Julie wanted to be able to share part of her story. This was recorded August 26, 2019.
I’m originally from Toronto but I’ve been here since I was 18. So I’ve been here almost 30 years.
(Interviewer: Did you have housing for most of the time you were in Peterborough?)
Oh always. Up until April.
I was living in a rooming house with my partner and he passed away March 4th. 27 days after he passed away the rooming house that I lived in burnt down.
They gave us three days in a motel (you know, the disaster fund people) and then that was it and you were left to your own devices at that point which... you know... I was staying between the Warming Room and in June a friend of mine, the pair of us, went in and bought a tent, we were one of the first people down here [tent city], [him] and I, and then I had spent sometime in the hospital. I was in the hospital for 20 days with pneumonia and when I came out of the hospital I moved into a separate tent.
So I stayed in this other tent, which was very small, for some time.
I was pretty much the second person in the park at that point. And then a few people I knew from, you know, the streets and the lifestyle had come down, you know...and we were all people that happened to have known each other prior to being here in the park. But we kinda created, like each little group has created, their own little community.
You know, we’re one big community but we’ve kinda created sub communities in amongst, so we’ve all kinda watched out for each other, you know? If i had to leave for a few hours I’d have, you know, Ali’d be watching my tent and my possessions for a few hours because that was a big concern, you know, our stuff getting left and tents being riffled.
But we hadn’t had that problem... ours [tenting community] has really been vigilant watching, you know, watching each others back. And particularly Ali and I.
Ali and I were really... at first we were the single women living in tents down here. And so we were nervous about that, knowing you were the only women in a tent by yourself in the middle of the night... but being that we were so close together in this group, you know, and then [name] was here and he was watching out for the women, and so we really kinda stuck it out watching out for each other, like we became our own little family ...and taking care of each other.
You know, if [name] didn’t have dinner that day one of us would make sure that we went up and got him a plate and he had a plate for when he woke up or got back or you know... so we took care of each other in that way, if one of us was sick the other one was making sure they had Tylenol... and amongst us all, one of us had something that the other person needed. Whether it was Tylenol or if it was baby wipes or whatever it was. Whatever it be, it be a snack in the middle of the night, water...
We all kinda watched out for each other and so that’s part of why it’s difficult for us to all be separated and scattered out amongst, you know, it would be ideal if we could rent a house, a four or five bedroom house, and have a few of us move into that place together. You know because we can just carry on the relationship that we’ve had out here, we can carry into a home and help each other as well, because we’ve all really got to know each other out here.
You know, when its down to the wire like that and your really in that much need... its nice to have your people come around you like that. It really has been special, we’ve really made connections you know? We made a lot of really deep friendships based on... I mean I’ve made friendships over the years in different capacities, but nothing like this.
This is when we were all down and out and at the very bottom you know? living in a park in a tent...and... to see how we could all come together and help? It’s been... its restored my faith in humanity in a lot of ways, it really has.
You know I had a really... i was on a real pity trip for a little while you know I mean I lost my spouse, 27 days later my house burnt down, I lost everything I owned and I really went into a like a self pity thing for a little while.. and then I came down here and I lived amongst people down here that had it a lot harder then I did. And it really drew me out of my own self depression.
Helping other people, really made a difference for me.
Really helped me get over the grief of the things I’d been going through, so its been interesting.
Like I said, its restored my faith in humanity in a lot of ways.
Even the people coming by and donating stuff, we’ve had people come by with pizza, people coming by with a box of Tim Hortons coffee, you know little things like that that we take for granted so often... to be able just to go to Tim Hortons and you know, get a coffee.
You know, I probably hadn’t had a Tim Hortons coffee in a month and somebody showed up with a box of Tim Hortons coffee and was giving coffee out on a Sunday morning at ten o’clock in the mornings was... I mean it was great! It’s something so small yet it meant so much to all of us It really was.. you know, we were all so very grateful. None of us were taking it for granted.
You know there’s some idiots that drive around? There’s one guy in particular every morning, week day morning between 5 and 7 am, he drives down the hill and across the front and the whole time he’s laying on his horn his horn is just constant you know “beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep” and he does it every morning, been doing this for the last month and a half, every morning.
And I think, so you woke us up, big deal. You know we’re just going to go back to sleep but, you know, what is your purpose? That your angry and your getting up to go to work? Well.. we’re stuck in a damn park. You know? In cold weather at night, or raining weather, and we’re dealing with leaking tents and were dealing with, you know, porta-potties that are over flowing and stinking and you know... but thats where things are at. Tomorrow... I’ll move over to the church or to city hall tomorrow, and hopefully there at city hall they can get together come up with something... a plan. You know, cause the cold weather’s coming and we won't... like the Warming Room’s been closed so there’s not that option... and people cant stay in tents all winter but at this point I’ve heard people say that they’re willing to try it. Staying in tents through the winter, you know? I cant even see that being possible. But I guess being in a tent through the winter in opposed to being outside is a little bit better. I mean you’re going to be stuck outside in the winter otherwise you know so...
(Interviewer: “its crazy people are even having to think that way.”)
I mean yeah! It really is. It’s at a crisis point and.. You know, they should’ve been dealing with this months ago, you know, before it came to this. They didn’t deal with it so now its here where it’s at and the cities up in arms because, you know, we’re in their park... And well... you know.. they haven’t given us much option. They haven’t given us... you know... Beaver Mead has got available spaces; I know that there’s a cost involved but if you could put two tents on a site (if its a thousand dollars a month for the site we put two tents on there..) social services could give the 500 for each participant, pay the 1000 dollars for the site have two tents on that site and then people have access to showers, you know, and barbecues, and facilities that they can, you know. It just doesn’t seem to be them doing a lot of anything you know? Its frustrating... very much so. Aside from passing bylaws which is going to you know restrict us and push us in to hiding like they’re saying you know like... so... so thats where things are at at this point.