It’s been an interesting couple of months living downtown in the city. There are some truly great things like music festivals (two in August alone) and farmers’ markets (every Wednesday and Saturday, and sometimes on Thursday evenings) and outdoor movies and going to the pub for supper with friends and not having to worry about how we’re going to get home (we walked). It’s been wonderful to wake up and walk the dogs through the park and come home with enough time to have tea and breakfast and then still have time enough to walk to work. Having a huge library across the street and several pools within easy walking distance is awesome.
There are some pretty significant drawbacks, like not feeling 100% confident sending my youngest out to walk the dogs alone – not because I’m particularly afraid something bad will happen, but because you worry that they won’t be able to get back into the condo, or the dogs might get freaked out and run off, or because – well. There are any number of things to worry about (note: this didn’t stop us from encouraging and expecting them to walk the dogs when we’re at work; it was just an added concern). Living in the city is EXPENSIVE. Even when you’re not driving anywhere.
There are no grocery stores within easy walking distance, so we ended up eating out a lot (because why drive if you don’t have to?). There are shops all over the place, and the mall is only a block away. THE GAMING STORE, PEOPLE, IS ONLY TWO BLOCKS AWAY. Anyway, let’s just say we spent a lot more in the past two months than we normally would over the summer. We could have worked a bit harder not to, but the point is that if I lived in the city, I would take convenience for granted – at home, if I decide at 11:30 that I want a snack and there are no snacks at home, I usually just have a glass of water or maybe I make some popcorn. In the city, I just go buy some snacks at the local 24-hour convenience store. (Where yes, you can buy groceries, but they’re RIDICULOUSLY expensive.)
Anyway, one of the best things I’ve experienced in the past couple of months are the people I’ve met downtown. We walk the dogs five or six times a day (tiny dogs have tiny bladders, don’t you know), early in the morning, throughout the day, and into the evening. There have been a couple of times I’ve not particularly wanted to go out alone – when the bar let out after the music festival ended, f’rinstance. The park was full of drunk people who are, at best, erratic and unpredictable like bears, and at worst, are angry or weepy and looking for something to fight.
The people who HAVEN’T given me pause are the folks who sleep in the park, who bum cigarettes, who might say something to you about your little dogs as you walk by. The people that other people tell you to be careful of. There was the guy (C) with the meth teeth who offered to ‘hook me up’ with ‘the maer-ih-joo-ah-neh’ if I was so inclined – nice kid who’s had a shite time of things since leaving school. He fully disclosed he has had problems with meth in the past and (probably like most people with that particular addiction), says he’s clean now.
I met R, from up north. He robbed a bank and was sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary a province away. Nobody was hurt during the bank robbery. He didn’t kill anybody. Got five years hard time. He has an acquired brain injury and has never learned to read. He finished his program at a nearby halfway house, but is having a pretty hard time finding work because he’s illiterate.
There’s A, who has mental illness and can’t work. He also had to leave school because of his mental illness, and never quite got the grasp of basic arithmetic. He’s in his 70s and does his best with odd jobs. He makes enough to get by, but it’s not easy. He’s sweet and kind and loves talking to people.
D’s dogs ran away when she tried to board them with family – she had to leave the province to find work. When she got back, her dogs had been put down because her family wouldn’t go and get them, and she couldn’t find a place to live. But she looks after her sister’s daughter when she can. It’s hard to find a job when you don’t have a place to live, and public transit may or may not provide service to the area you’re living in during the times you have to work.
People are, for the most part, good. Living in the downtown has kind of restored my faith in people – it’s too easy to listen to all the bad crap that’s happening (yes, I’m aware there were two shootings in two weeks within six blocks of the area I’m talking about). It’s also reminded me that literacy is the key to beginning to alleviate poverty.
In Regina, you can volunteer with the Regina Public Library’s literacy program: http://www.reginalibrary.ca/literacy/
Read Saskatoon has some excellent programming: https://www.readsaskatoon.com
Check out Sask Literacy, too: http://saskliteracy.ca
Check out the section on education in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
We have work to do.