December 18, 2009

Temporal Homes

As winter settles in every year, I often think about the homeless. In particular, I am thinking about a homeless couple who settled into my neighbourhood for a week or so last spring. The woman was always reading a book as they asked for spare change outside of the liquor store, and they had an adorable dog that was always snuggled up beside them. Wherever they are staying this winter, I hope they are warm, healthy, and that their dog is still with them. Below is a snapshot of my impressions while they were sleeping across the street from my rental suite:

A homeless couple and their dog emerge from under their tarp and slowly begin to pack their blankets, pillows, books, and empty bottles into a shopping cart. The woman shakes the dust out of their blankets and fluffs the pillows before piling them on top of the loaded cart. She places a glass vase on top of the concrete wall that frames their sleeping quarters and inserts three red tulips, which emerged from somewhere inside the dismantled bedroom. As the man and woman make their way towards Cambie Street, they temporarily park their portable home near a colourful mural on 18th Avenue.

I stare at the vase full of tulips and wonder about the woman’s intention. Perhaps it is a thank you gift to the space for giving them shelter for the night. Maybe it is a claim of home. The couple only manages to sleep in the concrete nook for a week or so before someone in the neighbourhood calls to have them evicted from their makeshift home. Not long after, I witness an altercation between a resident and one of the regular bottle collectors, each defending their territory and butting heads over their mutual right to exist in the same space in their own way. It is like watching two worthy opponents in the boxing ring, throwing harsh words instead of jabs and hooks.

But the couple disappeared quietly. They left the transitory scent of tulips to waft over the smell of urine and garbage that permeates the liquor store parking lot.

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