Tag Archives: dtes

memory of a midnight mission

my blog reminded me today that 3 years ago i started this blog.  it sure doesn’t feel like that long ago.  crazy how time passes by so fast.

in light of that, i thought i would share a memory from 2010.



it’s a bit past 1am before i get to new beginnings church where lou has been living during his internship.  if you didn’t know any better, you’d think we were robbing the church.  we whisper and creep inside the side doors of the church and into the basement.

that’s where our stash is.

two large garbage bags full of pastries, donated by a local baker who cares for the poor in his community.

tonight is going to be good.  lou and i are both psyched.

new beginnings was a church just on the fringe of the downtown eastside of vancouver.   just a hop, skip and a jump from the glow of the dtes.  surrounded by cheap public housing for first nations and immigrants populations, the church was created to help the local community in any way they could.  pastor joe was a large man (i felt like a dwarf beside him) who had an even larger heart and a crazy redemption story he didn’t mind sharing.

back outside, we sat on the ledge beside the church contemplating our midnight mission.  we had about 70 pounds of sweets between the two bags we found in the basement.


we would head south until we found someone or we hit the industrial park.  bags slung over our shoulders we set off.

bill was filling his cart up with new cans he had found in the gas station garbage bin when we crossed paths with him.  his haul was quite substantial.  he had been working hard for several hours before he met us.  pushing the cart around all day had made him really hungry.

‘how about some muffins or donuts?’ lou offered.

‘can i have both?’

‘you can have a few of each if you want.’

bill didn’t need to be told twice.  out came four pastries of his choosing, a few oozing with icing and creamy filling.

a big smile came across bill’s face and our own.  we talked with him for a while, hearing his story about life on the streets.  he gave us some wise advice which he repeated for emphasis.

‘don’t you boys forget this now, ya hear?’

we promised we wouldn’t and shook hands to seal our new friendship with bill.

we veered left heading towards the dtes.  a few street girls were working on the corners as we passed.  they all looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, maybe weeks.  i felt a bit bad giving them sugary, innutritious food but it was all we had and they needed something in their bellies.  they were very grateful. we wished them a safe night and kept going.  their pimps don’t like you hanging around for very long, even if you are feeding them.

oppenheimer park was empty but the streets surrounding it were crawling with action.  drug deals were being done in the shadows of sunken door ways on the street corners.  a group of people were huddled up against one of the buildings have a bit of a party.  we asked if they were hungry, knowing full well what their answer would be.

‘yeah!  what do you got?’ came the reply.

‘donuts, muffins and other sweet stuff.’  i replied.

arms shot up like i was a teacher in an elementary school class room asking who wanted to go next for show-and-tell.  everyone was hungry.

‘why are you guys doing this?’

lou and i looked at each other and shrugged.

‘we had food and figured there would be hungry people on the street to share it with.  we also figured it would be a great way to make some new friends.’

‘well, i’m definitely your friend now!’

and with that one of the guys stumbled to his feet and threw his arms around us to give us a big hug.  a couple of others joined and the group hug got bigger.

donuts + conversation + late night walking in the ghetto = new friends

i love that kind of math.

we meandered our way on to east hastings where most of the action was happening.  a cop car races by on their way to something important as drug dealers offered us ‘some of their best stuff.’  persistent guys considering i’ve walked by them for the past 8 months having said ‘no, thanks’ every time.  we offer them some sugary snack but they wave us off.  they can afford better food with the money they make of selling crack to the addicts in the neighborhood.

part of me wants to drag them into the nearest dark alley way and beat the drug dealer out of them.  it might work but there’s too many of them and more waiting to replace them.  it’s an unending battle.  drugs kill here.  overdoses are far too common in this neighborhood.  and, before it kills you, it robs you of everything else you ever had, keeping you chained and in slavery to the poison that’s slowly killing you.

ugly stuff.

i hear some drug dealers carry guns.  at the very least they have large knives.  i’m mad but not stupid.

another cop car passes by us slowly.  their suspicious eyes are easy to spot.  i don’t like the police here and it’s not because of the way they look at me.

far too many of them treat the homeless and poor in the neighborhood as sub-humans.  i’ve seen cops do some pretty nasty things and get away with it.  the pivot legal society, an organization that tries to create social change by focusing on breaking down systemic barriers to the full realization of human rights, has their hands full with complaints against the vancouver police dept.  accountable policing is a serious issue here.

lou and i meet a young guy (i can’t remember his name) who is roughly our age.  he is partying with friends and heading to another bar when we cross paths.  he asks what we are doing and we tell him a bit about our midnight mission.  the look on his face visibly changes.  he tells his friends to go on without him and he will catch up.

he doesn’t.

he joins us and we continue walking down east hastings, feeding anyone with a hungry belly and a desire to satisfy their sweet tooth.

he comes from a good family but has been running with the wrong crowd for a while.  he knows he shouldn’t but the allure is too much for him.  he has a weakness for strong drink, cocaine and easy women.  he feels trapped.

we walk around for hours with him, talking life and becoming friends.

as he leaves us to head home, he swears our time together has changed him.  we hug it out and say goodbye.  we walk away hoping that

it really has.

lou comes back to my place and we debrief.  he falls asleep in the big, comfy chair in the corner of my room.  i grab a pen and paper to write down everything that happened.  i don’t want to forget this night.

i never did.

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wisdom from an elder

‘According to the UN Environment Programme, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life.’

this wasn’t written in a sensationalist newspaper or on a controversial website.  while certainly left of center, the guardian is not your usual doomsday predictor.  nevertheless, yesterday’s jarring headline reads more apocalyptic than utopian.

a whole lot of nothing is being done to protect the earth from our destructive behaviors.  there has been a lot of big talk and plenty of official public meetings where politicians and figure heads posture and peacock for the masses, but very little has and is actually being done to save us from future ruin.

make no mistake about it, our planet is reeling under our over-inflated superiority complexes.  our forests are clear-cut or diseased from climate change.  our waters are intoxicated with plastic that destroys marine life or radiation from the fukushima disaster.  150-200 species of wildlife are dying each day.  extinct.  never to come back again.

read that again and let it simmer for a moment or two.

200 species!!

an estimated 1 billion people are reliant on fish for their well-being and survival.  as we pollute our waters that destroy ecosystems or over-fish, disrupting other species in the food chain (which has negative consequences that stretch far beyond what our nearsightedness allows), we threaten the lives of 1/7th of the planet, not to mention all the other creatures that we share this planet with.

please notice that i emphasized the word ‘share’.  novel concept for humanity, i know.

yes, i’ve painted a very one-sided picture of climate change.  of course there is much more at play, but for the sake of brevity, sleep and a hankering to rant, i won’t be presenting the other side.

i’m not really sure how to process this latest report.  i do believe it’s serious but how much emotional and mentally energy can i give to something that i feel i can’t really do anything about?

and there’s the rub – most people don’t care (at least not enough to do anything) because they don’t feel empowered to be able to do anything.  it’s too far out of their reach.

thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  we don’t feel we are able to change anything so we do nothing and no change is done.

i know this might sound a bit sensationalist but i can’t help asking:

is this how it’s all going to end?

are we really going to sit on our hands and allow our grand children and great-grandchildren deal with this awful mess?   are we going to continue on this trajectory because we couldn’t or simply wouldn‘t  take seriously the signs and statistics staring us in the face?

i desperately want to be optimistic about this and believe that at the eleventh hour a group of people will rise up and take control of the wheel and steady our path, but i’m increasingly becoming more pessimistic that it will happen.

i used to sit and talk with an older coast salish man back when i lived in the downtown eastside of vancouver.  he must have been close to eighty, with a steady dose of stories and elderly wisdom at his disposal.  spending time and talking with him calmed me.

he told me about the conquering of his people by the europeans but never blamed the white man, like many do, unfortunately.  ‘it wasn’t the white man who was responsible’, he would tell me.  ‘it was the lies they had been told were truth.  they had been taught the lie that they were more important than anything else – animals, earth, water, air and other people.’

my old coast salish friend often told this with a very pained expression on his face, like it hurt him physically to tell.

‘not until this lie has been exposed and corrected will my people, or any of the peoples of our great earth, live in a healthy, properly functioning world.  we must learn that the collective – past, present and future – is more important than the individual.

we must learn what true community is.’

if my old friend could stay optimistic until the day he died, i guess i can as well.  maybe there’s some fighting spirit still left in a few of us to make a dent in the armor.

it better be soon, though..

‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ – margaret mead



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a day at the mission

i’m far too tired to write well right now, so excuse my limited abilities.  it’s been a long day and considering how very little sleep i got, it turned out pretty darn well.

irish came over this morning.  we haven’t hung out in close to 3 months.  a combination of conflict, mental health and stubbornness, we both share fault in.  today we put all that behind us with a couple manly hugs and talking it out.

reconciliation is good.

i’ve begun volunteering down at soul’s harbor rescue mission on wednesdays, so after irish and i caught up we headed down there to help out.  irish ended up volunteering as well so we got to serve alongside one another again.  pretty awesome being able to do that with another close brother.

we got busy fast and stayed busy for the better part of two hours.  indian goulash soup and turkey sandwiches were the choices for lunch.  sandwiches were a big hit.  the indian goulash, not so much.  we couldn’t keep the coffee pots going quickly enough for the demand.

just another day at the mission.

a young fellow around my age comes in with a large, black great dane.  the dog is wearing a backpack of sorts that’s blue and behaves extremely well.  i introduce myself and welcome him and his dog to the mission.  he introduces himself as brad and his large canine companion as staynes, his seizure dog.

brad explains to me that he gets multiple seizures a day and has been affected by them for the better part of 12 years.  a few years back they trained staynes to be his care companion.  apparently great danes can smell seizures ten minutes before someone has one.

this blew my mind!  i’d heard of dogs being able to detect cancer in people but never about this.  having stayne with him enabled brad to live a much healthier and safer life, because when she knew he was about to have a seizure, she nips at his wrists to warn him.  he is then able to lay down and clear himself of any danger.

i make a comment that his dog would have been the ultimate wrestle partner for me when i was a young boy.

‘you wanna wrestle with him?’

i think he’s joking but he looks serious.

‘for real?’

‘ya, just don’t poke her in the eyes.  she hates that.’

so do i.

so he lets me wrestle with staynes.  in the rescue mission.  full-out.  staynes, the 115 pound great dane pup (she was only 8 months old) against lucas, the 200 pound volunteer with a sore back and a bad ankle.  we even have a captive audience.

i win.  still undefeated in all dog wrestling matches.

brad is staying at one of the men’s homeless shelters down the road.  he explains how different it is than the shelter

he worked at back in east van.

excuse me?  east van?

‘which shelter did you work at?’ i ask.

‘first united mission on east hastings.  you’ve probably never heard of it.’

what are the odds?

it turns out brad started working at first united a little after i moved to halifax.  same shelter, even same position.

coincidence, my ass.  this smells a little like divine intervention.

then like that, i’ve made a new friend.  i agree to come down to the shelter later this week to hang out and share some first united stories.  he agrees to allow me to wrestle with staynes again.  round two of lucas vs. staynes.

after brad leaves popeye challenges me to a game of crib.  popeye’s name really isn’t popeye but everyone calls him that because he looks like popeye from the cartoon.  he’s always around the mission hanging out, cracking jokes and playing cards.  he figures he’s suckered me into a game of crib that he’s going to win at.


despite my inability to play crib very well (i’m still learning) i win the first game.  he shrugs it off to beginners luck, as do i.  then i win the second game.  he shrugs again, smiles a big mustache smile and shakes my hand.

‘good on yer, boy!  you got me good.  lets do it again next week.’

two games of crib, one wrestling match with a great dane and reconciling with a good friend.
either i have a horseshoe stuck up my backside or God’s blessed me with quite a day.

ps. i don’t believe in luck.

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bye, wally

ok, i’m ready.

a couple of blog posts back i said i wasn’t ready to talk about my friend, wally.  i am now.

wally looked like he had been a handsome man at some point in his youth, but age, addiction and cancer had robbed him of that.  his sunken eyes and cheeks spoke to his sickened state better than any other feature on his dying body.  i’ve seen pictures of holocaust survivors in concentration camps that looked healthier than he did.

one day wally asked me for a new pair of pants.  i grabbed the key and we went up into the donations rooms to find him something.  since he didn’t own a belt, we tried to find pants that fit him snug.  we couldn’t.  he was too skinny.  it was then that it hit me how sick wally was.

i apologized for not being able to find him a pair of pants that fit but wally just shrugged it off and told me not to worry.  the dirty and torn jeans he had on would have to suffice.  i offered to find a pair at the clothing store down the street but he wouldn’t have anything of it.  he shook my hand, thanked me for my time and left.  his hands were bony and cold.

there are some memories that always stay with you.

on one overnight shift i was able to sit and talk with wally about his life.  he had not had an easy go at life by any stretch of the imagination, but, as he told me, ‘other people have had worse lives’.  i wasn’t sure then and i’m still not sure now whether he said that to comfort me or himself.  possibly both.

chemotherapy was wrecking his body, inside out.  the cancer he had was an aggressive type so the doctors were meeting it with equally aggressive therapy.  and there was wally stuck in the middle, his frail body barely holding up under such horrendous conditions.

drinking alcohol numbed the pain, he told me.  he didn’t care that it made things worse.  he was going to have as much fun with his friends as he could before he passed into the next life.  his immune system could just suck it up, he told me.


wally coughed up blood and i panicked slightly.  i think he saw the worried look on my face as he wiped the bloody spit from his lips.

‘don’t worry about it, lucas.  i’m fine’.

he wasn’t fine but the way he said it almost made me believe him.  his voice carried such warmth and care.  the type of voice that puts you at ease.  i wanted to believe him so badly but i knew the cancer had him in a bad way.

‘do you even want to beat cancer?’

i regretted asking it as soon as the words left my mouth.  how insensitive could i possibly be?

‘on most days, no.’


after a few moments, he continued:

‘i think i’m ready to die, lucas.  i’ve dealt with a lot of pain in my life and i think when i die the pain will end.’

i haven’t talked death so frankly with anyone in my life like i did with wally that night.

‘but, there are some days when i’m with good people – my friends, what remains of my family and relatives – that i gain more strength to want to fight and live longer.’

‘conversations like the one we are having right now, lucas, they give me more strength and desire to keep pushing forward’.

with that, he shook my hand and limped his way to his bed,  blessing me beyond any words could ever describe.
thanks, wally.  i hope your pain is gone now and you are finally at rest.

rip wally

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ashes to ashes

‘pick three items, lucas’.

he was already up off the couch and heading towards the kitchen.  this is dave at his best.

after street soccer on sunday night, dave came over to hang out for a bit.  he’s not living in the best of neighborhoods at the moment and as much time spent away, the better.  we debate whether or not it’s better than him living at the shelter.  the shelter was recently shot up.  7 rounds into the front of the building in a drive-by.  we side with his present location but have started apartment hunting again.

dave is an incredible cook.  everything he has ever made me to eat has been nothing less than amazing.  everything.  and he can do it with next to nothing in the kitchen.  he thrives off of making tasty dishes with as little as possible.  i think its his game.  it’s a fun game when you’re the one eating good food.

dave teaches me a bit about cooking.  he believes cooking is really easy and attempts to convince me of his truth.  after 10 minutes im pretty sure i can cook just as well as him.  power of persuasion takes another one down.

1o  minutes later we are eating a delicious meal.  kat and i compliment dave as we scarf down his recent creation.  he humbly brushes it off likes it’s nothing.  he picks up my guitar and starts playing some of his original licks.  he’s a good musician, too.

good times.  community at it’s finest.

dave has been making it more of a habit to come hang out.  i like that.  in the past, dave would disappear from months on end.  when you work with guys on the street it plays with your mind when your friends disappear for a while.  you dont know if they’re dead or alive.

the longer you do not hear from them, the deeper your fears become.

i hope dave keeps this habit up.


i lost another one of my friends back in east van last week.  wally had a lot of health problems when i first met at first united, constantly in and out of the hospital.  he had a very gentle spirit about him and a calming voice.  he always looked on the bright side of things, aware of but not willing to settle for the darker side of reality.

every time i asked wally how he was doing, he always answered ‘copasetic’.  i had to look up the word in the dictionary to figure out what he meant.  completely satisfactory.  when i pressed further what he meant, he told me that no matter what life threw at him, he wasn’t going to get too high on life nor would he go too low.  everything has a purpose, he would tell me.

i think he found great comfort in that.  i do too.

wally was another member of the first nations crew that spent their time drinking rubbing alcohol and mouth wash.  im not sure if it was the alcoholism that killed him or the cancer that ate away at his body.  im not sure what’s worse.

i’m pretty sure i could write a big, long post about wally that i did about africa but i don’t feel like doing that today.  i’m going to keep these memories inside for now.


lent started today.  happy ash wednesday.

i decided to give up losing any more friends for 40 days.  hopefully this works.

your prayers are appreciated.


you’ll be missed, wally.  dearly missed..


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death, where is your sting?

the past few days have been difficult. africa dying hit closer to home than i ever expected. his passing has me thinking about death more. no, not in the morbid sense. im not completely off my rocker yet. its got me thinking about life and the death of life. big picture stuff.

death isnt really the end. its a new beginning to the rest of your life. well, thats what i believe. i think we live forever and ever, somewhere. heaven, paradise, city of gold, kingdom of God, home.

i know atheists will probably scold me for saying such a thing, but i feel bad for atheists. i really do. genuine pity. if i understand atheism, and i think do, the logical conclusion of its philosophy is that there is no meaning, no purpose, no life after death. not only does nothing really matter nor any truth really exist, but when we die thats it.

what an awful thing to believe.

worm food. lights go out and they dont come back on.

i realize that this isnt an argument against atheism, because something being unfortunately terrible doesnt make it wrong, but it does make it terrible and something that offers very little hope for this life. no thanks, atheism.

id rather see and embrace the hope we have in the gospel. thanks, Jesus.

im going to leave it at that. for now.

i miss the dtes a lot right now. i havent missed it there this much since i first left. i wonder how so many people are doing. i wonder how aj is doing and if he has kicked his addiction. i wonder how elizabeth is doing and if she beat cancer. i wonder how daryl has been and if he has gone home to nunavut like he told me he needed to.

i wonder about many others and wonder when ill go back, if ever.

i hope to.

today i worked the door at hope cottage. eddie had taken the night off and andrew asked if i wanted the gig. no apron, greet everyone that entered the building and carry a clicker to count guests. its even better than it sounds.

cheque day was on wednesday so business is slow. the regulars are all there though and a few new faces. kenny comes in with rap blasting from his cell phone. a few heads in the room turn in his direction and he graciously turns it off as he grabs a tray. considerate member of the community.

skylar comes in for dinner late. he grabs some bread and dinner and comes to talk with me. he finally got an apartment! i congratulate him and we high five.

high fiving is a great celebratory gesture on the streets. i quite enjoy it.

skylar was a youth that was living at the shelter when i worked there. i got to know him there and when he came out to play street soccer for a while. smart cree kid, very athletic, advocate for others, but with a bit of a temper.

he has had housing for just over a month. he moved in just before christmas. good gift from santa, id say. already its helping him. he is taking his addictions more seriously and doing what he needs to do to be healthy. hes staying out of trouble which means the police arent harassing him.. as much.

i couldnt be happier for him!

we talk school and where things are at with that. school is next on his list of things to do but he feels lost. hes not sure where to go from here. i agree to help him figure that out. hes too smart and gifted not to get his high school diploma and give himself a better chance at life. he agrees. he promises to come out for street soccer this sunday and bring his sudanese roommate who loves playing soccer with him.

i hear they start playing soccer in the womb over there. i expect this guy to be good.

skylars big success has me hopeful. even in the midst of death, grief and sadness, theres a lot to be hopeful for. hope for at-risk youth getting housed and educated. hope for my other friends on the street rising up out of poverty. hope for me seeing my friend, africa again (and all the others) on the other side.

bye, grief. hello, hope.

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deeper grief

they always come out of left field.


i lost another one of my friends today to addiciton.  he wasnt much older than myself.  losing africa hurts a lot.  much more than i ever thought it would, but then again, i never pictured losing africa.  for whatever reason i thought he would make it out alive.

i hate being wrong.

i met africa my first day on the job at first united.  i was standing in the lobby talking with a new coworker when in walked a very tall, skinny african man wearing a giant hat with large sunglasses.  he didnt walk so much as he stumbled into the building.  as soon as he saw me, he stumbled over to shake my hand.

‘hi, im africa.’

his african accent and intoxication level made it difficult to understand him but i got the gist.  this problem stayed the same for as long as i knew africa.  the more he drank the thicker his accent got and the harder it was to understand him.  sometimes he would lecture me for minutes on end, all the while i couldnt understand a single word he said.

africa’s name wasnt actually africa, but a nickname given to him by his friends in the downtown eastside.  not very imaginative but pragmatism wins out in a world when remembering where you woke up isnt easy.  the tall black man would forever be known as africa and he didnt seem to mind it one bit.

a nickname usually means acceptance and when you are thousands of miles from home, acceptance is just what you need.

africa’s friends got him drinking rubbing alcohol one day and he became hooked.  addiction to rubby (as they called it) was not a pretty addiction.  for me, its quite possibly the worse one to watch someone struggle with.

africa had an apartment somewhere in the dtes but he spent most days and nights hanging out or around first united.  thats where his friends lived and hung out.  this was the case for a few of the guys i knew in the dtes.  they would get a worker in housing to help them get an apartment in hopes of getting away from their addiction and the people they consumed their poison with.  some lasted longer than others but, one by one, they all made their way back.

since i left vancouver ive lost 4 guys from just one group.  since i joined the dtes community ive lost over 15 people.  those are just the ones i can remember..

i hate losing my friends to addiction.

this doesnt seem get any easier..

when i decided to start giving my life to the poor years ago, i didnt think that id see this many people die.  people who i had relationship with, a connection, a friendship.

i didnt sign up for this.

i invited africa to a small church in east van with me one summer sunday.  the church was having a community party in the local park with live music, games for the kids and bbq.  as soon as i told africa there would be food there he was coming come hell or high water.  he marched there like a man on a mission.  for as rail-thin skinny he was, the man could pack down the food.  we could never explain where the food went.

a couple other guys came along as well.  edson, one of my favorite guys to talk with at the shelter, came along with us as did aj (edson is now married and living in northern bc and doing great!).  as soon as the music starts up africa is dancing.  by himself.  in a dance only he knew the steps to.

it was something else to see.

we laughed until our sides split. aj fell off his chair he was laughing so hard.

i like that memory.

just as quickly as i remember that memory, the reality that hes gone comes crashing back.  my heart is grieved deeply..

in fyodor dostoevsky’s ‘crime and punishment ‘, he says something that gives me great comfort in times like this:

“the darker the night, the brighter the stars,
the deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

thankfully, this truth is more real to me than anything else i know.

ill miss you, africa.


harry and africa


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mona’s gone..

i chose not to believe it when i heard it. my mind decided to override reason in order to spare me emotionally. at least for the moment..

that moment has left and gone.

when i first started working at the shelter, there was this little round native lady who kept demanding hugs and grabbing my butt inbetween stealthly stealing my name tag several times a day. no, my name tag isnt a pin-on, its a clip on. how much more amazing would her stealth ability have been had my tag been fastened on by a pin? anyways..

i knew this little troublemaker by the name of mona.

mona lived in surrey with her boyfriend but, when things got bad, she would escape her life out there to come and stay with her friends down at first united church.

at the shelter mona was usually found in one of two states – really or kinda drunk. her and i would sit and talk for bits and pieces here and there. shed tell me about her familiy and where she was from. as i got to know mona more i began asking her about her drinking problem. she confided in me that her boyfriend physically abused her. she told me she drank to escape the pain of her reality. my heart sank within me.

we collaborated about getting her into a treatment program and she agreed that that would be the best idea. she wanted so badly to be free of the abuse and free of her addiction. but soon after that, she just left.

lots of people just get up and leave, not to be seen around the shelter again. sometimes its because they found housing, other times treatment programs. i believed that this was the case with mona. i figured she had arranged everything without telling me. but tragically for me and her friends and family, neither was the case.

mona was found dead last week in her apartment.

she had been murdered..

ive never had a friends life stolen from them before. im unsure how to process the pain. my mind doesnt want to accept the truth, choosing to live in a state of disbelief.

its a numb feeling.

im not sure if its numb because this is new to me or because i believe she was so close to getting the help she needed. she was so close to getting alternative housing. she was so close to a better life.

but now nothing.

ill miss that troublemaker more than any other troublemaker before her.

may you finally rest in peace, mona.

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i moved

its been a busy past while for me, thus why my writing has been a bit scarce.  recently i decided to move to the city. now, i have always told myself id never live in the city.  i swore that id never live in a world of concrete and right angles.  yet here i am. im living in an area called strathcona, the oldest residential neighbourhood in vancouver.  the neighbourhood occupies most of the dtes and is inhabited with quite a diverse combination of musicians, artists, hippies, hipsters and homeless people. my new roommate is a pop band manager and has an old dog named chemo. im not sure he likes me yet, but he will.  i didnt move that far (distance-wise, about 50 km’s) yet the difference is unmistakable.  the difference i speak of is that between the separate communities.  i moved from the suburbs of the fraser valley, with its cookie-cutter homes, golf-course green lawns and tidy-white picket fences, to the darker streets of the downtown eastside, with its rundown store fronts, persistent and plaguing drug trade and streets the homeless from all over canada call home.  its going to take some time and a few adjustments to adapt to my new surroundings but im confident i can handle it.  it doesnt hurt that im only a five-minute jaunt to the shelter. boo yah! eat your heart out, commuters!

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poetry from the poor

aj is a friend of mine who frequents first united mission. we usually fake kung fu fight in the lobby (to the entertainment of those in attendance) or he boasts about dunking on my head in a game of one on one. itd be quite the accomplishment for a 40-something addict who stands at no more than 5’7. hes got a great sense of humor, a solid left jab/giddy up kick (he invented it) and hes become one of the clients i look most forward to seeing when i head into work. 

aj is a survivor of the residential school system. for those not familiar, the residential schools were a systematic attempt by the canadian government and numerous churches to destroy native culture in canada. the intention was “to kill the indian in the child” and to transform aboriginal children from “savages” into civilized members of the canadian society. assimilation to western norms. children were taken from their families at young ages and forced into these schools, severing ties of culture that ran between generations. there were communities where all children were taken.. 

it was the intention of the government that native culture and language become purposely supressed. even punishable by “tough love” tactics, to put it mildly. emotional, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse were experienced by children at the hands of their ‘educators’. upon becoming adults and elders in their communities, the abuse was passed on, creating a vicious cycle of abuse that still runs deep to this day. 

its an ugly part of our nations history that most dont hear about, both in the news and school textbooks. winston churchill was once quoted as saying, “history is written by the victors”. apt and rather fitting for this chapter in our nations history. 

aj gave me some of his poetry the other day. he entered a writing contest recently so he gave me a copy of what he submitted. 

i believe it quietly describes the turmoil within him. but i can only guess.. 

by the way, i asked him if i could post his poetry here.  he said yes. 


ajs poem

open doors, slammed doors 

closed doors 

here we go again, you cant numb the pain 

we always end up on hastings and main 

why is our lives so much in vain? 

our lives are so much in pain 

empty sidewalks 

empty roads 

why are our lives at our crossroads? 

you go pick up 

then its my turn to go 

this is an obsession 

there is no where to go?

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