank at St. Jo’s later. We need to stock up for the weekend. I always make sure we have lots of vegetables in the fridge. Chester can’t carry very much, but I can get a lot in my backpack. Then we take the bus home.”

“Was Chester asleep when you left this morning?”

“No, I had a coughing fit. I tried to eat, but it came back up. He said it didn’t wake him up, but before that, I heard him snoring.

“When I finish here, I have to go wake up Andre. We both have an appointment at the Salvation Army. My worker is going to look into why it’s taking so long to get my identification papers. I’m going to get her to keep a set in my file, for the next time I lose them. She’s also going to help me get my meds. I really should be on them.

“Outcast was pissed with me last Saturday. He got it in his head that Chester phoned Debbie and told her that Outcast and I had been sleeping together. Chester said he didn’t call, and Debbie’s smart enough to figure things out on her own.

“She also thinks he’s been stealing her pot. He said to me, ‘Oh no, Debbie keeps that in a safe.’ I’m sure that Outcast has watched her open it, and knows the combination.

“Now, he’s got no money and he can’t borrow any because everyone knows he’s a thief – the worst kind of thief, who steals from his friends.”

After I left Joy, I saw Sunny at the pay phone in front of the library. He said to me, “Can you believe this, I’m trying to call the University of Ottawa, and nobody’s answering. Did you hear that I was on the Money Show?”

I said, you mentioned being on the Lowell Green Show. You played me the tape.”

“No, this was Wednesday evening, Lowell Green was on Monday. I was promoting my idea of the solar-powered monorail.”

“I read on the internet about the one in Bologna, Spain. It seems like a good idea. I think that’s the way we should go.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. Here, I’ve got something for you. These green and purple ribbons are the colors of my Peace and Justice party. I’d be honored if you’d wear them. May I take your photo?”

“Sure, “ I said. “I have to go to work now, but I’ll talk to you next week.”

On my way to the park I saw Serge and William. “How are you today, Serge?”

“Oh, not so good.”

“I hope you’re feeling better soon. Have a good weekend, if I don’t see you later.”

At the park I met a half dozen of the regulars. Wolf was sorting things in Shaggy’s canopy-covered cart. When he turned around I was sitting on the grass beside Joy.

“Dennis,” said Wolf, “I didn’t mean to ignore you, well yes I did, I had some things to sort out first. Eventually, eventually, mind you, I was meaning to turn around and say hello to you. So, hello, Dennis.”

“Hello Wolf, I was sure you were going to say hello to me.”

Willy said, “Dennis, are you really sure that Wolf was going to say hello to you?”

“No, Willy, I’m not sure of nothin’.”

Wolf had a bag of treats.  Joy asked if she could feed Shaggy. She put one of the treats on the lawn, about three feet from Shaggy, then moved her hand towards it, as if she were going to take it back. Shaggy lunged and nearly bit Joy’s wrist.

“Bitch,” said Joy

Shakes had been released from the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road. I said to him, “Hi Shakes, when did they let you out?”

“Yesterday. I was inside for six days. The court screws saw that the sole of my shoe was flapping. They gave me new shoes.”

Willy asked, “What were you charged with, vagrancy?”

“No, it was a breach. I’m not allowed within five hundred feet of Mc D’s on Bank. I’m not sure how far that is, but it’s more than a foot.”

Willy said, “That was well put, Shakes.”

Two bicycle cops, one male, one female rode up. Shaggy barked.

The female cop did all the talking, “Jake, do you understand the conditions of your probation?”

“Yes, I understand – no pan handling.”

“Shakes, I see you have some court documents.”

“Yes, I’m now allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“You say, you’re not allowed within five hundred feet of Mags and Fags.”

“I am allowed.”

“Okay, Shakes.”

“The rest of you, any alcohol? Are you staying out of trouble?”

Joy said, “Two of us are just leaving for St. Jo’s food bank on Cumberland.”

“What time does that open?”

“One o’clock.”

“Okay, we’ll leave you alone then.”

They left and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Willy said, “I had about two inches of beer in my can, when I saw them coming. I just turned around and pushed it over the railing. I didn’t lose too much.”

Wolf said, “I’m glad they didn’t check Shaggy’s cart. I had my beer in there.”

Shakes said, “I’ve got a gram of pot in my underwear, but I can’t find it.” He then proceeded to pull down his sweat pants and search for the missing pot.”

Willy said, “Shakes, I hope you’re not intending to share that with anybody. I don’t want anything to do with pot that’s been in your underwear. It’s going to taste of shit and ball sweat.”

“It’s in a plastic bag.”

Joy said, “Shakes, for God’s sake, pull up your pants. I’m seeing way too much, and it isn’t pretty. The cops will be coming back.”

To me she said, “I’ve seen Shakes down and out before, but never this bad. He’s incontinent, he wears Depends. He’s so weak, he can barely get up by himself. He’s not taking care of his burn scars. He doesn’t care. It’s sad.”

As I was standing with the group — everyone packing their bags, picking up their cushions — I saw Wanda, a woman I work with. I waved. She looked at me, with a disapproving look, and walked on — she didn’t wave.

Sometimes, I question what it is I’m doing. I have arguments with health workers whose job it is to treat people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They say, ‘I can feel empathy with people who are sick — not of their own doing, but alcoholics have brought this on themselves. With our health care system, everybody pays for their choices.’ I agree, the shelters cost money, welfare costs money, jails cost money, the police cost money; but looking at my friends, in their varying states of ability and disability, their personal motivations to struggle with addiction or give in to it, I know it’s more complicated. I don’t know the answers; day by day, I’m beginning to understand the situation.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

 

.

imgres

.

15 August 2012

Today is Shakes’ forty-eighth birthday, at least seventeen of those years have been on the street, many in prison. At the park to celebrate were six of his friends . We all signed a card with a gram of weed in it.

John started early, at five o’clock in the morning. He pushed a grocery cart through the affluent neighborhood of Sandy Hill collecting empty beer cans and liquor bottles. He returned these to the Beer Store for a refund and had enough money to buy Shakes two bottles of his favorite Imperial sherry.

Bruce said, “Mona and I visited with a social worker to apply for housing, the Ontario Disability Support Program and for me to get copies of my health card, birth certificate and immigration papers. The immigration papers have to be notarized and cost one hundred dollars.

“I’m expecting to get $450.00 from O.D.S.P. and another $300.00 from welfare. Hopefully, I can find a clean, bug free apartment away from crack-heads. That’s my main complaint about the shelters, such as Shepherd’s of Good Hope, the Salvation Army and the Mission. After rent this should leave me about $95.00 for all other living expenses. To supplement this I may still have to panhandle. Mona and I have decided not to share an apartment, so that when we have a fight, each of us will have a place to come home to. Sometime in the future I hope to find work as a camp cook for a construction or logging company. I have my chef credentials. What may stand in my way is the fact that, having served time in prison, I’m not bondable; however, I have never committed a violent crime and my social worker will help with references. I can even get a reference from the restaurant near where I pan handle. They occasionally bring me coffee and they’d say, ‘Sure, Bruce’s a good guy. He’s never caused us any trouble.’ If I wasn’t there it might be some drunken loudmouth.”

Little Jake arrived and said, “I ditched Debbie somewhere on Bank Street.”

Bruce said, “You’ll never learn. If you get kicked in the balls by a horse, you don’t jump on the same horse again. If you do, expect another kick in the balls.”

Jake agreed, “I know.” Shortly after, Debbie arrived.

Every time someone would pass on the sidewalk Shakes would say, “Good afternoon ma’am, today’s my birthday. Would you like to wish me a happy birthday? or Andre would say, “It’s my friend’s birthday today. How about wishing him a happy birthday.”

Bruce said, “That’s the way to appear inconspicuous, sit in the middle of the sidewalk, shirtless, with a cowboy hat on and yell at everybody passing by.”

Both Shakes and Andre had been drinking since early morning. Shakes was laying on the grass and Andre was constantly chatting, or posing. John said, “Do you have a pause button somewhere, or do you go on like this from morning to-night. I don’t need TV, all I need is to come down here and watch you two clowning around. I’ve got my own HBO, right here.”

Hippo was disappointed. He has a housing appointment with the Salvation Army, Thursday and all morning he thought this was Thursday.

I said to him, “Hippo, you need to get a calendar. You could scratch each day off, and you’d always know what day it is.”

Bruce said, “Even if he had one, he’d need someone to remind him to look at it.”

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

.

dumpster2

.

14 August 2012

This morning I met Andre in front of Starbucks. “Hi Andre,” I said,”How was your weekend?”

“It was rough, man. I woke up Sunday morning and I had the shakes so bad I couldn’t do anything. I just lay there in the hut all day. I drank plenty of water, but couldn’t eat a thing.

“Monday morning, Shakes came over with a bottle. That made me feel a bit better — helped with the shakes a bit. I couldn’t even work. If you’re panning and someone sees you shaking, like I was, they know any money they give isn’t going for food.

“One good thing happened though. The Salvation Army came by and gave both Hippo and me sleeping bags. It’s been three months that I’ve been sleeping in this thin jacket. They also signed us up for housing and O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program). They’re going to line up some places for us to see. From the O.D.S.P. they’ll put $450.00 towards the rent each month. I asked, ‘So, where do I go to meet you guys?’ They said, ‘You don’t have to go anywhere. We’ll come to the park tomorrow and should be able to arrange something.’ Imagine that, they’re coming to see me!”

I said, “I see Alphonse across the street. I guess you heard that he and Magdalene  lost their baby.”

“Yeah, he’s trying to show a brave face. Imagine, trying to smile, when you’ve lost a kid. He’s really broken up.”

I said goodbye to Andre and crossed the street to talk to Alphonse. “Hi , I spoke with Magdalene last week. She told me that you and her lost your baby. I’m so sorry to hear that. You must be heartbroken. I wish there were words to express to you how sad I feel. You both looked so happy the last time I saw you together.”

“Yes, it’s very sad, but what can I do? It’s out of our hands. The baby was induced early because Magdalene was using crack. We stayed at Ronald McDonald House while the baby was in the incubator on life support. After a week they told us that he had a hole in his heart and his lungs weren’t developed enough to supply his organs with oxygen.”

“Cocaine use during pregnancy can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby in many ways. During the early months of pregnancy, it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, it can trigger preterm labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or cause the baby to grow poorly. As a result, cocaine-exposed babies are more likely than unexposed babies to be born with low birthweight (less than 5.5 lb/2.5 kg). Low-birthweight babies are 20 times more likely to die in their first month of life than normal-weight babies, and face an increased risk of lifelong disabilities such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Cocaine-exposed babies also tend to have smaller heads, which generally reflect smaller brains. Some studies suggest that cocaine-exposed babies are at increased risk of birth defects, including urinary-tract defects and, possibly, heart defects. Cocaine also may cause an unborn baby to have a stroke, irreversible brain damage, or a heart attack.” (Wikipedia)

“There was no hope for him so we consented to have them pull out the tubes. I was holding him when they took him off the ventilator. His breathing became very shallow. He died in my arms forty-five minutes later. At the very end, as the doctor said would happen, he made little sounds like he was drowning. Then he was silent.

“Maggie asks me why I haven’t been sleeping with her. Since she’s been on crack she sells herself on the street. I try to watch out for her. I want her to be safe. I see her go away with men and come back about an hour later with a fistful of cash. She spends it all on crack. I’ve contracted syphilis and other sexual diseases from her. Luckily, they were treatable with antibiotics, but some diseases aren’t. I can’t risk my life to make love with her. I don’t know who she’s been with.

“My brother and sister came down from Labrador, to be with us, after the baby died. Maggie was jealous. She thought they had come only to comfort me. I told her, ‘No, Maggie they came for both of us.’

“I still love Madgalene. I don’t know what to do.” Tears were falling from his eyes. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “I love you, man. Let it all out. I know you still love Magdalene, and so you should. She’s young, only twenty-four years old. She needs to mature. If she decides to get help, perhaps you can be together again like you once were. Perhaps, it can be a new start for you. No one knows the future. All we know is this moment.”

“I know I can’t control what she does. I just wish she’d get off the crack, before it kills her.”

I said, “I have to go to work now, Alphonse. Will I see you at the park this afternoon? You take care. I love you, man.”

At the park this afternoon were Andre, John, Joy, Outcast, Wolf and his dog Shaggy. Shakes was asleep on the grass. Nick arrived later. We shook hands all around. When I came to John I said, Don’t tell me your name… it’s John, like the toilet.”

John said to me, “That’s right.”

Wolf asked, “Dennis, do you have a cigarette?”

“No, I don’t smoke.”

“Outcast, do you have a cigarette?”

“No, but Debbie has some at her place. She’ll sell you some. Go ask her.”

“I’d prefer, if you could phone ahead, let her know I’m coming.”

“Phone, with what?”

“Phone with, I don’t know, fifty cents.”

“You expect me to spend fifty cents so you can get a smoke. I don’t think so.”

Wolf said, “It’s just like when you told me that Debbie would lend me her library card. She said to me, Wolf, pay your thirty dollars in fines, and get your own card.”

I asked Andre, “How has your day been since I saw you this morning?”

“It’s been good. A lady at Starbucks bought me a muffin and a large coffee with some kind of syrup in it. I couldn’t taste the syrup until I got to the very bottom, then I could taste it. I was really shaky after I drank that. I find Starbuck’s coffee really strong. I really didn’t need that. Someone else gave me an apple. I gave that to Al. I can’t eat apples. I don’t have enough teeth to chew them.

“See this space where my bottom tooth was. I pulled that myself at Innes (Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center, on Innes Road). The tooth was loose and wobbly. It hurt when I bit into anything, so I got a piece of string, tied one end to the tooth, the other end to my bunk, then pulled. I had a package of salt — that’s when they still let you have salt — put it in a glass of water and gargled. That’s supposed to help it heal and prevent infection. It healed fine.

“For the past twenty-five years I’ve been in and out of prison: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.”

I asked, “Which are the worst? Which are the best?”

“There isn’t anything good about prisons, but I’d say, of all them, the best were in Quebec. The very worst was the Don Jail in Toronto. They didn’t ask you to do things, they made you. I remember when I first arrived, a guard asked me to put my feet on these yellow footprints on the floor, and my hands on these hand prints on the wall. I guess my hand wasn’t quite in the right position. He took it and smashed it against the wall. If you mouthed off, the guards would take you to a locked room and beat the shit out of you.

“Millhaven is bad too. It’s a super maximum security prison. I’d done some bad stuff to get sent there. I’d been high on coke, acid, ‘shrooms and my nerve pills. I got into a fight with this guy over something, I can’t remember what. I slammed his face into a painted concrete wall, again and again and again. It left red face prints all over this yellow wall. When he came to court his entire head was bandaged, except for his left eye. He had one of those casts on his right arm that held it perpendicular to his body. His left wrist and right ankle were also in casts.

“When I was in Maplehurst, I worked in the kitchen and on maintenance. I walked into a store-room and found two empty five gallon, plastic pails. I thought to my self, home-brew. As I was walking down the corridor, back to my cell, I threw kites (messages) as I went along. I tried to get them under the cell doors, but some fell just outside. That wasn’t a problem; with the flick of a towel they could pull them in. Everybody was pretty excited about this brew. I had access to everything in the kitchen including a couple of fingers of yeast.

“The brew was coming along really well, it was aging nicely when the head cook found it. He poured in some dish detergent, then dumped it down the drain. He said to me, ‘What do you think of your brew now?’ That got us really mad. I got some salami from the kitchen — some was whole, some was sliced. I stuffed it into one of the toilets as far as it would go. I stomped it with my foot. Some of the round part was still sticking out, but the toilet was really blocked. We had all agreed to flush our toilets at a specific time. When we did, water shot out everywhere. It was four inches deep in the kitchen, they couldn’t use it because of the electrical appliances. The guards changing room was flooded — everywhere.

“I asked the head cook, ‘Does it still seem funny that you spoiled our brew?’ Mind you, I was also on maintenance. It took me until one o’clock in the morning to mop up that mess, but we showed them.”

It was time for me to leave, Nick said, “I’m making up to eighty sandwiches a week that I hand out to homeless people. I start below the Rideau River Bridge. There’s a group of homeless people who gather there, just like they do here.

“Andre,” he said, “I walked past here his morning, but I didn’t see you.”

Andre and John were wondering what to do with Shakes, since it appeared that it was going to start to rain.

I walked with Nick towards my work. I asked, “What kind of sandwiches do you make?”

“Egg salad, peanut butter and jam, meat with mustard and tuna. I’m up at about four in the morning. I use about two loaves of bread; pack them in my rucksack with my bible, and distribute them until I run out. As people are eating I read God’s word to them. After that I panhandle to get the cash to do the same thing next day.

“Yesterday, I was panning on Bank Street, where I’ve panned for fourteen years. I was sitting on the sidewalk with my hat out when a cop came along. He said, ‘You’ve got your cap out. Are you panhandling?”

I said, “Yes officer, my cap is out. Do you see the cross on it, and my bible? I give food to the homeless and spread the word of the Lord. I read from my bible, and if somebody is hungry, I give them a sandwich. I don’t sell it to them. Those don’t come cheap. They cost me money. I’m just trying to get enough change to carry on my work.”

“So, you’re like Robin Hood, collect from the rich, give to the poor. That’s a nice story, but you’re going to have to move along.”

“I’ll move along, but I’ll set up some other place.” I went to the next block. He came again and motioned me to leave. I moved three times before I decided to call it a day.”

We approached Elgin Street, when Nick said, “I left someone behind here.” I walked to a bench where Bearded Bruce was sitting.

“Hi, Bruce, I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“I just got out to-day. I didn’t have to serve the full term of my three-month sentence, but I’m now free and clear. It’s the first time, in five years, that I’ve been able to say that. I can make a new start.”

I didn’t ask, but I suspect that reason that Bruce didn’t want to go to the park was because of the temptation of drugs and alcohol; the very things that got him in trouble in the first place (twice he’d tried to sell crack to an undercover police officer). I said to him, “I’m just on my way back to work, but you and Nick could probably use a sandwich. Am I right? Here are a couple of Tim Horton cards. Maybe, you’d like to have lunch together.”

“Thanks, Dennis,” they both said as I walked away and waved.

Nick said, “I’ll say a prayer for you.”

“Thanks, Nick, I’d appreciate that.”

From the Ottawa Citizen, July 22, 2012:

Acclaimed Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook pregnant and homeless, living on the street in Ottawa

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s pre-eminent Inuit artists, a woman whose work has earned huge acclaim in Europe and the U.S., spends her time on Rideau Street these days, peddling her pencil-crayon drawings to passersby for cigarette money.

Annie Pootoogook has fought demons all her life — beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol and drugs. Pootoogook has lived in Ottawa for the last five years and recently came off another binge of substance abuse, during which she largely ignored her craft. But she is finally drawing again, doing much of it on Rideau, where she has become something of a centre of attention — at least with those who know who she is and want to buy her work.

She usually produces one drawing a day. But it is sad to see how little the shy, diminutive artist accepts for a drawing — $25, maybe $30. Her earlier work, from her days in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, sells for $1,600 to $2,600 per drawing at Feheley Fine Arts, the Toronto art gallery that kick-started her ascent a decade ago.

But even sadder is the thought of the destitute woman —currently five months pregnant — curling up at night in a bushy area overlooking the Rideau River. Pootoogook, 43, and her boyfriend, William Watt, 49, have been living outdoors in various secluded spots in and around Lowertown since spring after spending the winter in shelters for the homeless. They didn’t like the shelters because they had to sleep alone, in the segregated men’s and women’s areas.

At least outside, they can be together. Still, there are downsides. Bugs for one. Snide comments from those who sometimes spot them through the bushes. And recently, they were both issued $276 fines for trespassing on NCC property, their sleeping bags and meagre belongings hauled away.

Pootoogook can’t take the bugs anymore and says she’s losing her mind being bitten while she tries to sleep.

They are desperate to get off the street, even if it is just into emergency housing for now. With a baby on the way — a girl whose name will be Napachie Marie Pootoogook-Watt — the father-to-be says they are focusing on setting their lives straight. No more booze. No more crack cocaine, a drug on which Watt says he spent $3,000 over a few days last November.

When Watt and Pootoogook, who met in 2010, woke up from that crack binge, they lived in a tent for two months at the “Occupy” encampment at Confederation Park. Then it was homeless shelters for the winter, though Watt spent 32 of those days in jail for stealing booze from an LCBO store. He says he has been in jail a few times for petty crimes, and it was while he was incarcerated last winter that Pootoogook found out she was pregnant. She surprised him with the news when he was released.

Pootoogook is the birth mother of two boys, now 23 and 16, who were born in Cape Dorset. They were adopted by relatives. “There is no interest in having this one adopted,” says Watt, who has a son from a previous relationship.

The couple wants to get out of the Lowertown area, as they say they have too many acquaintances there who were a bad influence when they tried before to stop drinking and drugging. And with Pootoogook pregnant, Watt says his girlfriend has become fearful of those people.

Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

group3

.

8 August 2012

Today at the park, the congregation included ten regulars, including Shawn ‘Sausage Fingers’, Buck and his dog Dillinger. The first person to approach me was Joy. I hardly recognized her. Gone was her do rag, her hair color had changed from black to blond and was professionally cut and styled. She was wearing a loose cotton, black on white print blouse with gray stretch pants.

“Joy,” I said, “you look beautiful!”

“Thanks, I thought I needed to pamper myself for a change. Were you on vacation?”

“Yes, I was at the lake for a week. It was great, except for Saturday. I was working on the roof of my cabin and got a case of heat stroke. I had to be wrapped in cold, wet towels. I’d been drinking lots of water.”

Outcast said, “It was brutal here, one hundred and four degrees Fahrenheit. The rain we had just increased the humidity, but didn’t lower the temperature. I used up one of my inhalers. I have to go to the pharmacy today to get a new one.”

Joy said, “I still don’t have my health card, so I borrowed Chester’s inhaler. That probably isn’t a good idea, but it’s all I could do. I was hardly here at all last week. It was just too hot.”

I said to Joy, “I was so sorry to hear that Magdalene’s baby died.”

“I didn’t know that. What happened?”

“I don’t know any details. I spoke to her yesterday morning. I asked, ‘How is your baby?’ She said, ‘He died two days ago.’ I asked how Alphonse was taking it. She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Perhaps they aren’t together any more.

“I mentioned it to Trudy. She had seen Alphonse earlier that day, but he wasn’t talking to anyone.”

Joy said, “Trudy was by earlier, but she didn’t stay. She was acting funny. She probably knows something that she doesn’t want to talk about.”

Outcast said, “It sounds like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A baby can turn over in bed and suffocate. It happens a lot.”

I said, “If anyone hears about funeral arrangements, please let me know. I’d like to attend.

“I was talking to Shakes yesterday. He was at his daughter Bettie’s, for her birthday party on Sunday. She had been beaten by her boyfriend.”

Joy said, “That Kit, what a scumbag, beating a woman six months pregnant with his twins, their son looking on. Someone is going to take care of this. I see him every day crossing in front of our apartment.”

Shakes came over. I asked, “What kind of injuries does Bettie have?”

“Her face and ribs are badly bruised; beyond that, I don’t know.”

I asked, “Has her boyfriend been charged?”

Joy said, “We don’t do that. We wait until someone is nearly beaten to death, and left in a pool of blood to die, as I was; or like Fran, with her back permanently fucked. That’s the reason that Big Jake and Gene are in jail.”

Outcast waved at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Did you see that woman I waved to? She’s my boss. Two days a week I volunteer at the Salvation Army. She’s the Executive Director. She posted bail for me one time. I’ll always be thankful to her for the help she gave me. She’s not surprised to see me here. She knows that I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict… and always will be. I was sentenced to ten years, of course, I didn’t have to serve the full term.”

I sat down on the grass with Little Jake. “How have you been this past week?”

“I’m not allowed to pan, because I’m on probation. That sucks!”

“Have you had your court appearance yet?”

“That’s on August 30th. I’ll know what’s going to happen then. I fell off my bike a few days ago.”

“Where were you injured?”

“My knees and my elbows were scraped. I have bruises on my right leg. I was wasted. I don’t know what happened. They found my bike in the hedge. It was in pieces, so I threw it away.”

“You probably hit the curb. I’ve done that before and have the scars to prove it.”

“Yeah, that’s probably what happened.”

“Riding drunk probably seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Joy said, “Everything seems like a good idea at the time.”

Shawn said, “There is such a thing as common sense, and everybody has it to some degree. Even people with down syndrome, or any of the syndromes have it. I’ve had some experience with that, mind you, I have a mental disability and I’m getting a pension for it, but my mind has two settings; either I’m polite, or I’m all out crazy. There’s no in between.” He took off his shoe and said, “See how the middle three toes come up and down as one? I got three pins in them attached to another piece in my instep. That’s from jumping out of a three-story window. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I wish I had just put my hands up and gone with the cops.

“What happened was, me and another guy were in a hotel room making a drug deal. He left to get some more, and the cops followed him back. We were both standing there, at the table, the scales at one end, the drugs at the other, when the cops broke the door down. I backed towards the balcony, said, ‘I’m out of here!’ and over I went. I landed in the alley, which was concrete. It would have been nice if I had landed in soft earth or even some bushes. I was lucky to have gotten off so easy, but I still went to prison. I could have saved myself a lot of pain.

“Now when I go through a metal detector, at the airport, all the alarms go off. They ask me to take my shoes off. ‘No problem,’ I say. It happens all the time.”

I said, “I have the same problem with metal detectors. I have an artificial hip and a rod in my right femur from a motorcycle accident. Do you think it would help, for you and I, to bring an x-ray to the airport?”

“No, they want to see for themselves.

“On another occasion, I was at home listening to music. It was 10:30, I had the volume up. Then I heard this pounding and kicking at my door. When I heard that I figured somebody had come for a fight. I opened the door and this guy was screaming at me to turn the music down. I said, ‘No!’ I saw his fist coming up. I just reached over it and connected with his jaw. He took off, like a scared rabbit, down the street. I thought he lived next door. If he lived down the street why would he be complaining about the music? It wasn’t that loud. I yelled after him, ‘You can stop running now. I’m not going to hit you again.’ I did turn the music down. Some people — go figure!”

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

.

bench

.

July 26, 2012

Joy wasn’t in her usual spot, so I went across the street to talk with Silver, who pans in front of Starbuck’s.

Silver said, “I haven’t seen Joy. I don’t know if she’s coming down or not. Today might be check day for her, so she may be waiting around for that.”

I said, “I heard her mention that she’d have to visit Chuck’s for mail, so that might be what she’s doing.

“What did you think of that guy who rode up on his bicycle, looking for Lucy?”

Silver said, “He also came back later. I said to him, ‘I saw her earlier at the Mission.’ I was there later and saw the guy riding around on his bicycle. I went in for dinner and Lucy was there. She was drunk, or loaded to the eyeballs on something. She kept falling out of her chair. I didn’t offer to help her up.

“I don’t want to seem mean or anything, but I really hope something bad happens to Lucy and Daimon for what they did to Shark and Irene; not once, but twice. They were after Shark’s medication.”

I was introduced to Joanne, a regular of Silver’s. She said to him, “Would you like coffee and a muffin.”

“Sure,  thanks.” While she went into Starbucks Silver said to me, “She’s a jogger. I took a break from here for a couple of weeks and saw her running along the bicycle path. She’s offered to bring me some of her husband’s shirts, but she said they’d hang on me like a tent. He must be big.”

Joanne returned with coffee and a blueberry muffin. She chatted with Silver for a while then went on her way to work.

“She’s a nice lady,” said Silver.

I said, “Shark and Irene are all set to move on the weekend.”

“Are they moving in together?”

“Yes, they’ve got a three bedroom apartment. One room is just for Shark when he wants to get away to play his video games. I think he can lock himself in.”

“He’ll need that. I went out with Irene for eight years. She can be really nice sometimes, then she snaps. That’s when you don’t want to be around her. She’s just a small woman, but if she hits you right, she could break your nose. I hope Shark knows what he’s getting himself into.”

I said, “He’s told me of times when he’d brought over groceries to make supper. Before he had a chance to sit down, she told him to get out.

“I’ll let you get back to work, Silver. I have to do the same.”

On the sidewalk I met Chester. He said, “Joy’s not coming down today. She’s not feeling well.”

“Thanks, Chester, I’ll probably see you later.”

At noon at the benches were about a half dozen of my friends. Inusik, Magdalene, Andre, Shakes, Serge, Shark and Irene. I was especially pleased to see Magdalene. When I saw her last she was five months pregnant. Now, her baby named Alphonse, is seven weeks old. They are living near the hospital where Magdalene had her baby. Social Services arranged accommodation for them. They pay ten dollars a day.

Magdalene said, “Alphonse is my second child. I have another named Jean-Guy. He’s six years old.” She showed me a tattoo on her left shoulder. It was the head of a wolf and under it was written Jean-Guy. “The wolf mother will always protect her young. She can be vicious if anyone comes near her babies. I speak French, my English isn’t too good. Can you understand me?”

“There are a few words I might miss, but yes I understand you.”

Andre said, “When Magdalene first came to town, I was the first person she met. I said, “I’ll show you the town, and I did. We partied for three days and she doesn’t remember any of it.”

I asked, “Do you remember any of it, Andre?”

“No.”

Magdalene said, “We didn’t sleep together or anything, he’s just my best friend, like a brother.”

I said, “He’s like a brother to me too.”

“Shakes,” I asked, “how did it go in court this morning?”

“I was late, but my lawyer took care of everything. They set a court date of August twenty-eighth.”

Inuvik said to me, “I forgot your name. What is it again?”

“Dennis, and your name is Inusik, right?”

Shakes said, “His name is Nuisance, ha ha ha.”

A Salvation Army van stopped across the street. A male and a female worker came over. They offered bottles of water to everyone and asked if anything was needed.

Hippo said, “Do you have any tee shirts? I could use an extra-large.”

The male worker came back with two shirts, “I’ve got white and blue. Who wants what?”

Magdalene said, “I’ll take one. This one I’m wearing says ‘Hug me I’m Irish’. I don’t like to be hugged by people I don’t know.” She tried on the blue shirt. “It’s too blue,” she said and took it off.

Andre said, to the female worker, “You’re new aren’t you? I don’t remember seeing you around.”

“I came from Alberta.”

Andre said, “I know Alberta, which part do you come from?”

“Near Red Deer, I was in prison there.”

“Right on!” said Andre, “We all know what that’s like.”

I asked Irene, “How is everything going for your move on Saturday?”

“Everything is arranged, but I’m not ready. I’m glad we have some young people to help us carry things upstairs. Shark is going to help me take apart my futon. I’ll just put the mattress on the floor and sleep there tonight.

“Did Joy come down at all today?”

“No, Chester said she wasn’t feeling well. Silver said that she may be waiting for her check.”

Shark said, “No, her check won’t come until tomorrow.

“Irene has a doctor’s appointment at one. We’ll have to leave soon.”

I asked Irene, “Do you have to go to get your white blood cell count? Is it affected by your medication?”

She said, “I’ve been feeling sick. My stomach has been bloated. Even the water pills aren’t working.”

Shark said, “We both have cirrhosis. Our livers’ won’t produce enough red blood cells. That’s why our white cell count has to be monitored.”

Irene said, “We’ve both been sober for over a week. We’re not going to be able to invite any of these people over to our new place. We can’t even invite Shark’s brother. If we take one drink, we’ll be right back on it.”

“Congratulations,” I said, “what you’re doing is really difficult. I’m proud of you both.”

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6 

ottawacops

19 July 2012

This morning was cool and breezy. Joy was wearing a hoodie, with her hands in the pocket, and hood pulled over her head.

“You’re looking good, Joy,” I said.

“Thanks, it was too hot to drink yesterday. I didn’t sleep much. The people downstairs were out on their balcony, talking loud. They were also smoking pot.”

“Are they the neighbors directly below you?”

“Yes.”

“You could always spill something on them.”

“I thought of that. Chester’s also being a real pain, especially when he’s drunk. I was doing the laundry yesterday, he came in and said, ‘I’m hungry. Will you make me something to eat?’ I said, ‘Dude, you know where the fridge is, make something yourself.’ I’m not his housekeeper.

“Outcast was over last night. He brought twelve beer and gave Chester six. After a while Chester came to me and said, ‘I want him out of here, and he’s not sleeping over.’ ‘Look dude,’ I said, ‘If you want him out, you tell him, and tell him why.’

“Later on he said to me, ‘Joy, will you sleep with me? I won’t do anything. I just want to be close to you.’ ‘Chester,’ I said, ‘we’ve been over this before. I’m not sleeping with you. It’s not going to happen, not now, not ever.’ Guys always try that. They say they just want to sleep next to you, then they start touching you. I hate that.”

“You can see why Anne left him,” I said.

“I sure can, but he still goes on about her, ‘I miss my Annie,’ he says. She’s never going to take him back.”

“There’s nothing worse than jealousy, to spoil a relationship,” I said.

“That’s for sure. Outcast isn’t getting along with Debbie. She wants to up his rent because her daughter is pregnant again. Why that should affect his rent, I don’t know. I told him that, if things with Chester get any worse, we could find a two bedroom somewhere and share it.

“I saw Little Jake this morning, he’s over at Silver’s spot. He’s got a huge bump on his forehead. Fran’s new boyfriend head butted him last night. Jake was wasted, he doesn’t know what happened, or why.”

“Fran’s new boyfriend? Isn’t she with Gene any more?”

“Gene is in prison. He jumped Fran and she has two hairline fractures in her back. The doctors are going to monitor it for a while to see what happens. She may need surgery. This new guy may be the father of one of her sons. He’s a big guy. Sounds a lot like Daimon. I can’t wait to meet him to see how tough he is.”

“How is it going with Pierre?”

“I don’t know. He sent me a text at eleven thirty last night. I just read it this morning. He says he won’t be coming by the park. I know why he hasn’t been coming to the park, it’s because he owes Outcast a hundred dollars.

“I also saw Weasel this morning.”

I said, “You know why Silver hasn’t been using his spot, don’t you?”

“Yeah, because Weasel accused him of stealing two beer from him. Weasel is a real mess. His eye and the whole side of his face is a massive bruise, with strange marks across it. He said he was boot fucked. He doesn’t remember who it was, or why. Probably some of the crack heads at the Sally Ann.”

Sitting on the curb near the park were some regulars and and Levi from Arizona – just passing through. Andre arrived on his bicycle shortly after. Hippo said, “Six up, coming up the hill.” I turned to see two bicycle patrol officers stopping.

One of the officers asked, “What are you people doing, just congregating?”

“Yes, officer,” said Shakes.

“Does anyone have any booze?”

“We can’t afford it,” said Shakes.

One of the officers got off his bike. I could read his name tag, Budmiester. He walked around the group and noticed an open can of Old Milwaukee behind Serge. He picked it up and emptied the contents on the sidewalk. “I’m going to have to charge you with this. What’s your name?”

“Serge Martin, just like Steve Martin. You can write me a ticket, but I’m not going to pay it. You might as well save the paper. I’ll just throw it out.”

“You can do as you wish, but the courts have been giving thirty-day jail sentences, depending on how many outstanding charges you have.”

Andre said, “I’m looking at your name tag, does it say Budweiser?”

Officer Curtis said, “We’ve had a complaint. You’re going to have to move somewhere else.” We all stood except Jake who said, “I’m supposed to stay here to meet my worker. I have to appear in court this afternoon.”

“On what charge?” asked officer Curtis.

“Panning. I was charged by officer Lang.”

“You’d better appear then.”

We walked to the far end of the park and sat on the grass. It was still damp from the sprinklers. Andre reached into his backpack and pulled out a bottle of sherry and threw it to Shakes who opened it and passed it around. When it got to Levi, he said, “I don’t drink, I only smoke.” Shakes reached into his pocket and pulled out a small round can. He threw it to Joy. Andre handed her a rolling paper. Soon, a joint was being passed around.

Levi asked, “What are the laws concerning marijuana in Ontario?”

Marujuana posession laws in Ontario:

Currently, it is against the Criminal Code to possess any amount of marijuana anywhere in Canada, unless you have received a medical exemption from Health Canada.

For a first conviction, if you had less than 30 grams of marijuana, the maximum penalties are a fine of $1000 or 6 months in jail, or both. But the penalty for a first offense is usually much less.

In practise, police agencies are reluctant to charge individuals for simple possession preferring to target dealers and grow-ops, and the courts would prefer not spending time prosecuting these cases. Even if one is charged, it is very easy to have the case dismissed in exchange for a charitable donation. There does however continue to be convictions in Ontario courts for simple possession.”

Joy said, “It all depends on the cop who stops you. You just saw Serge get a liquor violation ticket, while Sparky had a bottle right in front of him. Frank got a ticket for panhandling, I’ve been panhandling for fifteen years and never got a ticket.

“If a cop stops you and you’ve got five grams of weed, he’ll probably just throw it out on the ground and grind it with his heel. He may give you a warning, he may give you a ticket.”

“Dennis,” said Jake, “what time is it?”

“Twelve, forty-five.”

“Court starts at one, my worker hasn’t shown up. I’m never going to make it. It’s all the way across town, even if I took the bus I wouldn’t get there in time.”

“Sounds like a failure to appear,” said Joy.

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.99 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($.99 Download)
Podcasts:http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

 

homeless family L

 

22 May 2013

There had been a torrential rain shower earlier in the day, so at noon the sidewalks were damp and the weather was muggy. I sat on the curb nest to Katy.

Standing in front of Wolf was a portly, bald man, holding four lighters. He was shaking each one of them to see which had the most fluid. After he had decided, he put one in his pocket and left the rest. He said, “I can get a hundred bucks for this in prison. The only other way to light a cigarette is to spark two electrical wires together.” He looked at his watch and said, “I’m going to be late.” He hurried off and returned a few minutes later. He grabbed his jacket off Shaggy’s cart and said, “Now, I’m really going to be late.” Again, he hurried off.

Wolf said, “That’s Kenny, my neighbor. He’s also my connection, I should say my white connection, but he got caught trying to sell two bricks to a narc. They gave him two years. There’s good money selling drugs, but it’s illegal, you take your chances.  Now, he’s going to turn himself in with fifty pills and a lighter up his ass. He knew it was coming. He’d only been putting off the inevitable.

“What I worry about is the baby pit bull terrier he has. I guess his roommate will be looking after him. He’s a big guy who rides with a motor cycle gang.

“My cousin was up from Virginia. He couldn’t get over how we drink beer on the street and smoke joints. Mind you down there you could be sitting there cleaning your gun. That would be fine, but pull out a joint or a beer and you’re looking at a prison sentence.

“That’s Virginia. I’ve heard it’s even worse in places like Alabama. When his son turned sixteen the first thing he did was to enroll him in the N.R.A. He figured that if his son was going to be around guns, he better know how to use one.”

Debbie turned to me and asked, “Did I tell you that I presented a paper at the university, about a housing project for the homeless. This professor put me down, made me look like a fool. What would he know about the homeless? You can listen to my ideas or not — I don’t give a fuck.

“One day I’m going to write a book.”

I said, “That’s a good idea, to write about the homeless.”

“It’ll go way deeper than that. I’ll show where the corruption started. It’s been all down hill from there.”

I asked, “Do you think that the government is to blame?”

“Partly, with all the treaties they broke, but it’s more than that. I’m looking for a sponsor. Do you know anybody who would sponsor me?”

“What would be required of this sponsor?”

“I’d need office supplies, paper, a filing cabinet.”

“How about a computer? Do you think that would help?”

“I don’t know anything about computers. I do everything the old-fashioned way.”

“Have you thought of using a computer at the library? They’re free.”

“I can’t go to the library. I’m banned. There’s a book I never returned. I can’t get a library card until I pay for that book.”

 

Proceeds feed the homeless when you buy my $0.99 book:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS

 

ps2

23 September 2015
I was approaching Rhea when a fire engine drove by with sirens blaring. I said hello, but she held up her hand indicating that she couldn’t hear.

“That’s four that have come by. Sirens scare me. I hate to think of someone being hurt.”

I asked, “Have you been sleeping better lately?”

“Yes, they moved me out of the room I was sharing and put me on a cot. I like it a lot better.”

I said, “I’ve been having trouble breathing lately. I have asthma and they’re renovating the building where I work.”

Leah reached into her backpack and pulled out a blue puffer. She said, I use this a couple of times a day. When it gets too bad I take pills. My voice sounds a bit raspy due to an operation I had on my throat when I was eighteen.”

“What operation did you have?”

“I fell off a fifty foot cliff. The last thing I remember was looking up and seeing purple, then I saw stars. Doctors had to do a tracheotomy. Now, my windpipe only has seventy per cent capacity.”

“Where are you originally from?”

“Nunavut.”

“Do you go back there often? I guess there aren’t many jobs available?”

“No, there aren’t, but I don’t miss the place.”

I left to visit my other friends at the park. Pierre was passing around a joint. He said, “This is the best weed you’ll ever taste. I grew it myself, no chemicals, just water. I still wish that they’d decriminalize it. I’d lose business, but if I could buy it at a reasonable price it would take it out of the black market and customers would know what they’re buying.

“There is a guy they call the $400. doctor. He’ll give anybody a year long prescription for medical marijuana. You don’t have to have anything wrong with you. He’ll just make something up. You give him $400. for the prescription and he’ll say, ‘See you next year.’ The problem with medical marijuana is that the buds have stems in them. They also reduce the potency with fillers. It has a THC content of about 9 percent. Of course, you can also take it by vaporizing, eating extracts, taking capsules or using oral sprays.

“You know, a while back, people were saying they were smoking hash laced with opium? It came with white powder on it. Do you know what that white stuff was? Mold, from coming in on ships from Viet Nam. It gave you an incredible high, but it was dangerous for your lungs.”

Jacques’ phone rang. He looked at the display and said, “Outcast, I think this is for you.”

I heard Outcast say, “Yeah, I’ll be coming home soon. I’m going to stop by the Food Bank for vegies. It’s the once a month one. I’ll be home in about an hour, or two, or three. No, I’m coming right home. Don’t start cooking anything, because I’m going to make my soup. Bye.

“We don’t have a relationship anymore, so we get along better. She does her thing, I do mine.

“Have you heard about the trouble between the uber drivers and the taxi companies. Yesterday a passenger was dragged out of an Uber car and forced into a cab. I can’t remember the company name. I don’t like the idea of Uber coming in, taking business away from the drivers who have to pay for a taxi licence. Also, I don’t think they are insured if a passenger is injured. On the other hand, the taxis are charging too much and it seems to be arbitrary. My girlfriend took a cab to the airport, it cost $37.00. For the return trip, exactly the same route, they charged $49.00. Where’s the logic in that?”

 
 
 

Read about my friends here  http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS