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.

My poverty, but not my will, consents

You know the apothecary in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet who sells Romeo the deadly poison? Well he doesn’t actually want to sell the poison. He has to sell it because he’s poor and hungry.

His exact words in the play are “my poverty, but not my will, consents.” Lately, I’ve been using that line a lot. I’m not hungry. I have a bag of Tostitos on my lap right now. But I’m poor enough that I’ve had to bend my own rules a little bit.

For some (no doubt Freudian, childhood-related) reason, I really don’t accept friends’ generosity very well. When I share a meal at a restaurant, I cover my half.  When someone gives me something, I like to give something back.

Grateful — and lately, relieved — as I am when a kind person treats me to lunch, gets me a coffee, or buys me a drink, it also makes me feel squirmy and wrong inside. I end up saying odd things and not quite knowing when to back down.

Unfortunately/fortunately I have some of the most generous, lovely friends on this earth. So I’ve been in that “uncomfortably delighted” space a lot lately. June featured a series of pleasant lunch and dinner dates with some of my favourite people, but was remarkably easy on my wallet. I can’t say the same for my waistline.

My university roommate Steph took me out for High Tea at MoRoCo last week. Delightful!

My university roommate Steph took me out for High Tea at MoRoCo last week.

To all the great people who have treated me to something lately, thank you. And I apologize for making it awkward. I really appreciated it, but couldn’t properly show my gratitude without screwing my face into an inappropriate smirk-frown.

This whole situation is something I have to work on. But in the meantime, I will continue to stiltedly accept friends’ kindness. And eagerly await the day when I can pay them back in full.