Here is a series of stories that Kenora's homeless have written about their experiences with living on the streets.
Life after an abusive relationship
I recently left my spouse, he was very mentally abusive and he hurt me in many other ways. I have been here for over 42 days and I am having difficulty finding my own place for my child and I. My time is running out. I call three to four places a day, but with the budget I get for my child and I, it is impossible to find affordable housing in this area. This is not something that I ever thought I would have to go through. And it is very embarrassing not knowing day to day where I am going to live with my child, provide a safe environment and food on the table. It hurts very much as a mother to go through this kind of situation. It is something that I never expected to happen to me. If I do not find a place soon, I really have no where to go, and that scares me.
Keeping warm in the bank
I moved to Kenora with my mother when I was 13. I'm 29 now. My mother passed away two years ago and my sister died 11 months after that. I've been living on the street for a month mow and I've had to do that before too, even in the winter. I go from bank to bank to keep warm, but you have to move when people come in. You need a card to get inside. A Health Card works. I get my food from the soup kitchen.
Ruth - November 2007
My child and I deserve a better life
I came to the Women's Shelter in Kenora from a nearby community in December 2006. I had been physically abused by my partner; it got worse for me when I had to leave the place where I was staying with my child. I had no where to go, so I packed up my belongings and left. I started looking for an apartment within the first week of arriving here. A few weeks later I got an offer for an apartment; I immediately accepted. I am excited to have my own apartment for my child and myself. I no longer have to worry about not having a place to live and getting abused. I will be able to raise my child in a safe and happy family environment without violence. I am glad I came to the Shelter because the staff is very concerned for every woman's well being. They gave the courage I needed to not go back into the violent relationship that I just got out of. They also made it clear that no woman should be abuse; it is not a way of life. I have been given a second chance to start my life over. I know I will make the right decisions and choices. My child and I deserve a better life.
Submitted by Women's Shelter, Saakaate House - November 2007
Dealing with eviction
I am being evicted from my apartment at the end of the month. The people who were visiting me were bothering the neighbours, so I have to leave. I was paying $158 a month for rent. I want to get into the Kenricia Hotel when it reopens, but my rent will be $450 a month and my pension is only $688. I'll be 65 in a few months, so I'll have a bigger pension. I use the soup lines to eat. I get one meal a day there. I don't know how I'll move my stuff, because I don't have a vehicle. I don't have a place to move anyway. If I don't get into the Kenricia, I may pack my clothes and go west or to Toronto or Thunder Bay.
Bill - November 2007
Living on the street
I was homeless for two months after the Adam's Block fire. We stayed at the Fellowship Centre for a while and panhandled for food. Now I have a place to live with friends. We don't have a fridge, but our neighbours let us use theirs. When my husband gets his residential school survivor money, we'll buy a fridge and a stove. I have sclerosis of the liver. The doctor tells me to stop drinking, but I still drink. I can't take any medication, not even Tylenol. When my stomach hurts, I have a beer to make it feel better, but that doesn't work. When you're on the street, people chip in for alcohol together. When you live on the street, you don't care about yourself and there's nothing to do. The only places to go to sleep are the Detox or the Fellowship Centre. Some people sneak into Lila's at night to sleep in the hallways to keep warm. Homeless people get jumped at night because they have no place to go.
Val - November 2007
Unable to make rent
We currently have an apartment, but the rent is $500 a month, which is too high for the small size of the apartment. I clean the hallways and keep the place neat, but the landlord won't pay me for that. We'd like to move to Sioux Lookout. We were homeless for two months after the Adam's Block fire. It was depressing and rough. We stayed at the Fellowship Centre. I got sick from the cold when we had to go outside from 7 until 8 o'clock each morning.
Yvonne and Allan - November 2007
Surviving without a home
We've been homeless for a month and a half. I got too drunk one night and got kicked out. My wife's welfare paid for the rent before, but she doesn't get it anymore. I was on EI, but I don't get that anymore. We can't get jobs. Nobody wants to hire us. I worked as a janitor before but I had to resign because of my drinking. They wouldn't let me work until I got treatment, but I couldn't get into treatment. I graduated from high school. My wife finished Grade 11. When I was younger, I played hockey in Kenora. It's a racist town, but people treated me well when I was a hockey player here. I went on to play with the London Knights and then the Brandon Wheat Kings, but I got lonely for home, so I quit. Now people treat us like crap when they pass us on the street. I got jumped last night and she got jumped before that. It was our own people. They pretended to be our friends and gave me shots of Listerine, but when I was shwanked, they beat me up. They stomped on my head. I called the cops, but I was the one who ended up in the drunk tank. We're sick of drinking, but there's nothing to do when you're homeless except drink. We were sleeping in cars and passing out. We're tired of this. We went to AA, but mostly because it was a warm place to be. I told my story, though. We panhandle to get our money. One day I made $35 panhandling. I make up stories, like pretending my wife is pregnant so people will give money. I really need a house so that I can take care of my wife.
Ricardo and Juanita - November 2007
Disabled and homeless
I am 43 years old. I live on a disability pension of $543 a month. I lost part of my foot when a train ran over it on Tunnel Island in 1999. I was drunk and passed out on the tracks. I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital in Winnipeg hooked up to machines with all kinds of wires. I need a cane to walk now and I wear work boots to support my leg without the foot. Sometimes I trip on the boot with no foot in it, because I have no feeling and it gets caught on the edge of the sidewalk. I've had hip and knee surgery on the same leg as well because of a serious fall. I was supposed to get an artificial leg 4 years ago. I used to have lots of work before the accident. I was a guide at several tourist lodges. I operated a lunch program at the school in my home community and also ran the recreation centre. I cut wood for the community and sold it to people for whatever they could pay me. Both of my parents died of cancer in the last two years. I was going back and forth to town trying to take care of my mother while she was sick. I have one daughter who is in Toronto, but I've lost contact with her. I think she does crack cocaine. She has serious charges of armed robbery against her. I might go to Toronto to look for her. I have two grandchildren. I want to quit drinking and get straightened out for them. I've tried AA a couple of times, but when people talk about what they drank, I get curious and I have to go out and try it. I've drunk hair spray and Lysol. I attended residential school up to grade 6 when my mother took me out. I have wounds from then and nothing repairs them. Memories of residential school still haunt me. I slept under a tree near the court house last night. I eat at the soup line or from the garbage. I'm not ashamed of that. It's survival. When it gets cold, I sleep anywhere there's a vent. I've slept under the Lakeside Inn and I use cardboard boxes for a mattress. I stay by myself most of the time. I've been to Winnipeg and volunteered at the soup line there. They have clean warm beds at their shelters. I'd like to live there, but it's too dangerous. I read about the street workers being killed. I know I can get money as a residential school survivor, but I don't want it. If I got it, I'd put it into a savings account for my grandchildren. I'd rather live on the street than in a home.
Carl - November 2007
Suffering from alcoholism
I lived in the Adams Block for 8 years until the fire. I lived at the Fellowship Centre after that for a month until I got another place. Now I pay $450 a month in rent which only leaves $550 for my other expenses. I got married when I was 16 and my wife was 14. We stayed together for 13 years and had a son and a daughter. I was a heavy equipment operator, but drinking led to a disability pension and eviction from my low rental home. I only had to pay $150 a month there. I'm as far as I can go. I drink hair spray and Lysol, not just whiskey and beer.
Dave - November 2007
Subsequent to the November interviews, one of the participants passed away.