Homelessness in Elmvale

It’s the coldest night so far this year, and I can’t stop thinking about the young homeless man who lives in Elmvale. He used to sleep in the post office at night. Then we got this letter.

FullSizeRenderTonight, I chatted with him in the lobby of TD Bank. He looked pretty comfortable lying by the ATM, bundled up in his worn sleeping bag and parka, but I doubt he’ll be there long because the building has cameras.

Every time I see him, I think about how desensitized I was to extreme poverty while living in Toronto. Would I have noticed him, young as he is, if he’d been tucked into some archway at Yonge and Dundas? Probably not.

I also think about the invisibility of poverty in places like Elmvale.

Friends who work in social assistance say north Simcoe County has more than its fair share of challenges — addiction, violence, teen pregnancy and hunger. My mom, a former teacher, would come home with stories of students struggling and failing to break the cycle of poverty.

As I type in my pyjamas — with my partner, my dog/furnace, and my sleepytime tea — I am so grateful for the people and things I have. We are fortunate ones.

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It’s a small county after all

You know how I’ve been sorting through old stuff lately? Well, I recently found this journal my mom bought me several years ago.

Winnie the Pooh children's book cover

Here’s the front cover

Thinking I’d get to re-visit angst-ridden teenage poetry, I flipped open the first page.

Instead of a journal entry, guess what I found? A biography about Heather Smeding, our house’s former owner.

Here's Heather's bio, with our attic mentioned right in the first paragraph

Here’s Heather’s bio, with our attic mentioned right in the first paragraph

My mind was boggled. I suddenly had this feeling that the cosmos has big plans for me,  that everyone is connected and that someday, I’d find my favourite socks.

Then I remembered : Simcoe County only has 446,000 people living in it. The chances of someone from Perkinsfield meeting someone from Elmvale (15 minutes away) are pretty good.

Damn. I guess those socks really are lost.

Even though the whole thing wasn’t destiny, it was a nice reminder that like-minded people find ways to connect.

When I met Heather, I liked her instantly. She had amazing art, talked straight, and had a subtle (but sharp) sense of humour. She was part of the reason this house appealed to me.

My favourite part of the journal is the last page, where Heather tucked a little list of journal entry prompts.

These prompts came in a sweet little recycled pouch

These prompts came in a sweet little recycled pouch

I thought I’d share some of my responses:

  • Dear past me : Your poetry isn’t good
  • If I could change one thing : I’d find my favourite socks
  • Three good things : BBQ chips, snuggling and puppies
  • Things I always did with my mom: read Winnie the Pooh
  • Three things I would grab if my house was on fire : a photo album, the blanket my avò made me, and my purse
  • If I knew I couldn’t fail, I would : be a painter
  • Thing I’ve done that I didn’t think I could : sing for a crowd

I think I might use this journal to keep track of the many things I’m grateful for, starting with my mom, good food, friendly people, and happy coincidences.

One of my journal's inside pages

One of my journal’s inside pages