Our street outreach program, Humanize Homelessness, seeks to do just that. We interview individuals with lived experience to elevate their voices and destigmatize this community.
We aim to create a space where people with lived experience feel included, acknowledged and valued, while improving the public’s understanding of homelessness and it’s complexities.
Below are some stories that we have collected from people experiencing homelessness.
"I’m telling you Powwow songs, traditional style, to go from traditional to peyote is actually healing. Sometimes I do notice other people in the same position as me, I sing the songs for them."
"I want everyone to be as one"
"My cat brings me happiness, like if it wasn't for him I wouldn't even bother getting up in the morning. Because of him I get up everyday. His name is Konik, he's two years old and he's a short hair grey tabby and he's the sweetest thing"
Diane + Merlin
"I'm homeless, and the only thing that keeps me going is my cat. I've had him for six years and he's always lived in houses or apartments and now he lives in a shelter and I'm happy that he can be in the shelter, I'm thankful for that because many shelters have stopped letting pets stay with them. His name is Merlin, and I just think that for me, when I get up in the morning he is the thing that gives me hope, makes me want to have things. I think people have to understand that you need someone. Like I have my family in the UK, here it's just me. So I'm glad for him."
"My hidden talent is making people laugh."
"My hidden talent is writing. I write lots of different things, mostly poetry. I have a ton of it on my Google account. Pretty much everything inspires my poetry -- living, nature, all kinds of things."
"It makes me happy when people approach me and ask me how I became homeless, my experience. I came from Calgary, I was working there for 11 years and I ended up getting laid off and I ended up coming here. Before that I sent for my ex wife and daughter who were living in Nicaragua and going through a civil war, so I took my paycheques and brought them back to Canada got them a home, a job, my daughter went to school and I ended up homeless. It's part of life. It's an experience that I will always remember but I'm grateful for the people that come out and share with me and want to talk to me and understand, and I wish a lot of the population could understand what it's like to be homeless and be in our position. You know we don't try to be homeless. It's that some of us struggle from mental health issues and you know it's hard. It's not something we want to do. Believe me, it's not."
""When I see kids laughing and running around playing, that makes me happy because I know the kids go through an awful lot."
"My hidden talent is fishing. I love the peace and quiet of it."
"My day is going well. I got here about an hour ago. The weather's not bad, it could be colder so I'm thankful that I can still be out here. When it gets colder...I don't know. It's gunna be tough. I'm not too picky about what I get. Whatever people give me I'll find a way to use it or give it to a friend."
“I’m getting through the winter season with a lot of blankets and water for my baby beside me. His name is Biggie, named after the rapper Biggie Smalls. He’s a well-behaved 10-month old baby. Don’t get it twisted- when another dog strolls by, this atmosphere goes bye bye. It becomes World War 1 through 8. He goes psychotic and loses his mind. It doesn’t help when all of these smaller dogs think they’re so big and tough. I’m still training him to being even more behaved than he already is. He’s my best friend and I love him so much.”
“I wish people would treat me the same way they treat everybody else. I mean, take the security guards out here for example- I’m tired of them looking at me and judging me for sitting out here, also I’m tired of them constantly kicking me back out into the cold. It’s not like I can go anywhere else even if I wanted to. I have spinal stenosis, as well as these metal plates in my back- so it’s hard for me to just get up and move along. Do you think I enjoy sitting out here on this chair? I hate this chair with a passion. I wouldn’t be here if it were up to me, so don’t be so quick to judge.”
“I met Josie a year and a half ago through my baby sister. I take care of her - not just her but her whole family. I'm always happy. I know a lot of people out here are miserable. Now I'm trying to go to school for The Peer Project. So I'll be walking around the streets helping the homeless. That's what I want. I want to help others. Everybody helped me."
“I was born in Russia where it was hard to live because there’s no middle class- so you’re either very rich or very poor. For me, I was born into poverty so I had it rough. If I didn’t grow up in the situation I was given, I probably would’ve gone to school and had more opportunities. Whether it was doing drugs or getting molested when I was young, I wish I had it easier because it’s so hard to get out of that state especially if you’re born in it. Being stuck in poverty, I learned that I would like to help other kids avoid ending up on the streets as well. I want to teach them that doing drugs isn’t the solution to your problems- it only creates more problems.”
"I travel around and get what I need for them. I'm building a little side table for them so they can have their water and their food. Like I say for animals, the law changes all the time. They had to go from being on my side windows to the passenger seat to the back. Coming here from Ottawa and renting, it's hard for animals"
“I’m just bouncing around, visiting people. I have to take care of them. I try my best, gotta keep tabs on them. Whatever I get here I’m giving to them.”
"It's much more difficult on colder days. Sometimes I'll be out in the cold for 8 hours to only make $10-$15, and it can get very frustrating. But sometimes I also get lucky on days like today- I’ve only been here for 40 minutes and I’ve already made $80. The cold could also be a blessing in disguise.”
"I am clinically diagnosed with dwarfism but people call me Beast. My father passed away and my mother tried to kill me, which led me to the street since I was 12. Those days were really rough but I was eventually able to join the military at 19. The experience fit my personality and it helped me stay off the streets. After 10 years of service, I was discharged from the military honourably due to injury. Unfortunately, they don't treat veterans in Canada the same way they do in the States- so I'm back on the streets again. I created this sign to use reverse psychology and stop people from verbally abusing me, especially when they don't understand the things I have to go through every day. People used to call me names, tell me to 'get a job' and stop being so lazy- but the reality is that many people make assumptions without trying to understand what happened."
"When I was 14 or 15, my whole family was homeless, so I didn't get the opportunity to go to school. I've been diagnosed with an illness that I've had since I was 22. I'm 50 now, that over half my life. But I'm healthy. I just thank God I'm alive. The doctor said I would only make it about 5 years then die. I was 22 at the time. Do you know what it's like to hear that at 22? It destroys you. But I'm here, I'm 50 years old. I thought 'If I get to be 40 that would be great', and here I am in my fifties. It's amazing, I don't take what I have for granted. Every little bit counts."