Unsheltered Testimonies

Sonica Exhibit theMuseum

at theMUSEUM January 2021

Mary Neil, community musician, in partnership with Social Development Centre Waterloo Region

with Wayne Sorley, Heather Majaury and move voices from
A Better Tent City, the Unsheltered Campaign, and Rick Weber.


Rick Weber Poser



We have starting this page to share the realities and thoughts, unsheltered testimonies,as unsheltered as the people who carry them. Some of them are poetic, and some are not meant to be poetic. But they are. They go straight to the heart.

The Right to Housing is The Right to Life, UN Rerport


 * * * The Ballad of the Beggar Child 

The night swallows me
the cold oppresses me.
By my outstretched hand
no one cares.
the people,
in front of me
they pass in a hurry
On Pavement.
Let me ask them for money
it is from now
in vain.
I can't hear myself. I can't see myself.
I'm just one
from the begging crowd.
Who cares
of ice
in the mud
or on a street corner,
Vlăjgani beat me.
Drunkards swear.
Only jagged dogs
I like the heat.
I threw
words that I miss.
On my weak shoulders
I carry the burden
I'm going to sleep,
later on
on lumps betegi.
With my tears
I wash the fallout
to the whole world.
have mercy !"
I adore and worship.
he whispered to me from a place
without pain and suffering.
in a bright place
instead of greens,
My holy mother
I see you like through a fog.
They are angels...
Jesus weeping
comforts my soul
thirsty and hungry.
His forehead in thorns
towards me he bends it,
the light of love
I am drowning in it.
" Come over !" he calls me
Christ, bleeding,
hand me the cup
the Father praying...
Florica Batu Ichim

* * * 

Why don't you?
You open the door and walk into a office
Alone young and vulnerable
Your scared and have no idea
About what's happening right in front of you
When your name is called
Your asked for your ID
You put your head down and say
I don't have any
They ask where is it
Softly spoken you say
I am not sure anymore
You get into the lady's office
She says address please
Sorry i don't have one
Phone number
You feel the last bit of emotion
Hit the floor
You wipe away a tear
And say sorry for bothering you
And walk out
You feel torn apart
Broken invisible
You aged out of the system
And now you have to
Hide scares of all kinds
Instead of hearing
Let me help you
You hear
You try and take a breath
But without a coat it hurts
From the cold
Have a coat on someone says
You just keep walking
You wake up because
Someone is poking at you
You have to move
You can't stay here
You wipe off some snow
And keep walking
You feel to cold and hurt so badly
You walk to the hospital
You talk to a doctor
They ask the same questions
You say sorry i dont have one
Are you looking for something else
Your not getting that here
You got nothing left to fight
Your to weak and sick
The winter air fills your lungs
You fall close your eyes
And leave this nightmare
Ask can i help you look into
Your ID
Can i call someplace for a coat
Stop and look at what is going on
Around us everywhere
All it take is Hello
To change a life
Try it

* * * I Am So Angry...

I am just so angry…

There are so many reasons that this community has fallen into a place of fear and hate. There are so many untold answers because each question  gets passed from one person to another. There are so many gaps that the people who fall through them are not even notice. 

Wake up and look around you. Oh wait you have a safe place to lay your head at night, food on the table.

Let me ask you how your heart became so cold? Why is there enough money for a new light rail but not for a human that needs a bed. 

How can you go into a meeting and say sorry there is NO FUNDING, for that family that has lost everything. 

Tell me why staff are burning out and are frustrated? Why is there so much turnover and you wonder where the trust went. 

We are tired of telling our story because you say we are going to make a difference but NOTHING is ever done. 

So this is how I feel ……







So step up and help side by side us not in front or behind but beside. Stop breaking promises, and keep it real. Together we can build a city that works together and runs together. 

We can learn to trust and care, grow and learn. But it takes one person to start and everything else should follow.

Char lee
Point in Time Count of Homeless, September 2021


 * * * Forgive Me
Rick Weber Oct 2020


For the times I've looked through you

   at the on ramp by the hi-way

   hanging out on the sidewalk

   in front of businesses, at the park

when I've seen only your habit and not a human

      Forgive me


When I've seen you as

  an addiction instead of a victim

  a problem instead of a person

  as hopeless instead of helpless

  as lazy instead of lost

as dirty instead of lovely

as an issue instead of possibility

      Forgive me


When I see your encampments

  along the trail in the bush

  on abandonded property in the city

  tucked into corners along the road

And I see only a burden on society rather than citizens who deserve better from your country and community

    Forgive Me

* * * It took a pandemic 

It’s not like the folks outside had a place to go, where did people expect them to go in this pandemic. 
Highlights the complete lack of affordable housing and how this problem should have been taken care of a long time ago. There have been a lot of inadequate responses, like the bus shelter (overcrowded and no oversight), shame that it took a pandemic for this to get on peoples radar. Glad to hear a bit about Lot 42 housing some folks, and shifting from tents to tiny homes/trailers. Heard about folks distributing some health supplies and hygiene items. Hope these initiatives don’t disappear once the pandemic is over. The real drive is for adequate housing 



* * * Crisis made it very real

With folks staying in all you see now are the homeless folks wandering the streets... sad that a crisis made this all very visible. Skeptical of this help people are suddenly receiving. Are they just doing it because of the disease now or do they actually care? Is it serving the homeless or just disease control? 
This is just going to get put on to the back burner once the crisis is over. 



* * * On top of it all

Hope folks on the street understand how serous this illness is. With how much folks already deal with its hard to imagine dealing with this situation on top of it all. Lots of services who would help are closed. Hopefully they can continue to help...




* * *Not enough room for everyone

"If you can't afford to live somewhere and all the shelter systems are full, where are you going to go? I mean, it's, it's just so sad and again, more changes again there. They took out pay phones. I mean, a lot of people would like to sleep in a stairwell rather than outside on the ground, the cold, hard ground. Um, but I mean, there's people that go around now and say, you can't sleep in them. Okay, we're putting locks on the doors. Um, the banks, lots of people used to sleep in the bank. It's warm, you know, the middle of winter, you don't want to be outside and sometimes there's... not enough room for everyone."

Read the testimonies from people who exausted all the options to home or shelter.
Life Stories of Displacement, oral history project 2019


* * * I ran out of food a week ago

"I think I ran out of food a week ago. My leg infections worsened because all I was eating was basically rice, potatoes, and bread. And my blood sugar spiked, And I have a life threatening infection… after paying rent, there is not enough money to cover other expenses including food in a normal month to make ends meet. I rely on two community-based programs, along with any odd job I can pick up. Due to COVID-19, the food programs are shut down and there are no odd jobs." 



 * * * Moral Supports

"This distancing, social distancing does not apply at all for the homeless. When they have nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and left behind, the only thing that keeps them alive is closeness, a hug. A hug is the way they offer moral support to each other. It is literally a matter of life and death."


* * * For the Weary 

Moved into your ‘hood
You didn’t think I should
Want to keep me hidden
Too close for your good

Pushed me out of there
The only thing you care
Is for your housing value
Not a second glare


To you, it may not seem
That I have hopes and dreams
Sometimes life just happens
Tears one from the seams


What is it you see
When you look at me
Artist, worker, sibling
As you cross the street?

Will I pass on with respect and with grace?
Or will my life be forever erased?
All our journeys end in the same place.
Some are remembered while others displaced

 I’m fighting for my right
To rest my head tonight
The ends barely meet
I’m nearly on the street

 I’m fighting for my right
To rest my head tonight
The labels put on me
are what you want to see

Mary Neil,

Community Musician


* * * Who pays $80 a night to get to a warm bed? The poor.

“It is not fair, not even the rich pay $80 or $100 bucks to have a place to sleep at night. And here we are, homeless and poor, saving our last resources to be able to pay for a motel room. There are no spaces at shelters, and we would not even get in as a couple. How is this fair? $80 it costs us to get into a warm bed.”



* * * Voice from St Mark's overflow shelter location


Think about all you are going through…..

Now think about where you’re getting your next meal….


The place where would have gotten that meal is locked….

Where do you go now…..

Do you know how to get there…..

Ok so you find somewhere to eat and you go to leave and now it’s raining…

You have to walk 22 minutes to get to where it’s warm to sleep….

You are soaked and by the time you arrive they say sorry we are full….

So now you have to go to the overflow….

It takes you 17 more minutes to get there….

You get there and you’re finally warm but you still have wet clothes….

There might be or might not be clothes there you can change into…

So now it’s time to lay down at this point, you're cold and still wet, you do your best to sleep….

It’s loud and there are a lot of things running through your head…

The big question is where this all happening tomorrow …



* * * When the city shut down on the homeless... 

“I will take my chances with the virus, this is no way to live. This is criminal. I have nowhere to go in this freezing wind. Nowhere to sit and eat as Tim Hortons is closed. Where do I go to the washroom or wash my hands? Nowhere to lay down. No store is open to buy a blanket. Until 9pm when the overflow opens…”.



***Won't be noticed

"Wherever there’s like woods or like a bush or some sort, I mean they’re all over. I mean there’s not any specific places but they’re out there. People have to sleep somewhere so whether they have a tent or not, that’s where they camp out, you know? Yeah, there’s a lot of them that stay out in the winter time too and they have whatever they have. I don’t know how they’re doing it. I did it for a short stint. It was nasty waking up from going to sleep at night and having snow in the morning. You’re out in the elements, buddy."

Read the testimonies from people who exausted all the options to home or shelter.
Life Stories of Displacement, oral history project 2019

 * * * Don't Laugh at Me...

On the road of life 
death is our final journey 
no matter if you are a president of a large company 
or person living on the street.

All our journeys ended up being the same place. 
In our society life is highly valued. 
When someone passes away, 
they are treated with reverence, respect, and dignity 
and we gather to celebrate that person's life, 
to share the sorrow and to say goodbye. 

For someone who is homeless and living on the street, 
there's little or no dignity in their death. 
Where is the dignity to die alone in a cardboard box 
or at a park bench. or in an abandoned factory. 

There was no one there to celebrate their lives, 
to grieve for them, no one to say goodbye. 
Despite the standing in life 
these are people who have walked the same earth as you and I. 
They were not something but someone, 
they too were loved, and were loved. 

Although all our journeys end up on the same place. 
The roads traveled are quite different 
from one may have the comfort of having loved ones 
past to say to say their goodbyes 
and to be remembered long after their passing, 
while the others may die alone 
with no one to remember them 
and simply disappear like the gust of wind. 

By Wayne Sorely


* * * Unsheltered from Out of the Cold

 The Jacket.

Out Of The Cold, a man came in
His jacket all torn, ripped and thin
How it kept the cold away I do not know
My offer to hang it up, was met with a NO!

“My coat is more valuable than gold”
“It does more than keep out the cold”
“It carries all I own in its fold”
“Except what I can wear”, I was told.

Now could this be a fable? I thought
Could a coat be that valuable? But
Were not other things more important to him?
Than a coat all torn, threadbare and thin?

He continued his tale, I sat most devout,
“When I was sixteen my mom threw me out”
“Now you may think it was sad”
“But really it was not that bad”

“I found a place on the streets for free”
“Joining the bikers, a new family”
“My jacket spoke for me that day”
“It let them know I was O.K.”

“My jacket opens doors, speaks aloud for me”
“It is a powerful passport, much like I.D.”
“With a single look people can see”
“My whole life’s history”

Then I left him to his dinner you see
As it was my turn to eat for free
And then I overheard a woman complain,
“I only wish I had warm mittens again”

I just turned around
She was easily found
Bare hands and a coat so torn and thin
I gave her my mitts to keep her hands in

But she said “What about your hands, sir”
“Won’t they get cold and need the fur?”
I said “I’ve many other pairs, so you see
I can gladly give you these mittens from me”

I went downtown today
To shop and walk the way
My eyes have been opened, now I can see
The people to help are all around me

Again I saw a torn old cloak
I thought to me about these folk
How could it be in a land of plenty?
That they were cold and so hungry

They seem to be
So much like me
Have we forgotten humanity?
In our most modern society

How could a coat to keep out the cold
Become worth more than precious gold
I asked my God, why not free
All these people from their misery

He spoke aloud to me that day
“I made you to help in the way”
“When you help them, you help me”
“To remove suffering eternally”

“No one will be cold or hungry”
“No one in pain or even angry”
“All can be free on that day”
“To live and fear not, OK!”

“All this can happen my son,”
“You must believe it can be done”
“I cannot do it all alone you see”
“That is why I make people like thee.”

Mike Savage

* * *