Homes and Homelessness

I left home when I was 15 to be with a much older man and moved to a strange city. When it quickly became evident that the relationship wasn’t working, I left the home I shared with him. I took the bus back to my home city and slept outside my mother’s door because I was too scared of what she would say if I knocked. I’m guessing most people know this, but for those parents who don’t know – never be so judgmental that your kids are afraid to turn to you for help.

But I digress. I made the trip back to my new city. I paid for admission to a movie theatre, and hid and slept there for a couple of days. I rode the bus so I could sleep in relative safety. Being homeless was a challenge, if only for a week or so. Luckily, I found a job and was able to rent a room in an old Edwardian house. That was the first home I was able to provide for myself.

As an occasional sufferer of panic attacks, I feel truly blessed to have been able to maintain a home. When I see a homeless person, my first thought is that “there for the grace of God go I.” My introduction to homelessness in Edmonton was when I lived in a condo overlooking the Promenade in Oliver. This woman rented her suite out to formerly homeless people. The result was a culture clash. This building was full of professional people and having someone knock on their door at 10:30 p.m. to introduce themselves was not welcomed. When I told these same neighbours that I was moving to Boyle Street, they told me I was moving to skid row.

Contrary to stereotypes, I’ve found most homeless and under-housed people here are very sociable and generally helpful. The few who aren’t are often under the influence, and let me not judge lest I be judged. Everybody gets to be who they are by honest means. I’ve often been helped out by people whose fortunes have swung widely. I’ve been able to connect with them when they were down on their luck and they have helped me with many tasks that I can’t do myself and with their help I’ve been able to maintain my house.

Having a home gives me the freedom from the worry about taking care of myself. I feel safe in these four walls and I can’t imagine what it would be like to be uncertain of where I would sleep if I didn’t have a home. Since the Ice District has opened. we are seeing more “cart people” in Boyle Street as they are being asked to move away from the arena so that event-goers are not reminded of their existence. Asking a homeless person to move is the most unkind of acts. If a group of my peers were standing on the street, no one would dare ask us to move. I fail to see how people struggling financially have fewer rights than I do.

Can we try to be more friendly with the homeless? A simple smile or a hello would be a first step. A second step would be to vote in politicians who are committed to ending homelessness. We know that providing people with homes is more cost effective than paying for police and ambulance calls. It’s also kinder and more humane.

Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.

More in this issue

Neighbourhood Views

  • Speaking Truth to Power – The annual Outdoor Way of the Cross took place on March 30 (Good Friday). Around 300 people took part in the walk, with numbers down a bit due to the cold weather - the coldest temperatures in the walk’s 39-year history. This year’s theme was “Speaking truth to power,” a Quaker saying used in the 50s and 60s in anti-war activities (and based on Jesus saying “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”). Stations looked at housing security, Truth and Rec- onciliation recommendations, police/courts/prisons, the environment, working people, and older people/isolation. For the first time, the Cross was carried past the new Royal Alberta Museum building. Michael Hoyt

  • Ukrainian Community Easter Celebration – On March 17 and 18, the exhibition of archive photos “History of UNF, UWO & UNYF in Pictures” took place at the Ukrainian National Federation hall located at 10629 98 Street. The Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) celebrated its 85th anniversary last year, and on March 23, 2018 the Ukrainian Women’s Organization (UWO) celebrated its 85th anniversary. The exhibition featured photographs from 1934 to 2012. Pictured above are participants in a watercolour workshop by artist Valeriy Semenko (front, kneeling). Mykola Vorotylenko

  • Ukrainian Community Easter Celebration – On March 17 and 18, the exhibition of archive photos “History of UNF, UWO & UNYF in Pictures” took place at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall located at 10629 98 Street. The exhibition featured photographs from 1934 to 2012. Pictured above is the youth ensemble Dzherelo during a concert featuring young performers. Mykola Vorotylenko

  • Fuel for Hunger Feeds Thousands – Moe Duval (front) and his crew of volunteers served chili lunches on the street by Bissell Centre and other inner city locations every Sunday during the winter months. The group, which is not affiliated with any agency, made the chili them- selves and served about 6500 bowls of chili between December and March (approximately 500 bowls each Sunday). For more information, search for “Fuel for Hunger” on Facebook. Jim Gurnett

  • Pets: A Part of Home – One part of “home” for me, is the pets we keep as part of our family. They provide love, affection, joy, and hope when we need it most. My two rescue dogs keep me walking when I don’t even feel like going outside, because they love to go for walks. Last month, I lost one of my rescued cats, Charlie, who I named after my grandfather. He was only about eight years old, but a month or so ago his breathing became laboured, and he began to lose weight. He never complained - he just wanted to sit on my lap and be stroked, so we did that. He died on Saturday night, April 7. My home feels so different without him. I took this photo of him in March, and to me he looks unwell even then. Poor little guy. I miss him. Joanne McNeal

  • Thanking the Plows – 110 Avenue in McCauley, between 92 Street and 95 Street, is very narrow because it was one of the first streets in Edmonton to have houses built along it. So, in the winter, the plows have nowhere to move the snow to but onto the sidewalk. When the snow began to melt this spring, it made huge puddles on the sidewalks, which turned to ice at night and made the road so narrow it was almost impassible. Joanne called the City and asked for their help to move the ice and snow. A few days later, two snowplows arrived and did an excellent job of cleaning up the spring mess. She wrote and thanked them for their work, and her photos are being included in a City employee newspaper, along with her thanks. It never hurts to say thank you when people do a great job! Joanne McNeal

Around the Neighbourhood

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