Friday, November 5, 2010

Powerful stories

We had the official launch party last night for This is My City Art Society. While attendance wasn't as strong as we had hoped, those who were there were treated to a cornucopia of visual and performing arts created during the year long pilot project of This is My City in 2009. they also got a taste of some of the performing arts to be launched at One Yellow Rabbit's, High Performance Rodeo in January.

Our goal, to continue to build upon the project so that other cities across Canada and the US and other parts of the world begin to engage their citizens in creative and powerful ways in the dialogue surrounding homelessness. To create opportunities for artists on both sides of the street to express themselves in ways that empower change, enlighten people and engage them in creating kinder more caring communities.

As part of the event, my youngest daughter and two friends spent a couple of evenings at the shelter interviewing clients so they could write-up their 'stories'. The goal was to have the stories available for people to read and hopefully, gain understanding of the 'human being' experiencing homelessness. To be touched by the human elements of what happened to drive them so far from home.

These are powerful stories of everyday people whose lives have been touched by homelessness. These are a few of the stories.

Name: Earl

As a child, Earl was constantly abused by his father. On more than one occasion, Earl suffered such horrible abuse that he was sure his father intended to kill him. He credits his mother for stepping in and literally saving his life. Eventually, Earl’s mother found the courage to leave Earl’s father, taking Earl along with her. Although he was free of his father, Earl’s problems were far from over. He says that his mother and other family members hung around with a rough crowd, which caused him to get into all sorts of trouble. He developed a number of harmful addictions. Later on in life, Earl’s addiction issues led his ex-wife and family to kick him out onto the streets. This was just 6 months after his baby daughter died in his arms. Earl eventually found himself in the DI.

Earl claims that he is clean and sober now, and the only thing holding him back in life is a lack of employment. He is currently waiting to begin a full-time job. Earl is confident that after he becomes a full-time worker, he will leave the DI.

He wants what he used to have back. He wants to reconnect with his family, especially his 12 year old daughter. He says that it is important to keep heart and soul alive, and that despite all the hardships he has faced, there is no room for sadness.


Henry has been living at the DI in order to save money from his job at Wal-Mart and send $2000 a month to his wife of 42 years living in the Philippines with his children. He met her when he was on a mission there and raised all nine of their children together before coming back to Canada in hopes of bringing her over.

Henry is a Pentecostal preacher and says he has never swore, drank or done drugs. He attends church every Sunday and Wednesday and lives by the word of God. He says others would describe him as a kind and compassionate man. He believes that everyone deserves a fair chance and that we enter this world with nothing therefore we should leave this world with nothing. Henry says that if he won the lottery he would send all the money to the Philippines to build a factory to help the ultra poor who would be given 90% of the profits. Henry plans on leaving the DI in two months when he will move into a motor home he purchased with his wife.


Johnny has been living at the DI for 2 months. He moved here from Kelowna because Alberta has better disability services then BC. Johnny was born in Alberta and spent his childhood growing up all over Alberta and BC. Last year Johnny got to tour the east coast with his Dad who lives there. Johnny enjoys many things in life including Horseback Riding and movies. His favourite movies being ones about Vampires, yes even Twilight. He recently purchased a lap top making it easier to watch movies.

Johnny says the most important things in life are love and romance. Something most people don’t know about Johnny is the fact he can say Hello in five different languages and that he has nine tattoos. He got his first tattoo at 17 without asking his parents. Johnny says if he won the lottery he would buy a ranch up by Fort MacLeod and then donate the rest of the money to a children’s hospital.


Bob is the proud manager, agent and promoter of a six piece Edmonton band made up of all ex-homeless people. Bob has been staying at the DI on and off for 3 years and came here from Edmonton 15 years ago. He says he would never move back to Edmonton but still goes back to visit his younger sister and her two sons in university.

Bob volunteers serving breakfast or lunch at the DI everyday and really appreciates the staff who work there. He says it is his strong faith in God that gets him through the tough times. Something most people don’t know about Bob is that he is a very talented saxophone player.


Oka is a proud single father to his 19 year old son in military school. He was born on the Oka reserve close to Montréal and grew up both on the reserve and in Montreal. He ended up at the DI 2 weeks ago when he was late paying his rent at another shelter. He had moved into that shelter after leaving a 7 month abusive relationship.

The things that are most important to Oka are his sons’ education and safety, health and well being. He speaks English, French, Mohawk and some Cantanese. He is passionate about writing and enjoys watching movies. He says other people would say he was trusting perceptive and compassionate. He calls the DI personality in and says why watch TV when you can watch the DI.


Dave is a born and raised Calgarian. He was born at the Grace Hospital at 6:15 in the morning weighing 7 pounds and 6 ounces. The most important things to him in life are his mother and 4 ½ year old daughter. He sees his mother every week and often accompanies her to different horticulture events as they are both avid members of the orchid society. One of his favourite stories to tell about his mother is the time when he was young and she slipped and broke her ankle. When the paramedics came and asked her if this was the most excruciating pain she had ever felt and she answered no pointed at him and said that was. He sees his daughter as often as possible and says she is absolutely wonderful. He says she is very lucky because although him and her mother did not work out she has an am amazing mother who is doing a fantastic job raising her.

He has been living at the DI for two years and says it is a very close society although many people have a bad perception of its not a bad place, many people call it home. Dave is an avid reader and says books and cigarettes are like gold at the DI. He also enjoys astrology and photography.

Something many people don’t know about him is his education. He finished grade 12 has two years of schooling as an electrical engineer. He also has his journeyman painting and 2 years apprentice plumbing and almost finished his bachelor degree in science.


Maureen said...

These portraits are so important. They give each of the individuals a name, family, a story. . . reminding us all of their humanity.

Brandi said...

LOVE this....thank you for sharing :)