Winters in Alberta are very different from winters in Newfoundland. They’re dry, and freezing with temperatures generally staying between -20 and -40 Celsius, and “frost bite warnings” are a frequent weather advisory. One thing both provinces do have in common, they’re cold enough that living on the streets isn’t a comfortable situation come winter.
I headed back home to Edmonton for Christmas last month, and spent three weeks there celebrating with family and friends. While there, I took it upon myself to venture around the city and help out as many homeless people as I could during the freezing nights of December. I created care packages containing items such as thick socks, gloves and free coffee coupons from McDonald’s, while also putting a cute little Christmas touch on it. I drove around the area just outside of Chinatown, where the Hope Mission Centre is located, and handed out 30 care packages.
Everyone was so grateful and welcoming. I came across a woman who was hanging out near the Centre – just her and her dog. I offered her a care package, but all she asked was that I please go find some stuff for her small eight pound or so dog, Connor, to keep him warm, knowing the temperatures were about to drop even more. So, off I went. I drove around Edmonton, making stops and gathering a collection of dog food, dog clothes and dog footwear, then I headed back to drop them off to Connor.
Unfortunately, they were no longer there. I spent the next five nights of my holiday driving around for hours on end, every night, searching the streets and asking others about the possible whereabouts of this lady and Connor. Many people knew exactly who I was talking about, but hadn’t seen her or didn’t know where, specifically, she was. I met Jen, who had been living on the streets for a few years. She took my phone number and said she would keep an eye out and pass along my number if she came across them. I even spoke with policemen who patrolled the area, and the drivers of the 24 hour Hope Mission service vans. Nobody could say for sure.
My vacation was coming to an end, and I was running out of time to track down Connor. One night before flying back, I bought 20 meals before heading out to the same area. I handed them out, and sat down with a few people while we ate. I met Mike, he had been living in the area for a few years. He explained to me that he had begun working for Rogers Place, the new arena in downtown Edmonton, and that with his recent paycheque he bought a cheap cell phone for work, and his first haircut in a while. He was so proud, and to that we cheers’d our cans of pop.
I’ve been back in Newfoundland for two weeks now, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about Connor and his owner. I’ve reached out to people around Edmonton, including the Arts & Humanities organization Humans of Edmonton Experience. I truly hope that one day, we cross paths again so I can say hi, see how they’re doing and give Connor all of his new belongings.
For more information on the Humans of Edmonton Experience, visit their facebook page www.facebook.com/humansofedmontonexperience