Sunday, December 28, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


On Christmas day I awoke feeling unsettled. My first thought was that Jamie the homeless man I befriended on December 23 would be calling shortly. I guess I was feeling apprehensive because I didn't know how the day would unfold. This anxiety was primarily due to agreeing to take in a homeless stranger who I had only met a few days previous. Perhaps Jamie would be feeling this same apprehension and this calmed me somewhat.

As expected Jamie called about 8:30am and said it was time to leave the shelter and could he come over. I agreed and provided him my apartment number and code number for the intercom. I gave him instructions on exactly where I was located. At around 8:45 my intercom rang and it was Jamie. I invited him up and waited but 5 minutes lapsed and there was no Jamie. My intercom rang again and it was Jamie asking for my apartment number as he had forgotten it.

Jamie arrived at the door and we greeted. I told him not to worry about taking his boots off mainly because I didn't want him to feel bad if he had dirty socks. Later on Jamie told me that his smell and taste is compromised from the brain injury.

Settling onto my couch, Jamie and I conversed about the shelter and he informed me that they had squeezed in more than the 27 people on Xmas eve and with people flopped out on the floor of the shelter and with such cramped quarters, arguments and a few fights broke out. He informed me that he didn't have the most restful sleep but was nevertheless thankful to have a place indoor to sleep.

I was doing laundry when Jamie arrived and I needed to transfer stuff to the dryer. I wasn't comfortable leaving Jamie alone in my apartment so I asked him to come down to the laundry room with me. He probably sensed that I was distrustful about leaving him alone in my place, however, I wasn't going to feel guilt over this since drug addicts are more prone to stealing in order to feed their habits. He and I both know this.

Jamie and I sat for a few more minutes chatting but he was getting restless. I knew he was probably needing drugs and sure enough he asked me if he could borrow $10.00. I explained that I didn't feel comfortable about giving people money for purchase of their drugs but because it was Christmas I would do it only this one time. Jamie said he understood and said he would go get the drugs and be back in 45 minutes or so.

An hour or so passed and Jamie arrived back saying he had been ripped off. I raised an eyebrow somewhat skeptically but he said he had pot instead. I informed him that he could not smoke it in my place and would need to step outside onto the balcony, which he agreed. Jamie smoked a bit and I was returning some emails. We chatted about Joey and I asked him to go back to where they are camped out and encourage her to come over. He agreed but arrived back without Joey explaining that she preferred to read a book and that she was snuggled up tightly under the blankets and sleeping bags they acquired from generous folks.

Jamie became antsy again and asked how dinner was coming along. I answered fine. We were having Prime Rib but he couldn't smell the roast cooking. We were waiting for a few of my friends who were coming over. I offered Jamie a beer. He took up the offer and then went into my fridge for a second one. The fridge was pretty stocked from a campaign party I previously had. Jamie obviously saw the beer and before dinner he had consumed seven cans of beer, never bothering to ask if it was OK if he could have another or for that matter go into my fridge. Although this was ticking me off, I suspected that Jamie wasn't brought up learning about politeness and respect. I rationalized his behavior from that perspective so it made Christmas enjoyable.

Dinner was nice which included four of us. Jamie hit the fridge again for more beer and this was concerning. He became louder and began singing accompanied by one of my female dinner guests to the music playing on the computer. This became irritating since my other friend Audrey was conversing about a homeless man who she has living with her. He is a drug addict and alcoholic. She came over to get away from him as he was getting out of hand and his behavior was disturbing her. Audrey is 62 years of age. Jamie no doubt was overhearing her story and her perspectives on homelessness and drugs. Likely, he was attempting to drown out our conversation. This might explain his loudness. Of course, the beer, pot and whatever else he might have been doing on his excursions outside could explain his behavior.

At around 8pm I was weary from listening to Jamie and this other friend who shared dinner with us. They were both certainly upbeat and having a good time. After all why else would she, a 60 year old women be sitting on Jamie's lap, with her arms around him. I politely yet firmly expressed to them that they were both being too loud and it was disturbing Audrey's and my conversation. They took this as an opportunity to leave and I certainly didn't discourage them.

Jamie preparing to leave asked for a hug and I said no as I was peeved. Jamie went further and asked if he could leave his pack full of possessions with me. I said no. To allow him would only be giving him an opportunity to come back, asking for more money or trying to persuade me into something else to alleviate his tragic situation.

Since Christmas I haven't heard anything from Jamie so I expect he prefers not to take any responsibility for his behavior on Christmas and most likely he is embarrassed by it. Taking personal responsibility is not something drug addicts do very well.

During the last few weeks of course I'm reflecting as many other citizens are, about our homeless crises in Vancouver and what can be done.

Even though it would be very easy to turn our backs on the homeless and this is in fact what has exacerbated and created the mess we now find ourselves in today.

In Homeless over Xmas - Part 3, I will present strategies which I think we need to explore and accept if we are ever to get a handle on the rampant homelessness facing us in our City.

Jamie Lee Hamilton