Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

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20 September 

This morning Joy was hyper, tense, and a bit drunk. She made a comment to a woman passing by (I think it was one of our new employees), “Hey, Sweetheart, you need to get more of a tan!”

The woman replied, “Thank you so much for the fashion advice.”

Joy’s bedroom ceiling was leaking last night during a rainstorm. It was dripping onto her air mattress. She kicked her roommate off the couch (where he had passed out watching television).

She is nervous about her court appearance Friday for an assault charge against Jake. Her lawyer expects the case to go in her favor since Jake has been charged four times with assaulting Joy. He is also well known to the police. He served one-year last time, but it’s expected that, with this latest charge, he will go to the penitentiary for a long stay.

“I have problems being in confined places with a lot of people. I was in a cell with four women who were very agitated and noisy. I checked myself into the psych. ward. I was fine, drawing with colored pencils. Then, another woman was brought in who screamed continually.

“I just lost it, man (pointing to her head). I started stabbing myself in my private places with the pencils. Then they put me on suicide watch.”

 

27 September 2011

Joy was in relatively good spirits, “I’ve got these abdominal cramps because of my period. Also, I think I’m starting ‘mentalpause’. I remember when my mom had it.”

“My roommate wants to bring his son to stay with us. He’s in grade ten. I don’t know how that will work out.

“My court case has been moved up to October nineteenth. I’m not overly worried about it. It’s only a parole violation. There will be a pre-trial, then a trial; but my lawyer expects that it will eventually be thrown out of court. Jake, on the other hand, has been charged with assault, assault with bodily harm and attempted murder. My lawyer says he’ll be sent to the penitentiary for a long time. A friend of mine says that the next time he sees Jake he’s going to kill him, for what he did to me.

4 October

Joy said, “I have an appointment this afternoon with my parole officer, she asked, ‘Will you be drunk? I said, ‘I don’t know. We’ll see.’

“Now we have four adults and four kids, aged five, six, thirteen and fourteen, staying at the house. I end up doing a lot of babysitting, cooking, and cleaning. Some of the adults, and some of the kids, and I don’t get along. One of the kids said, ‘I don’t have to do what you say, you can’t hit me.’ I said to him, “I can’t hit you, but I know kids your age who can.”

I was surprised to see her on the sidewalk one morning when it was raining. She said she had to get away from the house because of the kids.

7 October

This morning was see your breath cold. I met Joy as I got off the bus. She gave me a big hug, said, “I was freezing my ass off sitting on the sidewalk, I’m going home.”

I asked her how things were working out with the kids. She said, “I gave my notice to my roommate, said I was leaving. He asked the other family to move out. It’s not like they were contributing anything. Now it’s just my roommate and his fourteen-year-old son. I get along fine with him.

“I just got tired of the responsibility of caring for somebody else’s children. I’ve raised my family. Anyway, I wasn’t being paid for it or even thanked. The parents just neglected to care for them. The five-year-old girl hadn’t had a change of underwear in four days. It’s heartbreaking that some parents are allowed to have children.”

~~~

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2 September 2011

Joy was crying and drinking sherry mixed with water. Her disability check was sent to the wrong address. There is a new resident at Cornerstone House who is driving her crazy. The resident is eighteen years old and does nothing but talk to herself. Joy is hoping to move to a friend’s basement in the near future.

She has cracked cartilage in her nose with a gash across the bridge, two black eyes, and pneumonia in both lungs. Her boyfriend (who is 6’3″ and weighs over 200 pounds) punched her in the face when she wouldn’t give him oral sex (she couldn’t breathe through her nose because of her pneumonia). He left her on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. A month ago he kicked her to the point that her whole right side was bruised, she had two cracked and two fractured ribs. In both cases, she phoned the police, so hopefully this time he will be in jail for a long time.

I sat with her, gave her a big hug, and let her vent.

“I love Jake, but I have to take care of myself. I can’t be somebody’s punching bag. One day he’s going to kill me.”

I can’t believe that she lets him anywhere near her. She even felt bad about phoning the police. Then he stole her phone. I’ve been hearing these stories since I first met her. I can’t figure it out.

Joy’s friends have told her that this guy will kill her one day, and she believes it. Originally, they were to move into their friend’s basement together. Now, the friend says that Big Jake is not allowed to move in. He has been responsible for all the other beatings Joy has received in the past two years.

She apologized for venting her feelings to me. I mentioned that she had done the same for me. She said, “Yeah, that’s what friends are for. Right?” That’s when I gave her a hug.

 

12 September 2011

“I’m moving into a house with a friend. It’s really nice, lots of room. We didn’t have an exciting weekend, we just spent time organizing the house. Everything seems to be going relatively well.” She was rubbing her hand and said, “My roommate was drunk and acting like a bozo last week, so I gave him a shot in the head. I think I broke my hand again. I didn’t go tho the hospital, but it really hurts, that and the arthritis in my knees. Cops tell me to get up, and I say to them, ‘Where would you like me to sit since I can’t stand?’ If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

“I got a letter from Jake, through a friend who lives at the shelter where I used to be. It had a dream catcher inside. I taught him how to make those. He doesn’t know my new address, my friend won’t tell him. In the letter, Jake apologized and said that he felt bad for nearly killing me. He asked me to appear in court for him and to change my testimony. He wants me to say that we were both drunk and that I don’t remember what happened.

“I don’t know what to do. I still love him but I’m not willing to risk a charge of perjury, or obstruction of justice. That would put me back inside. Even if Jake does go to jail, he will be getting out some time and will be looking for me. He’ll find me because we have the same friends and go to the same places. I don’t want to move to another city just to get away from him.”

 

14 September 2011

Antonio, a mutual friend of ours, was badly beaten as he slept on a park bench. Some guys came along and punched and kicked him for no reason leaving him with two broken ribs, a black eye, the side of his face purple, and swollen. He also has a concussion. Now, he sleeps in another park with surveillance cameras. He is a tiny man, he probably doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds. I just feel sick thinking about him.

 

15 September 2011

This morning was very revealing. I was approaching Joy and was about to enter the restaurant where I buy her sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin when she waved at me and beckoned me to come over. She asked, “Can I change my order? I’d like a toasted sesame seed bagel with double cream cheese. Would that be okay?” (There is a point to this.)

I returned with her bagel and sat next to her on the sidewalk. She smiled and began eating the bagel, “Lately, I love cream cheese. People ask me if I’m pregnant and I tell them that if I am I’ll sue the doctor.

“I’ve been having trouble eating sausage. It gives me severe heartburn. It’s because I have this wire cage in my stomach — Long story short, I used to be a crack dealer. I’d mix the crack with flavored spritzers, grape, strawberry, and pink lemonade. I sell this guy a pink one, he gets a buzz, everything is great — happy customer. He goes inside for a while then comes out again. He asks for another pink one. ‘Look, man, I only got purple and red, but it’s all the same shit.’ He goes berserk and says I’m trying to rip him off.

“He reaches in his coat and pulls out a saw-toothed machete. He stabbed me in the stomach, then pulled it up through my ribs. My stomach was cut up so bad they had to reconstruct it. Now, I have this chicken wire cage holding everything together. They made a small upper chamber and a larger one below. Now, food goes into the small chamber where it’s predigested. Sometimes it doesn’t stay, it comes right back up. I have to be real careful about what I eat.”

Joy had to pee and asked if I would wait with her stuff. She said, “Any change you make you can keep.” When she returned she said that I looked really cool sitting there. (I didn’t make any money, but I had a first-hand view of panhandling on the street — the dirty looks, averted eyes, One woman said, “Good luck.” I think she meant it seriously.

 

~~~

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24 March 2011

I sat with Joy this morning. It was very cold last night and Joy’s friend had slept outside. He said that being drunk helped him through the night.

Joy was feeling sick and her voice was hoarse. She had a black eye from her boyfriend. She told me that she has never had a job, a legal one, anyway.

She was told that she owes $67,000. While she was incarcerated her mother ran up a lot of bills in her name including fines for drinking in public. Whenever Joy talks about money I get nervous. She’s a sweet person, but she has made her choices and will never change. I bought her breakfast and left it at that.

 

14 April 2011

Crying and having trouble speaking this morning, because of a fat lip, Joy said that she’d been beaten again. She didn’t know that her ex had a key to her apartment. He let himself in and that’s when the trouble began. She called the police and they took him away (again).

Joy has lots of friends. This morning I had to stand in line to talk to her. My conversation, sausage, and cheese on an English muffin, steeped tea (double, double) is the best I can do. Her smile is reward en enough for any kindness that I can offer.

I don’t know why it hit me so hard today. I know I can’t fix anything and it’s going to keep happening. I gave her a hug. She said,”God bless you.”

 

13 June 2011

It’s been a month since I’ve seen Joy. She’s been in hospital and has lost a lot of weight. She is now on kidney dialysis and uses a cane to help her walk.

She was evicted from the place she was living because, while in the hospital, she couldn’t pay her rent. Her furniture, and other belongings, were all put on the lawn. She tried some of the shelters but said that they were disgusting.

She is staying with, as she called them, “so called friends”. They told her that she had to bring home $30.00 today or they would throw her out. She had been sitting on the sidewalk since 6:00 am ( through the rain) and only had $10.00 in her cap.

I bought her tea and breakfast. There is only so much I can do.

 

14 June 2011

The good news is that Joy has started to pee again. She thinks that she will only be required to have dialysis for another week. Her biggest fear is infection from some of the shelters where she has to sleep. She has a place for now, so I hope things go well.

 

15 June 2011

I saw Joy this morning. She was feeling more cheerful. Her blood pressure is low so they aren’t able to warm the blood that they circulate through her system. She feels very cold during the five-hour process. She goes again this afternoon from 1:00 to 6:00 pm,
24 June 2011

Joy was more cheerful, even though she had to keep dodging rain showers. She has found a place to stay until next week and a social worker is helping her to fill in forms for assisted living.

Her dialysis is going well, she will be at the hospital again today. She is peeing more and tests on her kidneys indicate that they are functioning. She’s hoping that her problem will clear up in a few weeks.

 

14 July 2011

Yesterday, my boss noticed me with Joy. We were both sitting cross legged on the sidewalk. Her cap with change was in front of her. Her arm was around me and I was pouring my heart out to her. I explained to my boss that I occasionally buy her a sandwich and tea. She accepted that and said it was a kind gesture.

I talked to Joy this morning. Yesterday she had no shoes. A friend of hers noticed this, asked her size, then came back with a $150.00 pair of women’s leather shoes that he’d stolen from Sears. Another friend of hers was arrested for stealing a block of cheese. She admitted that her kidney damage was due to alcohol.

After I left her she was going to the bridge where she could be in the shade and play dice with her friends.

 

9 August 2011

It nearly broke my heart to see Joy this morning. She was sitting on the sidewalk, wrapped in a blanket, sobbing her eyes out. Doctors have found toxins in her blood which may mean kidney problems. This afternoon she is going to the hospital for a spinal tap to determine whether or not she has meningitis.

She has been kept awake with vomiting and diarrhea. I offered her a breakfast sandwich, but all she wanted was steeped tea, three sugar, one cream. She is losing weight and is fed up with being sick.

The good news is she now has a place at Cornerstone House, so she is able to shower, have a clean bed, and eat good meals. Eventually, she will be able to save first and last months rent towards a place of her own.

~~~

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23 February 2011

Joy greeted me this morning, “Hi Sweetie, it’s good to see you. I’ve been sick lately due to this cold. The guy, who sometimes sleeps here, told me that he’s been staying at the Shepherds, but he finds it very rough and noisy. Still, I’m happy that he isn’t sleeping on the sidewalk. I stayed there once, but never again. It’s no place for a woman.”

When we finished our conversation she said, “Bye Sweetie.” It made me feel so good seeing her again, knowing that she was uninjured and relatively safe.

~~~

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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

13 February 2011

I worked at the Shepherds last night. I was washing dishes (not what I particularly enjoy, since there is not much interaction with the guests). I heard a tapping behind me (which I ignored), it continued so I turned around. Some of the regulars help sporadically with kitchen duties, although I haven’t been there long enough to know who does what. I turned around and J.P. was standing at the pass-through where I stack the trays. He pointed at a tray of cups. I said, “Oh, you want a cup?” and commenced to hand him one.

‘No, I want the whole fucking tray, sir.”

It was so incongruous that I couldn’t take offense. I smiled and said, “Here you go, Thank you very much for your help.”

This seemed to surprise him since he is usually the first to start fights, but he brought more dishes into the kitchen, for which I thanked him and he grunted which is probably the closest to a positive response that he is capable of. I am feeling more and more at home there. These people truly need friends who will help and encourage them.

 

~~~

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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

19 December 2013

A crowd of people surrounded Joy. One of her regulars was standing beside her, as was Ghyslain. Big Jake was in front of her in his electric wheelchair.

Another woman stopped and said, “Hi, Joy,  if I don’t see you before Christmas, here’s something for you.” It was a folded twenty-dollar bill.

“Oh, thanks!”

Joy handed me an envelope. It was a Christmas card that read:  ‘Wishing you all the peace and beauty the Christmas Season Brings.’ In a neatly hand-written message below was, ‘Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Thank you for everything. ~ Joy’.

“Hi, man,” said Ghyslain, are you working tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be working tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.”

“You’ll get off early on the twenty-fourth, won’t you?”

“Not as far as I know. They may let us leave early if there’s no work coming in. I’ll have to wait and see.”

“You must be looking forward to seeing your brother and sister in Rimouski.”

“Yeah, I have a mother there as well. She’s eighty-nine, lives in a nursing home, and has Alzheimer’s. She won’t recognize me, but it’s for her that I’m going. This will be her last Christmas.  She broke a rib recently, so they put her in hospital. The doctor says she may only have two, maybe three months left. It’s sad, but they have her on morphine, she has no pain.”

Big Jake came over to talk to Ghyslain, so I took the opportunity to say a few words to Joy. “How did yesterday go?”

“It was okay, quiet. I bought some groceries, so we ate well. I cooked chicken.”

“How did Jake’s appointment with the doctor go? Does he have a date for his hip replacement?”

“I don’t know, we didn’t get into that. He came down this morning because he has an appointment with his parole officer.

“As soon as Butthead leaves, I’m going home to get some peace and quiet. I guess I shouldn’t call him that at this time of year, but I can be an asshole at Christmas as well as any other time. He’s used to it.”

~~~

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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

 

18 December 2013

Joy was huddled on her plastic crate, newspapers under her feet. She waved at me from halfway down the block.

“Am I ever glad to see you. I have to pee. I haven’t gone since I got here. I’m nearly busting.  There was such a lineup I didn’t figure I could get through. It seems okay now. I’ll be right back.”

Ghyslain arrived with two large steaming, paper cups. “Where’s Joy?”

“She’s just gone to pee. She’ll be right back.”

“I got tea for her, just the way she likes it.”

“How was your night?”

“Not bad. It wasn’t as cold as the night before.” I handed him a Tim Horton’s card.

“Thanks, Dennis, I’ll hang on to this. I’ve still got two in my pocket, one you gave me yesterday, so I’m good. Don’t give me one tomorrow. A guy yesterday gave me a card. He said he’d put fifty dollars on it. I took it, said thanks. I didn’t believe him; I hadn’t seen him before, but I bought my coffee and it showed there was still forty-eight dollars on it. You never know.”

Joy returned all smiles. Ghyslain handed her one of the cups.

“I got you a coffee… No, I’m just kidding. I know you don’t like coffee. I got you a tea. There are cream and sugar in the bag.”

A woman stopped and gave Joy a bag. The woman left. Joy said, “I wish people wouldn’t give me food. One woman asked me if I’d like a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I just told her, ‘No.’ This looks like a muffin. I don’t know what kind it is. Half of the stuff I don’t like, especially granola bars.”

Ghyslain said, “Yeah, I can’t eat granola bars. Yesterday a woman was looking my way as she walked towards me.  She was also digging in her purse, so I thought she would give me something. Do you know what she gave me? … a peppermint. It’s thirty-five below and she gives me a peppermint.

“I see Chuck staring at me. I don’t know what he’s got against me, but some of the things he says piss me off. He told one woman not to give me money because  I smoked crack. You know me, I don’t smoke crack. Why would he say that about me? We’re all the same…”

Joy said, “He used to say things about me… before I straightened him out.”

“Here comes the old man. He’s got a doctor’s appointment today.”

Big Jake wheeled towards us. It was getting crowded so I said, “I’d better be getting to work.” I shook hands all around and walked away towards Chuck.

“Hi Chuck, how are you doing?”

“I’m here, that’s about all I can say. I don’t think I’ll be here tomorrow.  My nerves are shot. I’m not very good company when I get this way. Actually, this is the way I usually am.”

“I have to go to work, Chuck, but I hope you feel better soon.”

~~~

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17 December 2013

This morning was the coldest yet. Numbers don’t give an accurate indication but exposed skin freezes in ten minutes. Both Joy and Ghyslain were out today. Joy was sitting on a plastic crate wearing an army parka, scarf over her face, drinking a large cup of tea.  Ghyslain was standing, as usual.

“Hi, Joy, it’s good to see you. How are things going with Big Jake?”

“He’s starting to piss me off. He doesn’t get up until nine o’clock. I’m going to have to be out here every day until Christmas to get some money.”

“How are you doing, Ghyslain? Did you sleep outside again last night?”

“Yeah, same place. I went to sleep at about seven o’clock. At two-thirty I was freezing, so I went to Tim Hortons for a coffee. I stayed there until I was warm.

”Went to the Mission for lunch today. You know how they have the surveillance cameras and the guards posted at the door. They stopped this one guy, lifted up the back of his shirt. He was covered in bed bug bites. They wouldn’t let him in. I don’t know why they stopped him from coming in. It’s not his fault.

“Saturday, I go to Rimouski, to visit my brother and sister. I contacted Share Your Ride — have you ever heard of them? I got a good price. To go by bus costs a hundred and fifty bucks. It’ll be good to see my family.”

Joy was cold and had to leave. I walked with Ghyslain to the corner. He wanted to get a free newspaper, probably for warmth.

I said, “I didn’t have much chance to talk to Joy. Do you know how she and Jake are getting along?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I don’t trust that guy.  I never have. Maybe he’s okay, but I don’t trust him.”

~~~

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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

 

16 December 2013

Last night was the coldest we’ve had this winter minus twenty-eight degrees Celsius (minus nineteen degrees Fahrenheit).  I didn’t see Ghyslain, but his duffel bag was in his usual spot. I thought he must be nearby, so I waited. After a few minutes, I saw him coming out of Tim Horton’s. He waved to me.

“Man, it’s a cold one, especially with the wind. I can only stay out for about fifteen minutes at a time.”

I said, “So, I guess you slept at the Salvation Army last night.”

“No, I slept outside. See that building on the corner. There’s a parking lot behind that. I slept at the far end.”

“I don’t know how you managed,” I said. “I’ve slept outdoors when it was plus nine degrees. I shivered all night.”

“It wasn’t so bad. I have a warm sleeping bag. It was just the wind, especially at around three-thirty. I think that was the coldest part of the morning.”

I asked, “When you sleep at the Salvation Army, do they wake you up very early?”

“Yeah, around seven.”

“So, how was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. There aren’t many people downtown, they’re all at the malls.”

I had to get to work, so I said, “Goodbye, Ghyslain, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, maybe. Joy might be here tomorrow. I don’t know.”

 

~~~

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Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

 

13 December 2013

This morning was painfully cold, minus fifteen degrees (five degrees Fahrenheit), and with the windchill, it felt like minus twenty-five (minus thirteen degrees F.). I had a scarf wrapped around my face, but the wind against my forehead was a searing burn, near to being unbearable. Seeing my friend from yesterday was a surprise.

“Hello, my friend. It’s a cold one isn’t it?”

“Hi, your name is Ghyslain, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“I have a hard time remembering names. Even people I’ve known for five years; I forget their names. Where did you sleep last night?

“I slept inside.”

“Were you at the Mission or the Salvation Army…”

“Salvation Army. It’s really dirty there.”

“Were you bothered by bed bugs?”

“I didn’t ask for a bed, they’re on the second floor. I just asked for a mat. I slept in the basement.”

“Are there no bed bugs in the mats?”

“I cleaned it with alcohol before I put my sleeping bag down.”

“Jacques used to bring bed bug spray with him, whenever he slept in any of the shelters.”

“Yeah, alcohol does the same.”

“Do the mats have plastic covers?”

“Yeah, I just took a rag, poured alcohol on it, and wiped the mat.”

“How long have you been on the streets? How many years?”

“Twenty. I started in 1995.”

“What was it that caused you to be on the streets?”

“I had an addiction problem since I was twenty-five. When you’re addicted you end up on the street. I used to live in Quebec, but I owe money there, so I moved here.”

“Do you get any pensions, or street allowance?”

“I get the GST (Goods and Services Tax) Rebate and some others. In January I’ll be getting Welfare. My worker has set up the papers for me.

“After twenty years on the street, they want to see you housed. She wants me to live at Hunt Club, but that’s too far. I need to be downtown.”

“Little Jake, Shakes, and I live in Cabbagetown. Shark and Irene used to live there. It takes us fifteen minutes to get downtown on the 501.”

“I gotta get out of this cold. Thanks, man. Maybe I’ll see you next week.” He packed his belongings into a duffel bag and headed off towards the coffee shop.

~~~

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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