In August 2018, I lost everything: my nice apartment, my money, a lifetime of memories. With my limited finances, I decided to rent a room in the building where I lived. The person who rented out the room to me kept the rent money and kicked me out after 10 minutes. I ended up on the street. I went to the Gay Village, a neighborhood I know well because I had lived there in the past.
Seven years ago, I worked for L’Itinéraire for about four years. I know about all the resources for homeless women, so I took the necessary steps to get a bed in one of the shelters, but it was a lost cause. These places are overcrowded. Because of the huge lack of shelters for women, I had to sleep on the street for two months.
I was lucky; nothing happened to me. I wasn’t attacked, but I was robbed and drugged with GHB — the date rape drug. One evening, I met a man on Sainte-Catherine Street who helped me while I was homeless. He was an angel and he stayed with me for a while.
Under the stars
In August and September, the temperature was excellent. It was hot; very hot. We slept on the river bank in the Old Port. The view of the city of Montreal was magnificent. The Ferris wheel was lit up in purple and a family of ducks came to visit us.
But when you wake up in the morning and you have to go to the toilet, nothing’s open, so you do your business outside, hidden in the bushes. It was a humbling experience.
I’m 60 years old. I have multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis and asthma. The humidity made me suffer so much that I cried every morning. In the two months that I was homeless, I walked so much in the city that I lost 50 pounds and I hurt my feet. I had blisters on all my toes. I suffered enormously. I wonder how I was able to survive and keep my spirits up. During this period, I volunteered in the kitchen at L’Itinéraire. It helped me keep my bearings. I also sold the magazine to make a little money.
There is a resource called Le Sac à Dos [The Backpack], at the corner of De Bullion and Sainte-Catherine, where people can shower in the morning. They serve homemade soup every day. I was aware of this place because I had worked there in the past. I washed homeless men’s clothing. There is also l’Accueil Bonneau, which offers a meal in the morning. The food is excellent and the staff is very welcoming.
Like a five-star hotel
I managed to get a bed for a few days at the Old Brewery Mission in the Patricia McKenzie Pavilion and also at the Maison Jacqueline, a shelter that is part of an organization called La Rue des Femmes [Womens’ Street]. It’s like a five-star hotel. They welcome us with so much love and treat us with a lot of empathy. But you can only stay for three days and have to wait another three days before coming back. If you’re lucky, you can get a bed — but it’s difficult.
On a more positive note, I met a lot of good people during my journey. One of them was Steve, who put nail polish on my toenails in a park on a beautiful day. He found Burberry sunglasses and gave them to me. Vampire (aka Sergio) made me laugh so much. Sylvain gave me a beautiful silver chain. The L’Itinéraire vendors supported me too; I felt like I had come home.
Today I live in a room near L’Itinéraire. Damn, I’m so happy! For the moment, everything is fine.
I wrote this article because I want people to know that homelessness can happen to anyone and also to tell people how to get off the street.
Translated from French to English by Michelle Daniel; Courtesy of L’Itinéraire / INSP
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