Author: Dennis Cardiff
Published: June 2014 by Gotta Find A Home
Category: Non Fiction
Many thanks to Dennis Cardiff for supplying me with a copy as part of Rosie Amber’s book review team.
Writing about the homeless and helping the homeless, has given my life a purpose that it didn’t have before. Documenting their stories will, I hope, introduce them to the public in a non-threatening way. Some panhandlers look intimidating, but that disappears when one sees them laugh.
When I met Joy I was going through an emotional crisis. Meeting her and her friends – worrying about them and whether or not they would be able to eat and find a place to sleep – took my mind off my problems, that then, seemed insignificant.
This is a non fictional story of a group of homeless people in a Canadian city from the perspective of the man who befriended them. Documented in diary format Dennis Cardiff catalogues the conversations he has with the various panhandlers, which brings home the reality of people who are forced, for one reason or another, into a life on the streets. These accounts show just how people’s lives and personalities can be and are formed by past traumas in the form of abuse, addiction and mental and physical disorders.
The conversations throughout the book demonstrate the sense of community among the group and the very noticeably differing personalities, each having their own stories and set of circumstances, and all the while helping the reader to see them as people in their own right, with real feelings and needs, struggling to survive against the odds.
Ian – “I didn’t know what to do. I was homeless and didn’t have any way to get to the hospital, so I phoned Alcoholics Anonymous. They said they would send someone to pick me up and stay with me in the hospital. I was unconscious for three days.”
Shark – “I’ve been sick. I’ve had a lot of pain in my legs, my right hip and my shoulders from my HIV. Morphine makes me sick. I take the pills and sometimes they stay down, most time they come right back up. Marijuana and booze work better than the morphine.”
Hippo – “I slept outside last night, under the bridge. There is an exhaust fan overhead, I’ve got a good sleeping bag, the weather was mild so it wasn’t too bad.I’ve had it with the shelters. It’s really bad there now, mostly crack heads. Things get stolen, it’s noisy, fights start, there are bedbugs. I’d like to get a clean place that’s quiet, no bugs and a lock on the door.”
This book tells it like it is, with no frills, and it is a challenging read. Not only because of the plight of the street people but also the way they are viewed and judged by the general public and more often than not, ignored. It’s something I imagine most of us, including myself, are guilty of. Dennis Cardiff tackles the issue in a completely constructive way by offering food, a bus ticket or coffee on daily basis and gradually getting to know the street people. It all started one morning as he was walking to work and saw a woman sitting on the sidewalk. He didn’t know quite what he should do, if anything. A friend advised him to offer her food and coffee and so began a morning ritual which evolved into a life changing experience for the author.
Joy fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of the coffee shop. I saw her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips.
Joy – “My boyfriend punched me in the face. I’m covered in bruises, my ribs are in bad shape and I’ve been coughing blood….He’s ok when he’s sober, but when he drinks he gets crazy.”
This is a unique insight into homelessness and the views of some of the people who live on the streets. Dennis Cardiff doesn’t try to explain why they are homeless or suggest solutions, he just offers his time, friendship and a willingness to listen.