Walking on the streets approaching everybody (no exceptions) that cross my way. I had a route, a partner and 2 hours to complete our mission: count homeless people. Scott and I walked through the empty streets of Garneau area. I was uncomfortable. It is not an easy job for me to talk to strangers on the streets, especially… hey there is our first stranger…
– Hi, my name is…
– Sorry, I am late for … a meeting.
-Ok. Have a good day.
People do not have much time to spend talking to strangers these days. I was holding a map indicating where we have to go. It seems that we are heading to the university. I was telling Scott how uncomfortable that situation is for me because…
– Hi, we are voluntaries to help to count homeless people. Do you have some time to talk to us?
– Do I look homeless to you?
Well, we cannot blame him. We said that we are counting homeless people.
It was particularly windy that day. The leaves on the ground take of like little airplanes. And the streets were empty. So we walk and talk. We noted that we were approaching the university. Many people using backpacks, rushing their way to the next class.
– Hi, we are voluntaries doing a research about the housing situation. Do you have a few minutes to answer some question?
– I am late for my class but sure.
– Ok, do you have a place to go stay the night today?
– Yes, my apartment.
– That’s it?
– Yes, we are helping to count homeless people.
– hmmm !??
Scott and I barely keep a conversation, there were too many people around us, and we should ask everybody. Some just pass-by us in a rush, other just excuse themselves and keep in their way. A few talked to us, but all had a place to go for the night. They were mainly students. We had no luck to find a homeless. Strange way to say that. We both realize that less homeless is better, right.
On the way back, I finally could explain why I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t afraid of homeless people at all, but the violence on the street. I experience some bad moments in the past and it definitely generates pre-concepts in my mind. When we finish our route we hadn’t count any homeless, but other voluntaries did. They said that homeless people were much more kind than other people on the streets.
In the end, I was asking myself: why we need to approach everybody if come people clearly are not homeless? Well, my sense of judgment could lead to a wrong interpretation: that man, in a suit, holding a suitcase, just went out of a coffee shop. He doesn’t look like a homeless. Turn out that he is. He lost his job in the last economic crises. He goes to that coffee shop to “work”, or at least to show to other people that he is “normal”. And also because that coffee shop offers one free coffee to homeless people.