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 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.
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.