This issue of homelessness is not about us vs them. Its about working together to solve problems. As such, I have reached out to many in my community. Mary is a successful, intelligent woman who works in and around this issue of homelessness on a daily basis, on a professional and personal level. I respect Mary so much, she is a role model for me. This is her story.
I am a 40 year old educated aboriginal woman. Who has lived in Winnipeg for my whole life. I was a single mom from the age of 17. I have volunteered in the North End for many many years for a lot of different agencies.
What does it look like to be homeless?
You have a sleeping bag and tent if you’re lucky enough to get them. Your moving around from place to place trying to find a safe place to sleep, you eat and shower when and where you can. There are not a lot of places or shelters for people over 30.
What are the sounds of being homeless?
You hear people saying things like “if they only tried hard enough they could get off the street or they are just drunks”. Well I am not a drunk nor was a drunk when I became homeless, it was bad luck. I lost a job and couldn’t get on EIA or EI I didn’t qualify for EIA because I made too much money at my old job and not enough hours for EI or have a permanent address to use. So in the end I had no money and no place to live I had to sell most of my stuff and store keepsakes with family. You hear people saying mean things about you without even knowing what it is you’re going through. Sirens going all the time, being called names all the time. All the while you’re thinking: ‘ask me why I am homeless and I will tell you’… but no one does. Its because they don’t care to know. To the people who say these things, you’re just a bum.
Homelessness touches everyone differently it touched me in this way:
I was going to school and had no where to live so I was studying where and when I could. When the library was open I would go there, or to a friends house to study. I would never offer to study at my place because my place was a tent by the river. I had to wash my clothes in the river daily so I would have clean clothes and take showers at friend’s places or at my kid’s places. (My children never knew how I was living) I would make excuses for why I needed to shower at their place.
How it feels to be homeless
In one sentence: IT SUCKS! You feel sad, alone, scared, angry at first you blame everyone else for your shit, but then you start to think about how and why this happened to you. You realize that it’s no one’s fault that you’re in the predicament you’re in. Its as if you’re being tested. What the creator gives you won’t kill you, it just makes you stronger. Last year when I was homeless I felt helpless and alone and scared and sad. I blamed everyone and their mom’s for my bad luck then I started to think about my situation and tried to figure out a way to help myself. I can’t control anyone else or their behaviors, just my own. I realized that I had to bring myself up and get my self out of this bad situation before it got worse. It was getting colder and I was still sleeping outdoors. I decided to look for work again and go to school at the same time.
What Happened Next?
I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted when I was homeless. One of the things I learned was that I wanted to help people who were in the same boat as I was. So, I asked for help. I ended up staying with my daughter and her sons and got back on my feet in 3 months and then got a good job I am helping people now who are at risk of eviction or about to be evicted in my full time job.
I am an educated strong aboriginal woman, I have a good job and a lot of people know who I am. Not everyone knew that I was homeless last year; I don’t think MC even knew that. And when people find out that I was homeless they find it hard to believe, because of who I am and what I do. I fight for people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. I am proof that you can get off the street and make something of yourself
Why Should You Care?
What do I want to come out of sharing my story? I want people to know that homelessness can happen to anyone at any point in their lives. So DON’T JUDGE ANYONE by sight alone stop and ask a few questions… you may be surprised at the answers you get.