What Lies Beneath

Just like figuring out how big an iceberg is, sometimes you have to look below the surface. Image by Andreas Weith. Click the link to get more information about this image.

The amount of time a resident stays at the House of Friendship will depend on a few factors, such as the individual’s situation that got them homeless in the first place, their current state of mind, and their ability to turn things around before getting thrown out. Some only stay for a day, maybe two, while others are residents that have been around long before I arrived. My own stay is coming up to the second month mark on November 12th.

This means that I will see roommates come and go. Every time I get a new roommate, I have to figure them out quickly in case they are mentally unstable or have anger management issues that require me to sleep lighter than I usually do. This is an important life-skill: one past roommate not only made slanderous remarks about myself and two other roommates but also threatened me.

This latest arrival is another homeless person who sleeps a lot in the Kitchener Public Library. My previous post had a picture of him. I figured since he sleeps a lot during the day that he would not sleep at all while in the shelter. Apparently that assumption was wrong: he does sleep at night during albeit rather restlessly. In fact, it seems all he does is sleep.

An observer of his behaviour might assume he’s lazy, or doped or sloshed out of his mind to the point he can’t do anything to turn things around. That might be correct: I don’t know enough about him to counter that claim. He’s not much of a conversationalist if all he does is sleep.

Having said this, not all assumptions are true.

I want to stress that homelessness is not like camping. It’s extremely depressing, especially for those who have no family or friends for support. It’s also very stressful and can make you sick. It’s a very unpleasant reality that requires the individual to find a way to cope with it.

Before my residence at the rooming house I stayed in for two years, I was homeless in Toronto for a couple of months after I moved out of my aunt’s home. This happened during the dead of winter and boy oh boy, was it cold. I would stay up all night at a 24-hour McDonald’s near Eglinton Avenue East and Yonge Street after sleeping on the TTC subway for a total of four hours. Sometimes the subway train would stop for a few minutes at a station that was open to the elements. With the doors open to let in the passengers, it got pretty cold on that train after a few minutes, even while wearing winter clothes and long underwear.

To keep warm, I carried a metal flask containing Forty Creek whiskey.  I’m not a regular drinker of whiskey or even beer but I was told by another homeless person I met that whiskey dilates the blood vessels and causes a temporary release of core heat.  I took a few sips and within a few minutes my cheeks were flushed and the cold didn’t bother me as much.

Anyone who smelled alcohol on me might have assumed I was homeless because I was a drunk. The same erroneous reasoning could have been applied to my sleepy roommate. He might be sleeping in the library because he cannot sleep with four other men who snore during the night. It’s also possible he is suffering from SAD or is so depressed from living a homeless life that sleep is a form of escape for him. It’s way to cope.

Dealing with poverty issues like homelessness, chronic unemployment, and poor wealth distribution is like trying to suss out the size of a floating iceberg. You need to look at what’s under the surface to get the bigger picture.

Thanks for reading!



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