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Value Added

Stereotype + Mythology
If poverty is a tight-rope walk, homelessness is a tight-rope walk in a hurricane while juggling chainsaws, blindfolded.

Frugality, poverty, struggle, these are circumstances a lot of successful people are conversant with. The immigrant story. The refugee story. The single mother story. These are well understood, worthy contests of will and resolve. All too often, they are experiences equated with homelessness. The differences are stark.

Poverty is a grind. It’s a fight to create a way forward, outward, and into something better. Poverty can drive both ambition and hope, strengthening those forces and shaping a person’s struggle into something heroic. Crucially, poverty involves a certain amount of control over life circumstances. This is not the case with homelessness. Homelessness is a world unto itself; bleak, and a welcome milieu for despair.

My life in homelessness has been a constant fight. It’s a fight not for warmth or against hunger, but for identity, agency, and survival of self. After fifteen years, it’s also a blandly familiar struggle. My life is a running battle to marshal hope, keep faith, and to endure. Where strangers often see only the inertia of the homeless, in truth, we live in a sort of constant turmoil — an inhuman, gruesome, never-ending state of restive disquiet.

Where in that set of conditions is there space for everything that makes a life? I sleep on the street and have done for almost a decade now. I’m not lazy, unmotivated, sick, or a masochist. I need your help. It’s simple.

While writing this, I’ve attempted to come up with something funny to say, a bit of dry humour, perhaps, to make this post memorable. The best I came up with was some terrible play on a concept spun off the Twin Peaks Soundtrack. Half-meme and half-Abrahamic, it was something about goats, falling, mountains and thwarted potential.

How you can help:

Please donate. Even if you can’t donate, you can share my fundraiser.

Deliver something from the Wish List. A range of items are listed, but I really do need a more up-to-date phone.

Do you have a volunteer opportunity? An internship? Odd jobs? Room for rent above your garage? Contact me.

If you think you have some way to help, or if your are only curious, email me. You will get a reply.

Thanks for your time.


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Off Ramp

Sooner or later, a person’s homelessness reaches a point of terminal decline. The undelivered resources, the absence of opportunity, the institutional violence of coercive apathy produce a kind of stasis, a kind of non-life. Beyond survival, no outcome has meaning, no choice has value. This is the purpose of homelessness policy in the modern city.

Homelessness…is the death of a meaningful future.

Policy for homelessness is founded on the protection of property rights. The goal is to limit the homeless posing a threat to property. We, as a population, are the epitome of the words, ‘nothing to lose.’ As such we pose a very real threat. With that in mind, policy has been designed not to provide resources or housing, but to deploy force through the application of psychology. We have been turned into objects, into chattel.

The result of these efforts is to condition us for a non-threatening, controllable passivity. The overall effect on a person’s life is to put an end to anything that resembles living. We are beaten into submission. We are formed and shaped through abuse and neglect, pain and suffering. Eventually, we are all walking wounded, barely formed figures of clay.

Let there be no mistake. These policies are the result of decisions made by civil servants. These are choices made by people. This instead of funding. This instead of housing. This instead of education. This instead of a future.

Homelessness is not hunger, it is not discomfort. It is the death of a meaningful future. Eventually, if suicide is not the path you take, every future is a slow nightmare, every future is the enemy. Cold is the enemy. Hunger is the enemy. Police are the enemy. Social workers are the enemy. Time is the enemy. Boredom. Heat. Sleeplessness. Confusion. Impulse. Life itself becomes your enemy. It does not have to be this way, but it is. And everyone believes you’ve chosen it.

The problem of homelessness is one of support. It’s one of resources. It’s one of time. It’s been cured, the problem, according to the goals of homelessness policy as I have experienced it. Homelessness has been cured by grinding out the spark of life, the ambition, the will of the individual to ascend, to aspire, and to fight for their future. This system is an inhuman, vicious attack on people whose only real crime is poverty, whose status as a minority only makes them invisible to everyone else. The culmination of the efforts the city and it’s system of homelessness policy enforcement is not a humane, working set of policies. It is a prison camp. The bars are invisible, and the guards are the inmates themselves.

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Numbers/Cost of Living

March 2022 NOTE:

This text was written in late 2021, before inflation began to rise. My food costs have, as of March 28, 2022, increased 30%. My income, which as a homeless person is all of $343 monthly, is not sufficient to cope with these costs. Homelessness is a trap. Resources are the path out.

The fundraising goal of $35,000 should be adjusted upwards to match rising costs, yet, and I’d like to emphasize this point — the goal of my fundraiser is to return to living. The specific overall amount is less important than what it buys, namely, security and a future.

(Originally Posted July 28, 2021. Minor edits for clarity, March 28, 2022.)

Note – Presenting these numbers is a bit of a challenge. Starting from nothing is expensive. The minimum cost of my return to housing as I’d like it to be starts with first and last month’s rent.

After moving in, the important factor is stability. I am terrified at the prospect of becoming housed again, only to fall back into homelessness for lack of work and income.

The cost of living numbers I’m using are from July, 2021. I’ll continue to use them for a while seeing the costs in grocery stores continue to edge upwards. Hopefully they’ll stabilize by the end of the year.

Numbers as of July, 2021 – Source:

Quick Summary:

$6,834 is my before-tax minimum cost of moving into a 1-bedroom apartment in Toronto.

$34,624 ($6,834 [start-up costs] + $27,790 [10 additional months of expenses] is the approximate minimum cost of living for one year.

My criteria for a return to housing is a one bedroom apartment, outside of downtown and near a subway station. This includes internet access, and a cell phone. It also includes a bed, a kitchen table, and a desk. These items can be sourced fairly cheaply from IKEA, or other budget retailer. Second hand furniture is out of the question due to risk of bed bugs.

Moving into an apartment in Toronto requires an up-front payment of First & Last month’s rent. Using those two months as a guide, I’ve listed the minimum base cost as two months expenses. Seeing I’m starting from nothing, that will include start-up costs for items such as utensils, dishes, pots, pans, a bed, a table, and other items.

I’ve used figures including the cost of rent, groceries, phone, etc. My aim is to balance my needs against overall costs. That’s to say I have given a lot of thought to the value and importance of the items I’ve listed.

The numbers, as I’ve written, are crowd-sourced and are averaged by Fairly accurate from what I’ve seen.


Below I abstract the figures around moving into a 1-bedroom apartment. More detailed figures are farther down the page. Costs of bedding, pots and pans, etc, are based on low-middle range examples. Costs of miscellany include average price of condiments, spices, etc.


Minimum Start-Up Costs:

Rent – First & Last

2 x $1,800 – Low-Mid Average Cost of 1-bed Apartment as of July, 2021


Groceries – (2 Months)

2 x $568 – as of July, 2021


Utilities – (2 Months)

2 x $165 – Calculated for 85 square feet, as of July, 2021


Misc. Consumables – (2 Months, Start-Up)

1 x $43 – Grooming, Hygiene, Laundry Soap, etc.


Textiles – (Start-Up)

1 x $150 – Bedding, Towels, Dish Cloths, etc.


Internet Access – (2 Months)

2 x $75 – Budget Network Access Provider


Transit Pass – (2 Months)

2 x $156 – As of July, 2021


Phone – (2 Months)

2 x $15 – Least Expensive Phone Plan


Kitchenware – (Start-Up)

$575 – Coffee Maker, Pots, Pans, Dishes, Can Openers, etc.

Furniture – from IKEA

Kitchen Table – LERHAMN


Twin Bed – Frame & Mattress

$79 – Frame – NEIDEN

$199 – Mattress – MORGEDAL

Writing Desk

$130 – MALM


$6834, before tax – this is the approximate start-up cost to move into a 1-bedroom apartment.

In calculating the ten months additional to the first two start-up months, I’ve used these same numbers, minus the start-up costs around bedding and kitchenware.

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Creative Targets

Over the past few days I sought and found an Amazon delivery box to change into a container for my rice cooker. I lost it once, having to climb into a recycling dumpster to retrieve it. Today I went to work on it at Harrison Baths. Unsatisfactory is the only word to describe the result.

…it’s more than a just solution to an immediate problem. It’s an investment in a future which assumes continued homelessness.

The problem, of course is a combination of things. Work-surface (the end of a bench, at bench height), less tape than I would like (for weather proofing), and, as always, time.

Constructing these isn’t very difficult, but along with space and resources to work, it takes some forethought and planning. Time and conditions are relevant factors. Figuring out how to fold the material while maintaining dimensions correct both internal and external requires a little finesse. And luck, but that’s also affected by factors.

…I said, “I was homeless yesterday, I’m homeless today, and I’ll be homeless tomorrow.” That is the truth of homelessness. Eventually, the future is your adversary.

The main thing about making these — or buying a new set of Tupperware, or new durable shopping bags, or any of the other items I use daily in my homelessness, is that it’s more than a just solution to an immediate problem. It’s an investment in a future which assumes continued homelessness.

Years ago, a volunteer I’d chatted with at a meal program saw me in the street. He greeted me, asking how I was. The answer I gave him encapsulates the reality of an institutionalized mind, a homeless mind. I said, “I was homeless yesterday, I’m homeless today, and I’ll be homeless tomorrow.” That is the truth of homelessness. Eventually, the future is your adversary.

My time homeless has spanned the years a person would normally build a career, a life, a history of their experiences, memories, which I’d argue are the brickwork of identity. Time, when it becomes your adversary, forces escape. Oblivion, nostalgia, anger, violence — there are many ways to run from an intractable foe. My own escape has been to attack time on it’s own terms. Whether by delving into fictionalized versions of the lives of Roman Emperors, the lives of real, living legends, or galaxies of imagined, extrapolated futures, my escape has been a fight, and a search for meaning, guided by curiosity.

My curiosity finds in history human meaning. It is made of stories, our past. No matter where on earth we are from, or where we are, our lives are the result of a long process of change, and growth, and evolution. People are what make the world, and people are living and telling the stories which make our history.

Periodically, I remember that spices were prized, of staggering value. These are items we now take for granted. Pepper, salt, these are considered staples, and bland staples at that. Items like these were instrumental in conjuring the institutions our world was built upon, the institutions we take for granted as inevitable, natural, normal.

(Wish I could spend time polishing this.)

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Lazy, and obdurate. Masochists. Filthy, greedy, animals. We are feral. Cunning and vile. We simply do not know what’s good for us.

These are the terms City of Toronto applies to the homeless, discreetly.

Watch the news, and you’ll see reports featuring public servants, credible people society relies upon — Firemen, Police, Paramedics, speaking about what they’ve found.

The Mayor, a press conference. One step away from a scolding, an attitude of firm, tough love. During Christmas holiday season you’ll find a note of compassion. Elsewise, it’s ‘beware the menacing homeless.’

City Hall wouldn’t write any of those words into a memo or policy. They’re people. They don’t want to appear unkind. Instead, they push the concept, the facade. It’s the lightly crafted use of a half-formed idea. A tweet, or a look. A photo, an article. Bias and stereotype do the rest.

Words, barely formed, surface in the public mind. The shadow of a thought. You needn’t think too hard on it. They’re dirty. They’re thieving away your hard-earned tax money. Don’t give it another moment, we’ve got this. It’s only common sense. We’ll take care of it. It’s what you’re paying us for.

You’ve seen us on the street, in the park, on TV.

We’re a threat to ourselves. We nest, unwanted and uninvited. We set fires. We are criminals. We invade City property. We make a public space unsightly.

Coming away from a story on homelessness you carry that message with you. The seed of an idea, already rooted. You nurture it every time you see an encampment, an addict, or a panhandler. It’s not your fault. Soon enough, you’ll see another story about a fire, or statistics about overdose deaths.

Once a year, you’ll hear about a serious crime involving a homeless. You’ll see the grainy videos of shit-throwing vagrants, angry beyond proportion over a closed bathroom, or some other nuisance.

What’s it all about?

Why don’t they just go to shelters? Why do they refuse to leave the parks? It’s a shame. The help is there, why don’t they just accept it? Make everybody’s life easier.

Milk or cream? Sugar or sweetener? Coffee or tea? We all make decisions. When last did you refuse something? It was something you didn’t want, probably. Why? Why do people refuse things? Any number of reasons. You don’t simply accept anything offered to you.

Who did you answer to for your refusal? Maybe you’re a bit wild and answered to a judge. No? A bureaucrat. A security guard? Your mom.

More than likely, you only answered to yourself. Your partner, your children, your loved ones, if the decision was contentious.

Did you question yourself? Your right to decide? Your ability to make a decision? Your faith in yourself, or your legitimacy? No, probably not.

Were you made to feel less than a person for saying no? Look at the image below. The title, in particular.

‘Homeless… refusing outreach.’

You already know what I think.

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Strings… Theory?

The tendency people have to ‘pull string,’ on the homeless is widespread. In case you don’t know what I mean by that, here goes.

Any time we encounter an authority figure, they’ll put us in a position of embarrassment. As homeless men and women, we are sometimes tolerated, sometimes welcomed. We stand out. We are targeted. When an authority figure takes action against us — regardless it being police, security, social worker, business owner, anyone else — baiting is often the primary element.

What is that, baiting? Typically, it’s a means to escalate a situation. It’s the manipulation of a verbal interaction. The goal is to create openings for the targeted person to fill. By applying a sort of profiling, security guards, social workers, and police officers will take a stance, pose a question, down-talk, imply and insinuate. In this way, the targeted person is likely to say something outrageous, offensive, or threatening. It’s ‘pulling string,’ in the sense a talking doll has its string pulled. The result is both anticipated and desired. It’s a dehumanizing and humiliating experience, but that’s the tactic.

Ultimately, it’s one person going to a lot of trouble to justify a decision they’ve already made. It’s a psychological ploy. It’s an attempt to mask a rationalization, an already-made decision. It’s about control.

We’re all likely close to someone who’s adopted this behaviour. Co-worker, employer, or relative, it’s a not uncommon social strategy.

In my own family, it’s my mother. She’s always been fond of this tactic. She’ll go to lengths to set out verbal traps and land mines. Woe betide ye who transgress!

People who deploy this tactic have an advantage. They can, effectively, become outraged about anything. Your outrageous comment or non-comment allows them to refuse to do something they already don’t want to do, or do something they have already decided on.

In the bigger picture, it’s an attempt to create an enduring atmosphere of caution, as a sort of emotional manipulation centreing your thoughts and actions on their feelings. In a personal setting, it’s one part blackmail and one part hostage-taking.

In one of my most recent interactions with the municipality, I was threatened with arrest for swearing in front of children, of all things. This example needs some expanding-on.

Not only did I not swear in front of children, ffs, the assertion that I did, and that the police needed be called because of this was an attempt to create anger in me. Why? So that by the time police arrived, the ‘Homeless Ambassadors’ (formally known as ‘Parks Ambassadors’), would appear justified in taking action — action, I would point out, which included calling the police.

They had targeted me for sitting in a public park. Middle of the day, public park, minding my own business and setting out to spend some time reading. No one had complained I was in that park. The escalation of this situation was an event which they had precipitated on their own initiative. They had arrived because they target the homeless, and they targeted me. The result was a notice of trespass, which is a ban from the location. They also, as an added insult, had the police ban me from another park, one I had never been to.

There are no public parks in Toronto where the homeless are welcome. More on that in a different post.

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Double-Barrelled Sunshine

Finally a warm evening! Tonight marks the first double-digit positive temperature of 2021.

Life during the pandemic has, for me, been spent almost entirely outdoors. Winter has been especially difficult.

Much of the work that needs doing for this blog and the fundraiser it exists to support cannot be done in cold temperatures.

It’s easy to take circumstances for granted. Access to the internet during the interstitial moments of life — waiting for the train, in the car, in bed — has normalized an illusion. Internet access on-demand, in-pocket, and at a whim has created the impression that everyone has equal access. We don’t.

Those moments in-between are a luxury. You’ll send a text, scroll Instagram, set a reminder, order from Amazon, all while the rest of your life is in process.

Those activities represent a rather high standard of living. The deep foundations making that quality of life possible are obscured by familiarity, normality. People who are housed live a standard of life inaccessible to the marginalized, and the homeless.

My efforts at fundraising were derailed by the closures, last Autumn, of libraries and other indoor spaces.

The hours I would spend working are not determined by my industriousness. My own efforts and output are determined by factors outside of my control.

Level of restedness, routine life-maintenance tasks, season, budget, weather, all these variables make decisions for me, daily. Operating hours for businesses and public spaces determines everything about what is possible in my waking hours. Think on that. Imagine your day was set by what time a local shop opened and closed.

Think of it another way: you can’t tidy up your living room because they’ve shut down the coffee shops. You can’t have a shower, use the toilet, or wash your face with hot water before noon because it’s a Thursday.

Where I am at time of writing is the only place that I can use to access the internet, currently, and I can only really be here between the hours of 4 pm and 4 am. In that time I prepare two meals, wash my dishes and utensils, pack and unpack my belongings. In cold weather, that is a set of tasks which results in frostnip. Wet hands in minus zero degree weather, exposed to the wind, every day.

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a̶l̶s̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶t̶s̶ False Starts

Today was the first mild day of the year. The temperature hovered mid-single-digits into the night. Naked legs and convertibles. The lockdown has really shifted perceptions.

We’ve begun in Toronto to re-open, little at a time. Still can’t get my hair cut, but that’s more a nuisance than anything. What I really want to do is focus on this site, fundraising, and putting in the long hours work it takes for me to write effectively. All of the coffee shops I would spend time at are closed permanently, so it’ll be the library much of the time. I expect they’ll fully re-open sometime soon.

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inSecurity FreshCo

This is a true story about security guards — one who planted items in my belongings in an apparent attempt to have me arrested, and another who shat on the floor of the bathroom in an attempt to…well, I’m not entirely certain what he was trying to accomplish. He sure did like dumping out onto the floor whenever he saw me coming, though.

This is the bathroom at the Sherbourne/Wellesley FreshCo. This location has saved my ass a number of times over the past 10 months or so. Not to say there haven’t been some real problems.

Tonight I had some trouble there, and not for the first time. Not as bad (depending on your point of view) as my experiences there in the early days of the pandemic (plop-plop-plop-plop!), but pretty shitty nonetheless.

I’ve been using the faucet in this bathroom to get fresh water all during the pandemic. Given I eat mainly soup and rice, water is integral to my daily routine. I typically use 4 or 5 litres per day for cooking, etc. Water is heavy, so I don’t like to travel far carrying all that. (Fun fact: 1L of water weighs 1 kg.)

Tonight, I went to access the faucet and was told by a security guard that I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom, that it was out of order. This particular security guard has, while in plainclothes, tried unsuccessfully to provoke me while at this location over the past few weeks. There are some common tactics security guards use when targeting the homeless — banging on the door immediately after engaging the lock, approaching you after having left the bathroom, closely following, exaggerated peering, casually questioning as if a shopper, that sort of thing. Pretty standard stuff. (In case you’re wondering, the substantial cost to retailers as a result of theft is from employees and organized shoplifting rings, not the homeless.)

Tonight he was in uniform. I had done my shopping by the time I went to use the bathroom, so I already had my bread, my soup, and some fruit. When he stopped me at the bathroom door, I left my bags there and walked over to the head cashier to ask her to talk to this guy. I shop there every day, after all. She refused, and spent time explaining to me that there was some definitely valid reason for not allowing me to use the sink. Definitely a valid reason, definitely. After asking her to tell me more about her thinking on this, she got sniffy. Not all that strange, as this woman in particular has a dislike of me that she has never been shy about displaying, but that’s a story for another time. So I return to the bathroom area and pick up my bags, where the security guard is standing by them, and I line up again for a refund. I’ve got to buy some water and I’m not about to buy it here. I’ll go to the No Frills. I’m not about to carry the stuff I bought here all the way to another grocery store, so I’m getting a refund. I return all of the items I bought, except the loaf of bread, which I handled. When I get to the No Frills, I find that there are two cans soup in my bag… The only time I left my bags unattended was when I was chatting to the head cashier. The only time I’ve recently bought that type of soup was tonight, and I returned the two cans that I’d bought. So how did these two cans of soup get into my bag?

The security company this particular guy works for tried to provoke me to violence earlier this week. That’s not unusual for a certain kind of security guard, you know the type. I thought we’d made up, but when you read the following, perhaps you’ll be as puzzled as I am at how bizarre security guards can be.

Early in the pandemic FreshCo. at Sherbourne/Wellesley, like all other grocery stores, posted a security guard at the entrance to control the flow of traffic. This neighbourhood being near the most violent and crime-ridden in the city, they already had a security presence. The pandemic brought a number of new guys. One of them, a stocky, middle-aged man, was the regular guard in the daytime. We’d chat a few minutes, typically, just saying hello and that kind of thing. As a homeless person I try to defuse the tension security guards can experience, especially if they don’t have a lot of experience downtown. It just makes for an easier time for everyone.

So I get into the routine of going to this location and doing my daily shop around the same time every day. It’s usually the same guy, and there’s never a problem. Then, gradually, strange things start happening. I’m going into the toilet and it’s all clogged up. Not a big deal, it happens. Then it happens again. And again. And then there’s filthy water on the floor. Now, I’ve been homeless a long time, so I am very familiar with what an industrial grade toilet can handle. I’m also familiar with how corporate security people like to go about setting up a scenario to crate a pretext. I won’t go into that right now, instead I’ll stick to the tangibles…like the piles of shit on the floor.

The security guard, week after week, he’s been standing outside the store, having people line up, all that pandemic-time stuff. My walk to the grocery store includes a straight-away, where he can see me coming, and I can see him. I find it a little odd when, suddenly, when he sees me coming, he goes into the store. I don’t see hm again until I approach the bathroom and he’s exiting it. Hi! Hey there! I go into the toilet and there’s a pile of shit in front of the bowl — on the floor. Now, you might think that maybe he went in there, but he didn’t make that mess. Fair point, one time. Or twice. Or three times. Or four times. Or any time it happened while he wasn’t there. But no. There was a pile of shit on the floor, repeatedly, when he was working, shortly before I arrived to use the bathroom, and quite often when he was seen to be the last person to have used the bathroom. Never, not even once, was there anything like that when he wasn’t working. Why would someone do this? Apart from wanting to be a dick? I think I have an answer, but I won’t bother writing it down here. Suffice it to say that it didn’t stop me using the faucet. Says a lot about the difference between the security company and the security guards, though. I mean, they would’ve known he was doing that. And someone had to clean it up, didn’t they?