My 36-hour glimpse of what it’s like to be homeless while coping with a physical limitation showed me how quickly pride can go out the window when barriers to necessities pile up.
It was around 8C outside and seven millimetres of rain was coming down. I was using a wheelchair to get around. My partner, Mike Gaff, and I had only the donated clothes on our backs.
Mike and I were two of 11 community members who agreed to step away from our regular lives, homes, cars, families and debit cards to participate in the 2018 Sanctum Survivor Challenge.
The project aimed to raise awareness of the realities of homelessness, poverty and the poor health that often accompany them, as well as to raise money for Sanctum Care Group’s 1.5, a home for pregnant women with HIV.
The house, which will be the first of its kind in Canada, is now being built near St. Paul’s Hospital. It will provide care to help prevent transmission of the virus to the infant and help keep babies in their mothers’ arms instead of in the child welfare system.
At 7:30 a.m. Friday, I was wearing three short sleeved t-shirts, a light jacket and, under that, a small pair of thick sweatpants draped over my back and shoulders for extra insulation. I had a fleece blanket and a plastic poncho to cover my legs and arms.
Mike was told he had diabetes and needed to consult medical experts about diet and to monitor his blood sugar levels twice a day.
He wore a t-shirt and lightweight hoody.
We had a list of places to go, some as far away as AIDS Saskatoon on 33rd Street. We needed to obtain health services without identification, learn how to get ID without an address, be tested for HIV and learn how to get the opioid antidote naloxone. We were to wash our hands regularly, launder the only clothes we had and do an act of kindness.
Mike pushed my wheelchair 12 blocks to the Food Bank in a cold wind. We emerged from that brief, warm place with two heavy bags of canned food, meal replacement drinks, juice, bread and celery.
Next, we needed $2 to get some warmer clothes and toothbrushes from the Food Bank’s clothing depot.
It was starting to rain. Mike’s sweater would be soaked in a few minutes.
I did what I think anyone would do in the circumstances.
I put out my hand to a passing stranger and asked if they had any spare change.
Author: BETTY ANN ADAM