Hungry, Homeless, Drunk and High (2017 Edition)

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I am approaching, very soon, sixteen yeas of sobriety, in December. And Almost sixteen years living at this address. You will read below some dire statistics, if you read all the way down over years and years of this post being written organically.

Our Prime Minister, The Honorable Justin Trudeau, spoke at the United Nations the other day, and he spoke of Indigenous Peoples, and the fact that Canada, as a nation, has humiliated them for centuries.

Canada aims to make amends over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry.

This topic is part of my life, on a daily basis.

And has been a part of my life, since the first meeting I ever attended here in Montreal, Easter of 2002.

Over the years, I have written pieces on our homeless populations, and how it was, when I first moved into this particular neighborhood and just how DIRE the situation was back in 2002.

Homelessness is a cause dear to my heart. I have written the Prime Minister about it several times over the years, and nobody seems to want to lend an ear to my musings about what we need to do for ALL of our Indigenous populations, nation wide.

My vision is wide-reaching and would see the multitude of Third World Communities, that exist, inside a First World Country, brought up to First world existences. Bringing safe drinking water, appropriate housing, connection to critical infrastructure akin to connecting communities to their closest big city, by location, and helping the multitudes of people who are STILL on the streets all over Canada, today.

Alas, my inane writings about hope and civilization are ignored at the highest levels.

But, let me tell you about my home, as it is today.

I am going to reference the neighborhood as it is today, because later on, down below, you will read, what it was like from the very beginning.

I live on the corner of Tupper street and Fort. A block off Ste. Catherine’s street, a tunnel walk to the Orange line south, three blocks to the green line and Atwater to the West, and another three block to another green line station, to the East.

There WAS a radio station across the street, they are now on the East end. The Battle-Net shop is gone, and a nail salon resides in its place.

The Sports bar, on the corner up the block has tripled in size, and the karaoke bar is shuttered and is in reno state. The Omer De Serres, was knocked down, and a fifteen story condo building went up and is still in build mode, completion was set back a year because of the Pit Excavation. But they are due to fully be operational in a few months time. The new Le Square condos went up adjacent to the park and is open for business.

The SAQ liquor store vacated the Forum for Le Square recently. The Pekarna pastry shop has been closed for some time, and walls went up inside for renovations that have yet to begin. The Tim Horton’s at The Forum is the only ground floor shop that really rocks around the clock as it is open 24/7. Then there is the theatre that has very little traffic.

Rumors abound as to what could be done with that building.

My hair dresser is located on the same block as the Seville, they opened a few months ago, and Alexis Nihon is in varying stages of renovations, as new stores are going in, old stores are being moved, inside, and the Canadian Tire is the Anchor store in the mall now.

We also have a Winners on the third floor and a brand new Marshall’s going in, in the fall, on the second floor, and the brand new iteration of the IGA grocery, that I shop at daily, along with the P&A Grocery up the block above Ste. Catherine’s street.

The Adonis grocery store at the Seville Project (Condos and store) are alive and humming. That is up the block, across the street from the Odeon Cinemas at the Old Forum.

The Provigo that I reference as the “Returns Grocery” no longer exists. The Toyota repair shop bought the old Provigo, as a car show room today.

Let me tell you how emotional we all were, the shoppers and the staff, as that store approached the close of business. Everybody was in tears for days. It was very sad indeed, however some of the old employees now work in other capacities IN the neighborhood.

So now all returns go to the IGA up at Alexis Nihon Plaza up the street.

The Children’s Hospital has been closed for some time, when the MUHC was built down at the Vendome Metro, a bit away from here, and is slated for demolition soon, to make way for a community project of housing, schools and day care.

Cabot Square, has come a LONG way from its dirty past. The park was resurfaced and the Vespasian Building in the park now serves Meals and Coffee to the Indigenous community that gathers IN the park today.

My Friend David, a sober member, who has been my friend for the whole of my sobriety, got sober, he is of indigenous background.

When he had some time under his belt, he joined the city in a project of renewal for our Indigenous community. He has an office IN the Vespasian building. He is IN the park during the mornings and he walks the city, with a group of others, who serve the populations needs.

The city invested A LOT of money in trying to help the community at large.

The Atwater Metro Kiosk that I mention in past writings has been shut down for some time. It is being rebuilt and reconfigured. The homeless populations that were once too numerous to help, have dropped considerably over the years.

Alas, some of the old faces and people I spoke about before, are STILL on the street. The squeegee kids are gone. The punk rockers are gone as well. Although the Homeless with Pets still exist.

There is one particular guy who has (I kid you not) a Saint Bernard. 

He sits in front of Alexis Nihon with his dog quite often. This has become the new rallying point for indigenous homeless. Some sit in the park, and some are violent and mouthy. There are occasional spats among families and couples. But for the most part the Cabot Square park is peaceful and has a peaceful air about it.

Cabot Square is the rallying point for indigenous affairs in this section of the city. They host events, music, food, and support for each other. When the park reopened to traffic, it was solely dedicated to our indigenous population.

With all available living space now converted into apartments and condos, there is nowhere local for indigenous populations to live, other than in homes of their own, or if they are on the street, (ON the Street, or in shelters).

David rally’s the troops. I provide everything that I can to his work, be it sober materials, referrals, or just help whenever he needs it, whenever he calls me, since I live just up the street. The people who need help go to him, then he sends them to me, in meetings to help try to get people sober.

Many of our indigenous women, who were numerous when I first got sober many years ago, are still sober to this day. They now work in their respective communities at all points North. Trying to bring a message of sober living to their respective communities.

So you can say, in 2017, life is MUCH better for everyone all around.

The neighborhood has been totally refurbished, new buildings have gone up and are now populated. The city has more than tripled occupancy in the area in the last five years.

With the demolition of the old Children’s Hospital and the eventual building of several condo and social housing units based on the family model, because there really is no family housing in this area other than smaller condos, the city hopes to bring families to this section of town, in the coming years, as space is provided for them to live.

Seven towers will go up. A school is to be built on the site. A park will be added with daycare and family and social space. This IS a daunting project, but when completed it will be the crown on Downtown West End Montreal.

There you have it. Hungry, Homeless, Drunk and High in 2017.

Now for a bit of history, you can read the journal as I saw it.

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I wrote this some time ago, well, a LONG time ago. July of 2007.

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Since this writing took place, Cabot Square is now closed and fenced in. It is being re-purposed to reopen soon. The Children’s Hospital is slated for closure and demolition in 2017. It will become a great green space along with Cabot Square.

The area referenced the Stretch from our home towards Alexis Nihon, (the Old Seville Theatre) has been razed, and brand new condos were built on the site, which has rejuvenated this end of downtown. The Hotel du Fort, which was heavily populated by Indigenous people’s was sold and is being turned into condos, so there is no place to stay unless you are a tenant or a condo owner in this section of town.

The Sports Bar on the corner has more than tripled in size all the way down to the Karaoke Bar, which is mentioned here as well. The Old Omer De Sere’s building is slated for rebuilding into brand new High End Condos. Which is across the street from the New Seville Condos.

Starbucks and a brand new Adonis grocery store fronts the Seville complex, on the ground floor.

The entire area around Cabot Square is under renovations. And only a couple of defunct shops still remain from the past, still boarded up.

The AMC Theatres were bought out by Cineplex Odeon, Which now owns the old Forum. But all the downstairs shops, eateries, and Future Shop have all since closed and the ground floor is now dark and vacant. Which is a terrible blight on the Cineplex building.

Pekarna and Tim Hortons is the saving grace for the ground floor shops. They both do good business.

The city hired Reintegration teams and counselors that have been teamed up together with Native men and women to address the problems that this posts addresses in detail. It took almost a decade to see these changes come into effect.

The Homeless are still on the streets. ALL of the men who were homeless that I reference here, are still on the street today in 2014. Dans Le Rue still ministers to the street kids and the missions and homeless shelters are still full to bursting. Fall is coming and soon, Winter will follow. And the homeless will need all the help they can get. But the city has finally found the money, time and commitment to see our most needy on the street are found, named, repatriated and or resettled here.

The Can/Bottle exchange does very good business daily. I see the same men and women coming in with boatloads/shopping cart loads of cans and bottles, and the Provigo keeps up with them, especially when there is an event on the strip.

The angry, belligerent folks I also mention below are gone now. But only one remains. She wants money and will swear obscenities at you if you don’t give and I’ve told her so on several occasions. But life has toned down in as many years with what we used to see on a daily basis.

There is business to be had, and the owners of the many businesses that have opened on this end of the strip will NOT tolerate the homeless or the squatters on the sidewalks, which has facilitated the purchase of prime street frontage where massive terraces now sit for the season until winter when they roll them up until next year.

I still see the same poor folks out front of the grocery stores, but not so many young people much any more. But every now and then.

It works when we purchase already prepared food, and we feed the poor when we can. But it is still overwhelming because I would go broke if I did that every day. And we are not rich people.

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Posted:July 25, 2007 … I was six years sober at the time of this writing.

I guess I am not a thinker, by the standards of some. There are blogs that I read that put my writing of certain subjects to shame. I cannot tell you of the forest or the trees, the birds or the animals, the rivers or the trails.

I don’t talk about heavy metal drinking and the stupid things I did the last weekend so that my friends can read just how much of an insane member of society that I really am. I have my own insanity in my sobriety. And just because I am sober, did not make it all better as I mentioned earlier tonight.

What can I tell you that would make you think? If you walk out the front doors of my building you face the BattleNet 24 Internet Gaming Station. They are always open and never close. There are three radio stations in the building that this cafe is located on the ground floor. The Towers, as I call it is a North – South facing building. We are an East – West facing building.

You cannot walk 50 paces in any direction from this building and NOT run into a busker looking for food, money and/or beer. There are two pubs located within 200 yards of our front door, and one karaoke bar with pool tables. Our Asian community loves karaoke. I live in what we call the Concordia ghetto area, since we are only a few blocks from campus.

There is an architecture museum across the street on Rene Levesque above the tunnel that I have visited before, when they had an open house and also they had a wonderful Expo ’67 exhibit on the anniversary.

There are 20 churches within walking distance of my home. Pentecostal, Evangelical, Catholic (French) and Catholic (English), Bethel Baptist and Franciscan friary that is due to be closed right around the corner from here.

Are you thinking yet? This will get your juices pumping… I wrote it some time ago on another blog I owned.

A fellow is dealing with the “homeless” factor in his ministry of life. And so I left him some words of advice, But I don’t know how else to tell you this, but share with you Montreal‘s daily ritual.

We have recycling posts (street collecting boxes – that have since been removed in opt for recycling in the stores primarily) all over the city where the homeless go and collect cans and bottles from these depots and they go to the grocery stores to exchange their “returnables” for more beer and wine money. They troll the kiosks and metro platforms and street garbage cans for returnable merchandise day and night. They ride the metro from one end of the city to the other every night. The stores will not sell beer and liquor after 11 pm to stem the problem. In Ontario you cannot buy liquor or beer on Sundays, but in Quebec you can.

So the tide of homeless drunks starts to rise as the stores open and they “stock up” for the morning. Downstairs on the corner (just outside) my front door they sit on the corner begging drugs and money. Out front of the grocery store and on every street corner and in the spaces in between, they sit like hookers who have claimed their spot on the sidewalk.

They are all over the place, “Literally!”

You cannot walk 50 feet in any direction in Downtown Montreal and not get begged for cash or food. Or smell POT in the air from the street kids!!! The kiosks are even worse.

One cannot get through the door without passing by someone sitting IN the doorway where you have to navigate around them, or find them sleeping, “Sprawled out” across the floor in doorways drunk and comatose!

They piss in the kiosks, they throw up on the floors, they beat each other up, and the men are “PIMPING” the women, so you see there is a whole “other” dynamic.

At night, as the evening “MEETINGS” commence they wait like buzzards for free coffee and what ever food is set out for the attendees. And they become belligerent and vocal and VIOLENT towards the people who want a cup of coffee and a cookie because that’s why we have coffee and cookies to help calm them down( the people in recovery).

We have decided not to engage the homeless any longer and the city-wide “homeless” directors (there are they in Montreal) men who run in homeless circles, powerless to affect change because people are set in their ways.

We have missions in town here that specialize in the feeding and housing of homeless people, every day and every night. The first problem is the sheer NUMBERS of homeless people who have migrated East from the west and up from the U.S. and down from the North, Yes, it IS a very sad reality.

There are natives who are stuck in the divide between their leaving their reservations for the bright big city, they don’t make it and end up hooking and begging in the park, they become addicted, well most are already addicted to something or other, when they get here, and they never return to their homes for fear of persecution and alienation, so they sit in the parks all day and night and troll the strip here in Downtown for cash. They are violent and painfully in trouble with each other.

Come sit in Cabot Square with me and watch. It is truly sad.

IN the WINTER when the temps drop to (-20 C ) and farther, the homeless think that they can sleep in the kiosks because of the warmth of the trains, think again. They lock the kiosks at night and the homeless end up on the streets in doorways and under bridges and such. The missions go out with buses trying to get them off the street before they freeze to death. Some don’t make it and invariably, we lose a number of homeless people each Winter.

It is a rude saying, but, If you feed a stray animal they will continue returning to eat as long as food is available. And you know what that means. You will be spending a lot of money on a problem that will not go away because of their lack of ability to get off the street and societies apathy to step up and help them as a community!

“Oh, but it’s NOT our problem!”

Yes it is and no it’s not.

By whatever default – people end up homeless out of one circumstance or another. NOW, the reality is, DO they want off the street, if you ask any of them here, they will say NO!! So they choose to stay on the street, when they know that help is available and rehabilitation is possible.

Most of our homeless population will not ask for help, (the natives by example). They are a sad lot. Drunk, Addicted, Violent and Doomed by Default. Montrealer’s are FED UP with the population of homeless who have overtaken the streets and green spaces and Metro Kiosks.

And the city does SQUAT!! They do nothing, they see nothing, they say nothing.

So what can we do as a religious body, to feed, clothe and assist the homeless, NOT Very Much.

It is a long-standing problem with no city-wide attention, as of yet. Most Christian people can talk the talk, but they cannot talk the talk and walk the walk for fear of being seen doing something that Jesus would have done, to go out on a Sunday and minister to the poor. Only one man I know did that from Dans le Rue – and he retired and moved away and someone else is taking care of his kids now.

Oh what would their friend and family say if they were seen cavorting with homeless people, God forbid they follow you home! or what happens if you get attacked by one on a bad day or night? Dealing with the homeless here is a dicey business, you never know when one will try to beat you up or stab you for some cash or drugs for their next fix. A homeless person is not above violence. Especially when it comes to jonesing off of drugs. That is for sure on any Saturday night or the full moon.

The “soup truck” cavorts through downtown daily feeding the multitude of young people who hang out at the Berri Metro selling drugs and hooking and such. It is very sad, that if you walk through the village on any corner at any time, they sit there, in their leather and spikes, boots and makeup, with their placards begging for food.

Some of our homeless populations are handicapped (in wheelchairs) and some of our young people have PETS!!! YES dogs and some have more than one.

SO it is not only a feed the human story, it is a

FEED THE PET AND THE HUMAN STORY!!!

How do we help them, well one at a time, rehabilitation is possible but at the end of the day it is useless. They stay on the streets because they know no different. The shelters and feeding stations are powerless and TOO POOR to feed the multitudes because the city won’t fund the missions and shelters. So individual churches go out and try to make a dent in the sea of the hungry and downtrodden, but alas, they are too numerous and we are too powerless to help so many who are in need.

The world’s poor, are rising in number and dying by the thousands daily in 3rd world and poorer countries, they are dying in the big cities, unnoticed by the daily hum and ritual of every day life and the business of work and survival.

Think before you put yourself out there and try to tackle a cities homeless problem, it takes a lot of work, money, food and prayer. And not to mention Fortitude. I am all for helping the homeless, but I know how to pick my battles wisely. I don’t mean to sound so discouraging, but this is the reality in my big city!!

No one is immune to the homeless – we are called to share and to give – but when is enough enough?? If I gave a quarter to every homeless person I saw on the street every day, I would have NO money to feed myself on a daily basis.

THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY OF THEM TO COUNT AND HELP!!

What the saddest fact is in the homeless populations here are the women who have young children, and are on the streets. Just at Cabot square, the mothers work the Upper kiosk at the top of the escalators, and their kids beg at the bottom of the escalators.

Junkie mothers with kids in tow, is terribly disturbing, Along with their “pimps” who abuse both the children and the mothers!!

What the fuck is that ??? And we are powerless to change them. Because they are stuck. There are NOT enough resources to help them off the street, get them into rehabs (waiting lists are 6 to 8 months in Quebec) and who is gonna take the children? Like family services has the ability to care for every homeless child and young person on the street? NO!!

There are natives from the many reservations and Inuit locales at all points North. They come to have their children cared for at the Children’s hospital right up the street from here. They pile out of vans, buses and cars. Some are transient and some are better off than others. When a native leaves their reservation in Quebec, it is every man and woman for themselves. Nobody gives a shit. And if they do not assimilate, they end up in a park and on the street, because they get “hooked on whatever” and they don’t repatriate.

There is – along Ste. Catherines Street, a city block long mural on the wood that barricades the burned out and empty buildings that LITTER the West end of Downtown like broken defunct sentinels of lore.

If you walk from here to Alexis Nihon Plaza, there are Inuit women who are vicious, belligerent, and sometimes violent. If you pass them by when they are drunk and high they swear obscenities at passersby.

They accost people for smokes and money. They are there, in the same spots day in day out… Because they have no place else to go. Cabot Square is the locale in my neighborhood where all native people’s gather.

It is a rallying point for the “troops” so to speak. I pass homeless kids in front of the grocery store and I buy them cooked and prepared foods from the deli. We don’t give the kids cash, but we feed them. But they choose to stay on the street, so what are we supposed to do?

We write about these issues and nothing gets done, and I am not a rich aristocrat with money who is sitting on the land on the West end, and developers have not been able to get the land released for development.

If it DID get released, we could clean up this end of the city and make it beautiful. But all we see when we walk down the street is hungry, homeless, drunk and high folk, and the burned out decrepit buildings that haven’t seen life in over a decade. The mayor does nothing…

Politics and Crime…

I could go on and on and on… But you get the picture.

If cities and local governments do nothing as they always have, this problem will continue. Until the Worlds governments take a BIG LONG LOOK at the homeless and hungry populations and they DO something concrete to stop it, we will be having this conversation until we all die.

This is a world-wide problem, and no you are not alone in your quest to be Jesus, but I know that Jesus is not a “half measure” kind of man, so pick your battles wisely. Mark Kelly from CBC News did a “Seven Series Report” here in Montreal on the homeless last Winter, did it do any good for the city? Not One Bit.

The shelters are still overflowing and they can’t help everyone that Montreal calls homeless and destitute. I know a man who comes to my meeting. He’s been in the program longer than I’ve been in Montreal (now almost 7 years) and he is homeless and prefers the shelter to a life. I look at him and he still doesn’t get it but who am I to judge?

Sometimes the disenfranchised are hopeless which is sad, because I have come so far in the last six years, but many are still where I found them so long ago.

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