She’s a statistic, until you meet her

She spends her days on Princess Street; you’ve likely passed by her. She says you can call her ‘D.’ She is friendly, appreciative of any financial contribution, and communicates her point of view with clarity and common sense.

‘D’ sits on Princess Street in downtown Kingston, hoping for some financial assistance from those who pass by. Photo by Cliff Morton.

D is one of the 152 street people identified in the United Way’s 2018 PIT (Point-in-Time) survey of the homeless in Kingston. The study identified 81 people as ‘absolutely homeless’ and another 59 in ‘transitional housing.’ The total for the survey ending in April was, as defined by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 152. The Canadian definition of homelessness reflects the total number of street people without ‘stable’ housing, or those experiencing ‘inconsistent appropriate housing.’

D sits quietly on her cardboard box, partially sheltered from the elements and dressed in a seasonally-suitable coat while we talk. She places an empty iPad folder on the sidewalk in front of her with a simple sign describing her request for financial support.

‘D’ sits in a doorway for partial shelter, wrapped up for warmth. While she currently has a place to sleep at night, the conditions are less than ideal, she said. Photo by Cliff Morton.

We compare pasts — we both lived for a time in Ottawa. However, D says she spent her time on Murray Street addicted to crack cocaine and spent all of her $40,000 inheritance on the drug. I notice that some of her physical features appear to substantiate this former addiction. She assures me she is ‘clean’ now. D has lived in Kingston for 20 years, she says, and, at the moment, has a room where she sleeps at night. She is quick to add that it is a horrible place due, according to her, to the majority of other occupants who suffer from some form of mental illness.

The PIT survey confirms many facts related to my initial conversation with D: 55 per cent of Kingston’s homeless are women – a fact that the survey points out is a rate higher than other Canadian cities; and 50 per cent of Kingston’s population in 2018 were ‘chronically homeless,’ which is defined as being without a residence for more than six months in the past year; and 48 per cent indicate that they don’t have ‘enough income to afford housing.’

D makes a commitment to speak to me more about her specific situation and about the homeless population in Kingston. She says she can tell me ‘a lot more,’ such as her perception that the city is trying to get rid of our homeless population.

We both hope to sit down some day next week. Some place where it is warm, and we can have a coffee. In the meantime, in preparation I will find a coffee shop that will accept a street person.

After our visit I hope to provide more information regarding D and her friends, and how the city of Kingston is working toward solutions to homelessness.

Cliff Morton now lives in the Village of Bath. He grew up in the 1950s and ’60s along the Bay of Quinte on the Loyalist Parkway. A former secondary school teacher, his hobbies include reading, writing, birding, fishing, and photography. He enjoys connecting with his community by reading responses to his Kingstonist articles and roaming the fields and forests in the Kingston area with his two golden retrievers.

22 thoughts on “She’s a statistic, until you meet her

  • Why don’t you take her to Martha’s Table? She could get a meal for $1. Or will the non-profit that feeds the needy not take a homeless person? I surely hope they do.

    • No one is ever turned away, at Martha’s who need a meal. Or if they need help they can come and ask for Andy

  • You could always visit the new A&W downtown, we turn nobody away and have homeless in the store on a daily basis.

  • What is sad is that their are not enough places for them to set-up to a place that is home. The waiting list for a place is so long because no new apartments are being build for the ones that is praying to have somewhat a normal life like you and I, But if you go downtown their are apartments for students or apartment that they can not afford to live there. We have known about the situation for years but yet buildings made in good neighborhoods where you pay the price if you want to live there, The cost made off of the people that are homeless or low income seniors. Why can’t the buildings that are being build today why can’t the first two floors be setup for the homeless or seniors.. Some of the old buildings are no longer equipped for the growing seniors with no elevators and several stairs. And if they get a increase in their pensions there goes up their rents. And the ones that are building them can afford to keep there prices low so that we can get these people in to housing. It is 2019 for peck sacks.

  • I look forward to reading the next chapter of this story.

    • How about making one of those condo units 1,2,3 bedroom units for low income housing and giving homeless the priorty just a thought??

  • D is a scam artist! She is a drug abuser currently and a thief! She uses crystal meth. Has a husband incarcerated. Multiple children. A home of her own. And has stolen over $20,000 from my father by stealing his bank and credit cards while he was having a seizure!
    Not all homeless are helpless.

  • Looking forward to hearing more about D, and maybe a few of the other people seen on Princess St.

  • All the city needs to do is raise the taxes on “luxury” apartments, form some criteria that qualifies as a “luxury” apartment and don’t allow buildings to mix luxury and affordable housing units, the West end has buildings going up but they aren’t going to be affordable for most. Someone needs to do SOMETHING instead of just walking around counting the victims of the cities poor policy making.

  • Meanwhile Council hires Urban Planning rejects from Vancouver to approve plans for high density gated communities.

  • Thanks for this insight so far. Long overdue. There are so many people on Princess St asking for money, I wonder often about their circumstances. Tragic.

  • How do u help druggies who don’t help them selfs. No offense. This girl got her self here no one’s fault but hers I’m sorry but no no no this isn’t right at all

    • No 5 yr old says “I want to to be a druggie/junkie/addict when I grow up . Most people turn to drugs due to some trauma in their life such as being molested as a child repeatedly by a family member , most have mental/emotional issues that havent been dealt with or cant get/are not medicated or getting treatment for . There are nowhere near enough shelters, rehabs , therapists , counselors etc and the wait times for each of them can be yrs , which takes them further into their mental/emotional issues and deeper into their addiction , which raises the amount of support , services , help , time to heal etc that they need in order to be employable . Whether they are “druggies” or not the fact is that they are people , human beings , someones child , sister, mother, uncle etc , you have no idea about someones life or what they have been through or what brought them to where they are and even if you did you dont get to decide who is “worthy” of help, kindness, support , compassion etc and who isnt . You can not tell whether someone is working on their issues or if they have improved greatly or what successes or milestones they have accomplished or if they are helping themself or not or how many people they have helped stay away from drugs by using themself and their story as an example and a warning . There is a drug crisis happening . Very few families have been unaffected , most families have dealt with mental health issues and addiction within the family , many families have lost family members or friends . Far too many parents are burying their child/children , far too many young siblings and far too many friends are having to attend so many funerals it has become “normal and where most of those attending are under 30 . None of us get through this life without the help and support of others . There are all kinds of areas of support that are not adequate , all kinds of obstacles , all kinds of stigmas and attitudes and judgments ( like yours) that only make things harder and worsens the problems . You clearly dont understand all the issues but you could certainly “help yourself” by becoming educated on the subject so perhaps you could learn how you can be helpful instead of hurtful and part of the solution instead of part of the problem . Your lack of empathy , compassion , kindness etc for others ( especially when you cant even bother to understand and educate yourself about the topic before you decide to just them as “unworthy” is a far more serious issue and sickness than addiction is IMO.

  • McDonalds at Princess & Clergy is very good to the street residents of KINGSTON. Folks as you walk by D and others on the streets, don’t be afraid to say hi and look them in the eye. I know people can’t always give money to help but a smile and a warm hello goes a long way too.

  • I cant see the city doing anything for the homelessness Kingston only cares about the income Queens Students bring in

  • I’d really like to see more of these “profiles” of the community! Even beyond the homeless, just common faces in common places?

  • You and D are more than welcome to talk in our Starbucks cafe at the corner of Princess and Wellington. We know her usual summer time drink but have yet to learn her cooler weather favorite.

  • IF we as in all of us schools doctors teachers the whole community getogether and start a petion on getting affordable housing for the homeless things might look better in the future if the rich wouldn’t be a stick in the mud and help donate abit of there time clothing food money things would look brighter not every drug addict wanted to be a drug addict when they become older in was past down over and over again were losing far to many people mostly young ones to the drug stop being so I don’t have the words to say cuz it sticking me to say people out there that can help the homeless won’t remember this the homeless people are not the monster the drug is so reach out and help some One in need

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