The Forgotten – Christmas 2009

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A decade of reflection of my own life is enough to make one realize that one never prepares for the changes that come about. Dreams from ten years ago differs greatly from the life I have before me now. 2009 marked a number of challenges personally and due to unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances I am unable to spend Christmas with those closest to me.

With 2009 being my eye opening experience in my life, I decided to bring light to a matter I have championed on numerous occasions. Armed with my heart and memories of Christmases I once used to know, I am spending December 25th on the streets of Toronto capturing the unfortunate plight of those who are less fortunate and without homes and cheer for the holidays. It will be a challenging shoot as the weather reports show that Mother Nature is not going to be a friend on this day.

I hope that I will open the eyes of many and my work will prompt friends, family, and colleagues to offer their hearts, time and donations to those who are indeed less fortunate at this time of year. To my Canadian friends, I am a huge supporter of United Way, Covenant House, Daily Bread Food Bank and Second Harvest. These are a limited number of fantastic organizations and all I ask is that you throw support to an organization that assists those in need wherever you are in this world. Of all days where one should be at home with those who are close, it will be a humbling and heartfelt experience for me.

Merry Christmas!

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Ghost of Christmas Present

Conditioning myself for this project was not an easy undertaking. Secluding and separating myself from Christmas altogether was a challenge and I want to thank friends and family for your wonderful support and understanding. This was indeed a different Christmas morning from the other 33 I have had before and I am already humbled by this experience so far. I am sure this is going to be an eye opening experience today.
It is 930am Toronto time and I am about to hit the streets armed with 2 camera bodies, 6 lenses, 12 batteries and 10 memory cards. I am also layered with a lot of clothing to battle the rain this afternoon.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

The important thing for me today was to ensure that whatever I captured was not coming across to exploit or become typical photographic imagery of a street shooter. I was unsure of how I was going to approach shooting today and let my style unfold as the day progressed.

I am very humbled by the experience and absolutely in awe of the wonderful compassion of complete strangers today. This was an incredible Christmas for me, I will carry the memories of today with me for a long time to come and look forward to sharing my story over the next week.

This is the last capture I made before heading home. It was cold, wet and very windy, my time exposed to the weather elements although only a brief eight hours, pales in comparison to the people I captured who endure this day in and day out. They’ll do this again tomorrow, that is their future until something changes for them.

Please join me over the next week as I release a new story each day.

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Justified and Crazy (J.C.)

Fresh off the streetcar at Yonge and Dundas streets, I mounted my long range lens so that I could shoot anonymously from afar. Immediately I felt guilty for shooting this way and kept thinking over and over again that something different needed to happen. My initial nervousness changed quickly when I came walking back down the street and this gentleman smiled and say ‘hi’ to me. I returned with a ‘Merry Christmas’ he laughed and said ‘Oh, so that’s what all of this is about!’, he also ribbed me for shooting him from across the street.

J.C. is his name, short for Justified and Crazy. He is 66 years old and has spent 47 years on the streets of Vancouver, Montreal with his last stop being Toronto. I got to know some of what he has seen, one can only imagine what his eyes and heart have experienced during his time. He is a self proclaimed ‘Non Profit Social Worker’ of the streets. I am thankful that J.C. was my first capture as his wisdom and advice helped me overcome my initial fears, I put away my long range lens and mounted my short range lens to stay close. From here on in, I would get to know the first hand stories of some very wonderful people.

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The Power I Once Had (Zena)

There are times when I run into a mire of defeating thoughts, frustration and anger and I see how easy the inability to change ‘past choices’ can haunt you in the present. You work through what you could have done differently almost obsessing over each those moments that have come to define who you are today. Those defining moments never fade, it is how you choose to live with them that alters your future. Some know what they need to do, but can’t achieve it. I am fortunate for awesome family and absolutely amazing zany crew of friends that helped pick me back up. Some people just slip away into obscurity with no one to pick up the pieces when they need mending.

I ran into Zena (Pronounced Zen-Nah) while walking on Richmond St. near York St. I sat down at the edge of the curb to talk to her for awhile and instantly her story flooded. She sat above a steam metal grated vent to keep warm all the while constantly rubbing her hands together. Her distinct accent easily detected as her words flowed. She has been in Canada for 13 years immigrating from South Africa losing touch with most or all of her family. Judging from the conversation she continues to work through her scenario over and over again in her mind. She is embattled with her fading memories and trying to achieve what she thinks will save her in the future. Some of the conversation becomes borderline surreal and nonsensical, but the merit of the tale rang through of decisions that can’t be changed, loneliness, despair has gripped her and a haunting knowledge that a resolution may never come.

She continually phrased the words ‘the power I once had’ or ‘I need to someone to give me the power again (she apparently calls a lawyer regularly and leaves messages for them asking for this power she needs) I guess she is recalling a time when she had independence and freedom to do things on her own without challenge and now to become anonymous on the streets with little resource available to her must be a dis-empowering feeling.

She talked about a brother in Vancouver, she mentioned University Degrees that she lost during her travels (losing the degrees is also something that she leaves in messages for the lawyer and something she thinks is required for her to achieve social assistance. Also a very important link to her story in some way.)

While we continued conversation, I requested to photograph her and she became very shy thinking she wasn’t photogenic, immediately hiding her worn and stained hands into her sleeves. She did say I could capture a shot and granted me full permission but I realized that I was losing her comfort and trust at this point so I backed off as I didn’t want to be intrusive to her and almost decided not to use her photograph at all.

I am hoping that maybe someone might catch her image on the blog and recognize the story, while she isn’t clearly defined in this shot, family and friends always have a way spotting someone they care about a mile away.

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Corporate Responsibility

I was a little worried about the controversy that could be created with this shot as I am singling out one of Canada’s leading financial institutions to produce this image. Before this becomes a battle of money, power and greed versus the poor and helpless. I want everyone to visit TD Canada Trust Community Responsibility page. I had a responsibility to ensure both sides of the story are told and proved that even the giants will try help in any way they can from the rank and file of powerful executives and money managers to each of their own employee’s pulling donations from their own pocket.

This financial power house is in no way responsible for this man being here. Ignorance, avoidance, forgetfulness and the unwillingness to acknowledge these people is why he sleeps within the warmth of this enclosure. I also realize that it takes willingness on the part of people to accept help when offered but it all starts with open hearts and a willingness to talk about the issue from both sides of the streets.

This was an important image for me to tell the story of my Christmas on the streets and it tells a story of a major financial institution with loads of money in the banks, invested income from all walks of life and income levels and here I have a man seeking comfort and warmth within the enclosure of the bank machine area. For some this is a troubling issue of trust when entering to withdraw cash and having someone who is obviously troubled and on their last leg within reach, I can understand the nervousness and fear that most would encounter at this moment.

An easy solution is to not forget those who need help, pay attention and try to help when you can. This man and many other may never seek solace in a place like this again if we help.

This is no place for someone to be on Christmas Day.

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Salvation in T.V. (Bob)

My time with Bob was brief, he is originally from Hamilton, Ontario and came to Toronto just for something different. When I asked how long he had been on the street he was unsure of the actual numbers. He quickly asked for two dollars and I obliged and while sifting through my change to find a twoonie he saw that I had more and asked for another. He was shy, excitable and unsure but knew that with the money he had collected from me and many others today that he would be able to find a room with a T.V. for the night. He was also excited about the prospect of having a turkey dinner at the Salvation Army.

I captured this on Queen St. at Yonge St. immediately after he collected the four dollars from me, he was on his way to catch a streetcar that was fast approaching. Like a child on Christmas morning I watched him bolt across the street with a youthful bound. He did catch his streetcar and I am hoping Bob found his T.V. for the night. Now I can honestly question some of things I take for granted every day and I do own a T.V. with a full cable package that I never watch. Something that simple put a leap in his step, I turned my T.V. on for the first time in months tonight. I smiled, wondering what Bob would be watching.

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At the Edge

This is one of a few candid anonymous shots I captured on Christmas Day. I didn’t want to disturb whomever was sleeping at the edge of the street. Part of me just wanted to wake them to get them away from the corner. With vehicles passing by at any moment, one of them could easily mount the curb and wipe this person out. This was a saddening and frightening image to come across on Christmas Day, anonymous on the edge while people and cars pass by in the Financial District of Toronto.

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Embrace of Trust (Johnny)

Continuing along the backstreet of Richmond, I came across Johnny who looked as though he had a whole party going on. Our time together could have gone in different directions, he was polite, smiled and acknowledged me. I could have dismissed him easily and he wouldn’t have thought otherwise.

I sat with Johnny leaned my back up against the wall of an expensive restaurant I had eaten in two Christmases ago. I traded cigarettes with him and both of us just started a conversation like we were old friends over smokes. One thing I realized about the people I met on the streets is that trust is important and to build trust you have to do what you would do in all of your relationships. Respect, acknowledge, appreciate and listen to the person you want to trust and have them return the same to you. I gave Johnny what I would give any of my friends and for that I received an amazing and memorable Christmas gift from him. 2009 had been a year where I lost trust in people and skeptical of anyone’s underlying motive towards me. My own misgivings and inability to trust had been shutting me out from people who cared and wanted to be there for me.

Johnny began opening up bags to show me what people had left for him throughout the night and all day of Christmas. He pulled out envelopes filled with money gifted from strangers, many pairs of socks, he offered some of the food he received to share with me. I realized he trusted me, he had nothing more than what was surrounding him on the corner. His whole life in bags and he shared everything with me even asking about my life and story. The stories he shared with me aren’t much different from my own experiences in life. His trust in me became very important and I appreciated it very much.

Something else magical happened with Johnny and it was this moment that will stay with me forever. Trust is something earned, friendship is something maintained and from that people choose to include you as part of the pack of family they have. A woman came walking up the street, Johnny turned to the woman (a good friend of his and fellow streeter) and asked how she was and she returned with smiles and typical banter. Johnny then introduced me by my name to Tamara, she and I exchanged handshakes and conversation. While his situation is difficult, he took the time to listen to me as much as I listened to him and for 15 minutes I got to be a part of their friendship circle and it made me feel welcomed.

Johnny is in his 30’s originally hailing from the good ole city of Halifax, he lost his parents in a car crash five years ago in Nova Scotia and last year while sleeping on the streets he was run over by a garbage truck spending only fours in hospital to be sent back to the street. He has been on and off the streets for the last four years and doesn’t feel sorry for himself in the slightest. After wishing me a Merry Christmas we parted ways, emotionally choked I walked away and could feel the tears welling in my eyes.

Merry Christmas Johnny! Thank you!

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The Fine Line (Tamara)

Tamara is the woman I told you of being introduced to by Johnny, I came across her again a little further down the street. We started to talk again and this time she was explaining her appreciation for me taking the time to talk to her, get to know her. Something a lot of people don’t do, while appreciative of the gifts they were receiving from total strangers throughout the day. The common story came about still remaining anonymous from all of my subjects.

I watched it happen throughout the day, wonderful people offering generous support, gifts and taking the time away from their Christmas with family to do something for others. However amazing this was, people would run from cars and hand them a bag, an envelope or a card and turn around run back to the car and fade off to find another person in need without getting to know any of the people they just helped.

Tamara has been on and off the street for about five years, she feels safer out in the open streets than being in shelters for fear of being hurt, beaten, robbed and has her friends Johnny and her buddy whom I didn’t catch a name to protect her as she does in return for them. I also learned that Toronto offers 11 homeless shelters for men and only 2 for women according to Tamara. She was also turned away from the Salvation Army due to overload. This is still unsafe for her as men and women are both put together in a common area at the Salvation Army.

The two things that bother Tamara the most is being ignored. “I bleed the same colour of blood you do, I cry too” she says. She too received money throughout the evening and knows that she is still going to kicked out of restaurants, when she like everyone else can pay for her own food. The other thing, don’t tell her to get a job, she would love one. A challenge, how does someone from the streets of no fixed address send resume’s. No employer is going to respond to “please meet me at the corner of York and Richmond” as a credible address. Her worn features she says makes people feel intimidated, again how do you build trust when first formed opinions are how a person looks. She is right about everything she said, very sad and true.

Reality is, she is there on the street. But just as easily I could be there at anytime given the right circumstances to fall in place. There is a fine line between safety and the unknown of the streets. Anyone could get there, having to struggle to fit in as a human being again, being kicked out of common places that we once went into freely.

Tamara, thank you for allowing me to capture you! You are an amazing woman, somehow I know if I made it to the streets I know I would be able to call upon you for help. My time in your circle of trust is greatly appreciated.

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Urban Angel (Daniel)

Everyone and every place has a story and this location played an important role in different decisions that wish I could have made or handled differently. I let someone very close and important to me down at this very place. With mixed emotions I walked into the scene to catch this lively character named Daniel huddled under blankets perched against a fire hydrant. He saw me catch the first frame and as I walked across the street to greet him he started chatting away with me.

I introduced myself to him, instantly he pulled out his hand and we shook on the cordial introduction. It had starting to rain and I had been sitting on the pavement for most of the day, so with soggy pants I sat down to chat with Daniel. He told me of stories of friends that he had who changed their lives, gotten married, had kids, homes and cars. I asked how long he had been on the street and he is running into his ninth anniversary at the age of 43 with no real ambition to change at this point. He accepts his situation as a life and challenge he has been given by god and tries to live each day as best he can. I have had people trying to pound this thought into me all year long, I guess it took a gentle giant on the street to finally drive that point home to me.

While Daniel and I were talking, a pickup truck with a mother and child rolled up, the boy had a bag of food that was now intended for Daniel. Daniel couldn’t get up quickly so I jumped over to receive the dinner on his behalf. While making my way back down to the ground Daniel asked if I was hungry, he said that he couldn’t eat anymore today, that it was hard for him to turn down the generosity of others but just couldn’t fathom eating anymore and wanted me to have it instead. I offered many thanks, declined and told him to hold onto the food for later. Daniel was smarter than I, the rain was coming down heavier and he started to get up and pack his belongings to find shelter.

While packing his things, an SUV pulled up along side us, a gentleman jumped out of the vehicle and handed Daniel a twenty dollar bill. Daniel started bouncing around and almost tackled the guy with an amazing hug. His spark for life, his graciousness, his friendliness makes him an Urban Angel. Daniel finally collected his things, we parted ways with a handshake and him giving me two oranges. I ate one of them, gave the other away.

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For Better for Worse (Mark and Ellen)

Marriages and relationships end for some reason or other and I have encountered stories including my own that met an impasse and part ways for far less stress and reasoning. I came across Ellen sitting by herself and asked how she was, I noticed she had a cell phone in which she explained she had found a few months ago. It doesn’t work with a cell package, but Ellen was resourceful in buying a charger for it so that she could play games to pass time. Earlier in the year I lost two Blackberry phones leaving me extraordinarily frustrated. My phone is my line out to the world and without it I felt disconnected, so now I am hoping that someone like Ellen has found my phones. Wishful thinking on my part, but it would make feel better about losing them.

Ellen isn’t homeless, but down on hard times and she mentioned her husband Mark had gone to run an errand. She was really worried about him as he had been gone awhile. I captured a couple pictures of Ellen and bade her farewell and asked what Mark looked like so that if I ran into him I could tell him she was looking for him. Realize I said this to be reassuring, I didn’t think I would actually run into Mark.

I was walking west on Queen St. and had gotten a fair distance from Ellen when I noticed a guy fitting the description she gave me of Mark, so I called his name out and sure enough, I ran into Mark. I introduced myself and that I had met Ellen and what I was doing today. He offered me a cigarette and we chatted about the day and how he has been working odd jobs to make ends meet.

I was taken aback when he mentioned that he and his wife were friends with Spring Phillips whom I had only just read about in the news recently. Spring had been murdered on December 5th earlier this month. Not only dealing with life’s stress over the holidays, they had to deal with the violent passing of a friend. Mark and I exchanged phone numbers, I will give them a call to see how they are making out and to let them know about this blog entry.

Thank you both. To stay together 15 years through both good and really hard times is a strength that most couples dream of. I wish you both absolutely the best and many more years together. I hope the tables turn and we’ll see you on the upside of the valley soon. I am glad that I got to capture a photo of the two of you together.

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Cold Hard Reality – Cold Weather Alert December 28th 2009

To most a cold weather alert means to bundle and dress up warm to combat the cold. It means that all should take precaution against the elements for fear of frosbite, hypothermia or potential death if exposed inadequately for too long. For me tonight, the cold weather alert just hit home because I now know the names of a few people that may be out there right now inadequately prepared for this weather. I myself just came in from that cold and I would hate to think any of my subjects are out there out right now fighting -9 degrees celsius with a wind chill of -20 degrees. It is going to get colder this evening as it progresses to -15 with a windchill of – 25 into the wee hours of the morning of tomorrow. Most days I would just curse the weather and renounce the fact that I live in the northern parts of the world. Given what I experienced on Christmas Day, the thought of Johnny, Tamara, Chris, The Gary’s, Billy, Paul and Zena sitting out there while I am warm typing this message feels extraordinarily helpless. That is a cold hard reality for the people who live on the streets of Toronto in the winter.

You Call That Art??? (Gary and Chris)

I am writing this as the cold alert has been put in place by the City of Toronto. I am hoping these two zany characters are warm and safe right now. They both reminded me of Laurel and Hardy of the Toronto’s Financial District. Neither deserve to be cold tonight.

I met Gary earlier in the day at King and Church streets, we exchanged hello’s and he expressed great distress over the fact that he was unable to get his usual piles of Outreach Newspapers that he would sell in hopes to make money at the corner of Queen and Yonge St. which one of our major subway hubs. While we were talking, a young guy came into the picture, his name was Chris. Gary is an outlandish personality with an amazing sense of humour, Chris is a strong silent watcher of his surroundings and also very protective of Gary.

Chris is a young guy, good looking and deserves to be at a restaurant or club with a very beautiful woman on his arms. Instead he is one of many stories that has made its way to the streets. Gary is just a fun loving guy who just doesn’t take things too seriously and tries to find some humour in things. I really admire both of them for the strengths. The two zany guys would be a central part of my whole day as I would keep running into them throughout my time on the streets.

Chris was a little apprehensive in the beginning, I made the mistake of saying that I am usually known as an artistic photographer creating fine art images while I was training my camera on Gary to capture a portrait. Chris started chuckling and laughing really hard, blurting out “You call that fucking art?” in which Gary retorted ” Yeah, I am, I am gonna be famous. I am a celebrity now go back to your blanket.” This would become the theme every time I would run into them.

Chris’ shyness prevented me from being able to capture an up close portrait. However he seemed appreciative of my sincerity. I offered to get him a coffee as it was cold and windy where he was, he shyly and humbly asked for a hot chocolate instead. I am not rich, I am not affluent nor do I have the power to change this kids life. If I could, I would get him off the streets in a heart beat. He doesn’t deserve this at all. Yet he quietly moves about not asking for anything and gracious of anyone who offers assistance to him.

Gary on the other hand is the opposite, he has such an entertaining personality. He loved that I captured his photograph or that I wanted to capture him at all. Every time we would meet up, he would ask how his fame was coming along. To give you an idea of how lighthearted Gary is, when I squatted to the ground to talk to him or when I was capturing an image of him. He would call out to those passing by to give donations because I needed help in making him famous and couldn’t afford my camera’s or even better yet that I was a starving artist in need of help more than him. The funny thing about this, he almost convinced a few people to throw money in support of me. I watched a few reaching into their pockets and I couldn’t help but laugh as this guy was blatantly mocking me in jest and almost got away with it.

Gary and Chris became my grounding point throughout the day, adding humour and a sense of fun to their reality, also making me feel welcomed, appreciated and just gave me a hell of a good laugh. To those who almost donated to my cause. I appreciate it, but it was Gary’s fault not mine. He was just my artistic muse and hopefully I can make him famous. So, to my readers especially those in Toronto, if you happen to pass Queen and Yonge St. at the Queen St. subway station and see a guy selling Outreach Newspapers. Please ask Gary for an autograph! Also tell him he is a beautiful piece of art too! It’ll give him some ammunition to go back at Chris with a story.

Gary is wearing the striped pants and Chris is in the black toque and cargo pants.

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This is Art!!

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They went everywhere together.

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The Bells of Christmas Silently Toll

I live in a world crossed between sound and silence. I can choose to include sounds in my daily life with the use of a hearing aid or I can easily bring the quiet silence in to my life. It is nice that I have a choice to do this, something I have appreciated for many years and still to this day some will question why I enjoy silence. To walk in a world silently is an amazing experience that only a select few can appreciate. I realize now that while I learned to appreciate this wonderful option I have, I also take it for granted. To see this was heartbreaking when everyday I slip in and out of the silent and loud world at will.

Here I have a 68 year old woman who is crying for assistance so that she can bring sounds back into her life. I can’t imagine not being able to have some hearing and not being able to take full advantage of what is remaining without the use of my hearing aid. Here is someone sitting at the edge of a street in silence as people pass by without her knowledge.

For those who don’t understand how the system works. Ontario offers a program called Assistive Devices Program or ADP for short. I am able to take advantage of this every five years now that I am an adult. Hearing Aids can cost anywhere from $900 – $1400 and ADP will kick in up to $700 leaving the rest up to the person who requires this device to pay out of pocket. Each hearing aid has special features depending on hearing loss and could require the most expensive option, so how does this 68 year old woman pay the other $200-700 while on the streets and still find shelter or food? Double those numbers if you need two hearing aids. Then the terrible reality, these devices also require batteries that run up to $20 a package for about 8 weeks worth of sound.

After running across this scene, I put away my ipod, I turned my hearing aid off and moved on in silence in her honour.

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Brief Passage of Time (Billy, Gary, Paul and Mike)

Some of my moments were brief encounters but no less memorable, some were openly receptive to my presence and others were guarded and I didn’t want to force my time nor make anyone feel uncomfortable. However brief, I still have names that I can place on these four men whom I am sure we have passed throughout our times on the streets of Toronto.

Billy

While sipping on a breakfast shake outside a 7/11 on Bay St. at Richmond I ran into Billy who was shy and extraordinarily polite. He has been on the streets for roughly 5 years, constantly in search of warmth during the winter, sadly and unfortunately some have to resort to means of pulling stunts that can wind you up in jail. It’s a bed, food, and shelter. Sad how good people may have to cross a line for a sense of sheltered protection. Billy was sitting back watching the perch on behalf of his friend Paul whom I ran into later.

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Gary

Gary was reserved of my presence and we exchanged a couple of stories. He has been on the streets for 9 years originally hailing from Thunder Bay. He received a lot throughout the evening as my other subjects had too. I requested to take his photograph, he agreed but followed up with “But you have to leave me alone now”. He wasn’t being rude, he is just private, guarded and not used to all of the attention he was receiving all Christmas Day. The reality is the 364 days is spent in silence and all of the sudden you become celebrity like with people coming at you from everywhere. For all of us, I guess it is time to notice and pay attention during the other 364 days.

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Mike

He is from Manitoulin Island, has been on the streets for 15 years and has family in Barrie. He is a quiet gentle giant who is unsure and very guarded as well. We exchanged idle chit chat for a few minutes over a cigarette but he was looking around everywhere and I didn’t want to steal his thunder in case someone wanted to offer him a gift. It can be intimidating to others when you have two people congregated on the sidewalk.

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Paul

I mentioned to Paul about running into Billy, he laughed and he was telling about how he was just running about through the day and now back at his usual location in front of the 7/11. He has has been on and off the streets for about 20 years. I left the photo intact with imperfections of rain on the lens on purpose. It was starting to rain pretty hard by this point. You can see how wet he is, I too shared the same wet feeling but I have the opportunity to dry off in warmth later on. He doesn’t have that same option.

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Reflections in the Mirror – Future Hope

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One has to take a moment and pause and reflect on their own life, look into a mirror and remember that even our lives have stories that may not be much different than the people I met on Christmas Day. We all come from families, we have had people that are a part of our lives, some may be supportive others maybe not but there is always a connection to others. A moment in a mirror, you might recall the child that used to look back at you, remember the laughter and innocence that you once had and remember that all of my captures were young and innocent once.

This journey was a personal reflection into my own past, and listening to the lives of my subjects made me realize how fortunate I am to have the family, friends and colleagues that I have in my life. Their presence, acknowledgment and compassion kept me on a straight line or I could have easily been one of these stories myself. Anyone with the right circumstances to fall into place could be any of my Christmas stories. It really doesn’t take much to fall.

These people didn’t arrive here easily, no one grows up to aspire a life on the streets. Each of these people had others that let them fade when they needed help the most and before long without guidance, support or a soft place to land. I would now come to meet all of them on Christmas Day when most are sharing a special times their families.

The easiest way to prevent this from being a reality in the future, is to pay attention to those around you. Someone you know may be struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Others are just teetering on losing everything financially and without the means of money where does one go? Someone may be struggling with the symptoms of mental illness. Each of my subjects had people in their lives at one point that saw them slipping, avoidance, turning the other way and not paying attention landed them here. I realize that we can’t all save everyone even if we wanted to, but some have more power than others and if my photo series opens even just one heart to preventing another soul from landing on the streets then I achieved a goal. If my series now prompts people to talk to those we would normally pass by, then I have achieved another fantastic milestone. I am sure now, those who have been following this series will look a little closer to their pockets of friendships and families and they will see someone who needs support. There are many social programs that anyone can take advantage before things go out of control. Today is a good time to take stock of those you love as tomorrow could be too late.

From the enormous outpouring of support I have been receiving for this project, I know that I have done my part into opening conversation among many of my own friends that wouldn’t have happened a week ago and that is a starting point. I know that this problem will never go away, I know that it won’t change overnight, I realize that more people will follow the paths of Johnny, Tamara, Daniel, J.C., Mike, The Gary’s, Chris, Paul, Zena, Billy, Mark and Ellen but I came across a scene that would be a hopeful thought of someone shedding their life on the street for something better. If my city was littered with this scene and no one around to claim ownership I would be all the happier.

Thank you for all of the amazing support and wonderful encouragement and appreciate you following my Christmas Day on the streets of Toronto. It was an amazing experience and I would do it over and over again, but there is hope that this might not happen one day.

Thank you to everyone who granted me permission to capture your images and for allowing me into your lives for a few moments. You will all stay in my memories and each of you made a Christmas for me to remember always. To my readers, I would love to have you take a moment and make something count, whether it be donations to a support group that you believe in, commit some time to help those in need or just keep the conversation alive so that we can pay attention more in the future.

Happy Holidays, may everyone have a safe and Happy New Year.

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