Ivo's Blog

"It's not the time to look for excuses." – Rafael Nadal

Step into my Shoes; A Homeless Person’s Life

February27

Greetings, bloggers!

This year our teacher gave us an assignment; we had to respond to homelessness in a unique way.  I decided to write a story about how the man lost his job, and I also included a “Day in the Life” story.  I hope you enjoy yourself while reading it; I tried to incorporate some humour.


STEP INTO MY SHOES; A HOMELESS PERSON’S LIFE

By Ivo Nikov

I was in pain.  Around six months ago, my back quit on me, and I worked as a carpenter.  I went to my local pharmacy to get some painkillers, and I found myself asking for more as often as the hammer hits the nail.

With no job and terrible pain, my painkiller dosage became higher and higher.  Eventually, nearly all the money in my bank account had been spent, and I clung to my friends’ couches, hoping to find a job.

I could easily describe myself as a person who panics when facing pressure, and every interview was going great until… I would say something unnecessary and embarrass myself, leaving with red cheeks.

I would have the employer laughing at my jokes, cracking some himself, and just having a lovely time.  A bit later, he would glance at his watch, and he’d realize that it is time for the next hopeful to come in.  I would panic and blurt out something like, “Oh, you look pretty darn chubby in that suit. Ha ha ha…”  He would give me an evil eye, followed by a nervous laugh.

After five months of enduring the embarrassment, I started to feel guilty because I hadn’t realized that I was staying at my friends’ houses.  I felt like I was letting them down, so I packed up my belongings, which were few – I had sold the rest to feed myself, and left.  My pals must have wondered, “Where is he? Let’s put up some ‘MISSING‘ posters,” because after hardly sleeping in my old box of a Volvo, my eye caught a flyer flailing off of a pole.  I slashed the paper off, my eyeballs nearly popping out of my head, staring at my own picture.

I took a walk to clear my mind of the strange flyer, and I found a poster that read, “Lecture on the Homeless, at 1867 Olya Avenue (the Community Centre, Presentation Room ‘C’), from 5:00 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. on October 5th.”  I thought that it would be interesting to hear what others think of people like me.  And with that, it was settled.  I just needed to know which day it was today, so I jogged to the nearest shop and asked an employee.  She told me it was the fourth of October.  Yahoo, I thought.  Tomorrow I would be listening to some people blabbing about their opinions and thoughts about people like me!

I woke up early the next day.  My watch read 7:00 A.M. I was starving, and I was thinking, “Where should I eat?”.  I decided to spend my day on Olya Avenue.  There was a nice little breakfast café that I entered.  I asked if they could give me their cheapest item, and in exchange, I would complete a task of their choice.  That bagel was delicious, and their floor now shimmers.

Here is one thing you don’t know about me: I am a decent singer, and who needs instruments? All you need is a simple beat, and it could come from a stick hitting a wall, or your hands clapping.  I took out a paper napkin from my breakfast, and laid it out on the ground.  I sang around twelve songs, including “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “Sharp Dressed Man”.  Earning around twenty-five dollars, I tucked the money into my pocket for later, but singing leaves you thirsty.  I didn’t want to spend some money on water.  There should be a fountain somewhere, and there was… approximately two kilometers away.  By the time I got back to Olya Avenue, I was dehydrated again, since I ran (silly me) in my winter coat, on a fairly warm day.  It was drenched in sweat, and I laughed sarcastically… at myself!

As time passed, I got tired and hungry, but I shoved back the urge to eat, and decided to take a nap on a street bench, though it was quite hard to fall asleep.  Annoyed by my restlessness, I went to read a book… not store bought, of course; what’s the point, when you have a library?  I jogged down to Boabby Road and entered their library, hoping to find a book that hooked me.  I asked a librarian what author he would recommend, and he kicked me out.  Why are people so threatened by others who simply do not have stable housing?

I stomped out, angry, and marched back to Olya Avenue.  I asked a resident what time it was, and he told me it was 4:45 P.M., so I rushed down to the Community Centre, getting there at around 4:48.  The clerk told me that the admission was ten dollars, which I thought was a bit too much, but I paid up, and dashed to Presentation Room “C”.

I honestly thought that I would be the only homeless person there, but two others showed up as well.  I did not just make an assumption, mind you – I started with a bit of small talk, and eventually dropped the subject into conversation.  They gave me a glance that made me feel uneasy, but let it go almost immediately.

After we talked for a few minutes, I had to say that they were nice people with deep pain inside. One of them had suffered from domestic abuse at sixteen by her stepfather, and had turned to alcohol.  She told me that her drinking was a mistake, but by the time she had realized it, she had no job and little money.

The other had left home at six years old.  He stated that his older brother struggled with addiction, and his parents argued over whose fault it was.  The little one just got caught in the middle of it, and decided to run away.  Being a six year old, you cannot find work; all you can do is sing, beg, and hope that somebody takes you in.  Unfortunately, the small child was mostly ignored on the streets, except for a few people dropping some nickels in just to look good.  He received just enough for the cheapest meal, but some employees at stores took pity on him, and cut him some slack.

By the time they had all told their stories, ten minutes had passed, and nearly everyone was seated. The three of us joined them, and the host started flapping his gums; thanking everyone for coming, acknowledgements, et cetera. Shortly after, he passed the microphone to somebody, and he actually started to talk about the homeless…

… opening by stating that far too many individuals are homeless in Canada; 150 000 to 300 000 people, out of about 36 500 000, are homeless in our country. That is nearly one percent of our population! After using numbers to bore us, he talked about the reasons for becoming homeless: with evictions, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, poor health, major injury, unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, family conflict, and more, ending the subject by saying that the main cause for homelessness in Canada is evictions, because of the high rent and people’s low income.

The audience gave him a round of applause, and only then did I realize that he was done. Behind him were others waiting for their turn to speak. The one in the front of the line stepped up to the podium. She looked like a nice person, and I thought to myself, “One is a host, one provides some information, and two lecturers talk about their opposite feelings on the topic. She must be the one who says that ‘it is not your fault'”, which turned out to be true. She said that our community is not working hard enough to maintain everybody’s housing, and focusing all the property on people who are very wealthy. “Sometimes your family is to blame. They might have suffered from domestic abuse, or such intense arguments that they left home. Other cases of homelessness are because of drug and alcohol abuse. This mostly applies to adolescents, because of their vulnerability to manipulation. Their peers could pressure them into trying dangerous recreational drugs like cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl”, she said, adding that rent is very high in Canada, and income can be the opposite, resulting in eviction because they cannot keep up with the rent.

And with that, she stepped off, and one final person rose and calmly walked to the podium. He started by saying, “Those hobos, living on the streets, it’s all their fault! They are always acting like they’ve gone through so much, and that life is unfair. They just have to suck it up, sober up, and get a job”, he said, not knowing that nearly every case of homelessness isn’t the homeless person’s fault (well, okay, sometimes it is, but it is never one hundred percent the person’s fault). They could have made terrible decisions, but those events are triggered by a previous one, in which another person was involved.

To be honest, I wasn’t listening to the final lecturer was saying; I only took the napkins out of my ears at the end, when he finished, saying, “So, all the homeless people are just a liability that made horrible decisions. It is all their fault. They are just less important than more financially successful individuals“.

He came off with a smug look on his face, and the host snatched the microphone out of the last speaker’s hands. He stood up straight, and said, “Well, I hope you have enjoyed these lecturer’s speeches. Do you have any questions, comments, or solutions to this issue?”. A couple of hands rose, and were called on.

One said to simply live on smaller properties. “We can still live happily without our 100 000 acres of land. What is the problem with living in apartment buildings? They have more than enough room”, he wondered.

Another requested a free session in which homeless people can talk about what is wrong, and others could offer a solution. The host said that that was a great idea, but they had to find someone who is willing to do that; maybe a counsellor.

The last person just asked what our community is doing to help. The host answered by saying, “We have two shelters in the city, and we are opening an area with beds; just a warm place to sleep. The food bank will provide some things to eat; and not just food out of a can. It will be prepared by some workers there, and they’re paid by the government. This place will open this January!”

After hearing the host saying goodbye, I took off with my two new friends. I still had hope – I would find myself a home. Not now; I was exhausted, but I felt that tomorrow I could surpass my panicky instinct at interviews…


Well, I hope you enjoyed the story, and I encourage you to write one as well.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for this piece of writing, feel free to comment!

Thank you, and I wish you a math-crammed day.

Sincerely,

Ivo N.

 

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