I walked past Jim sleeping outside the convenience store on my way to the bank. He was OK, probably tired from a late night. The doorway of the building he was laying across was vacant, and he was ‘out of the way’ at least, from pedestrians and cars. No danger. No alarm.
This is Jim’s ‘area’, I guess you could say. He would pan outside the supermarket, play his guitar for donations (or not), and generally was easy to get along with. He knew how to do his ‘work’ and got by – as best a person could get by, homeless style.
I have wakened Jim on occasion to see if he was OK, or needed something, or if I had something for him. Today everything looked good, so I let him sleep.
He comes to the office regularly, and we have gone out of the way to help him with recording some of his songs, created CD’s for him to market and so on. He appreciates the help, but he is pretty entrenched in his lifestyle for any radical change – at least for now. So, we do what we can, and wait for the day when he wants to make a change.
Back to the street.
On the way back from the bank, one of Ottawa’s finest has pulled the black and white over the curb just in front of Jim’s spot. A young constable, mid twenties, has the task of ‘moving Jim “along”. ( I have yet to discover where ‘along’ is. For sure it’s not here and not now).
It doesn’t look pretty. Jim is shaken up from his peaceful sleep, rushing to gather his things to the tune of “Hurry up. You need to move – NOW!” and other such pleasantries. Jim slips his foot out of his oversized running shoe and shows the peace officer his feet – black and blue and cut. “I can’t move fast – look at my feet”, Jim shouts at the policeman, who by now is donning his black leather gloves.
I stay and watch as a witness, in case something goes awry, but it gets cleared up. “Cleared up”. Sounds good, clean, and neat, but it’s far from anything even remotely connected with clean or clear. It’s messy.
I am grieved whenever I see this happen, and it happens all the time. Some business owner, or not – maybe it’s just time for a ‘sweep’ of our streets from city hall – whatever… it’s dehumanizing, degrading, condescending and sometimes brutal. It’s about the wielding of power and the power of injustice.
Jim has tried to get housing, but it’s not an easy option for him. He had to leave his last place because of the bedbugs. Lots of them – hungry too!
At the very least, there aren’t any bedbugs on the streets – just the police.
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