No home, not sure where to go

Kevin Adshade
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‘Walking the streets for hours, save for a couple of trips to the library to get warm, one thing you notice is that time moves slowly’

TRURO – It was a simple premise: I tried to imagine what a person would do if he suddenly blew into town on a wintry day, with no money in his pocket, no food and no safety net that he knew of.

In the early afternoon of a late-January day, I started walking on east Prince Street in Truro, through a light snowfall, temperatures slightly below freezing and light winds – the weather could have been worse. Yesterday, when I was warmer, it had been.

Peering into large green bins, trying but failing to find a full bag of returnables – which would have made the afternoon much easier.

Around 2:30 p.m., a man is scraping snow off a walkway alongside the Truro United Church and when asked if there was a shelter in this town, he pointed to a hall behind the church, saying it opens at 8 p.m. and closes at 7 a.m., every day during the winter. He had non-judgmental, friendly eyes.

“What would the homeless do if this place wasn’t here?” 

Maybe I don't want to know. Lots of people don’t want to know.

By 4 p.m., still walking the streets, I’m very hungry. The thought of entering a coffee shop and asking when they toss out the leftovers crosses my mind, but I’m not yet desperate enough for that indignity.

Soon could be, though – out on the streets, desperation isn’t far away.

This isn’t a brave thing to do – I did have safety nets, of course, and also the comfort that this was only temporary, that my future is far less uncertain than it is for those who do this for real. At least that's what I think, although we never know for sure, do we?

No, it’s not a courageous act, but it’s hard. Walking the streets for hours, save for a couple of trips to the library to get warm, one thing you notice is that time moves slowly. And, more concerning: despite two layers of socks and sturdy old boots, my feet are cold.

At five minutes past 8 p.m., a woman with a smiling face opens the shelter door and invites me inside.

“We have some hot pizza,” she says, before serving the five of us.

One of the volunteers asks me if I have any weapons or drugs, illegal or otherwise. I tell her no and offer to let her search through a kit bag I’d been carrying around all day, nothing in it but a toothbrush, an extra sweater and another pair of socks.

She didn’t accept the offer, and the first thing I thought was that if they’re not searching my stuff for weapons, then they aren’t searching anyone else’s, either. The nagging fear would soon dissipate – it didn’t take long to learn that they know each other well here, a little family in a world of their own.

A volunteer shows me to a large room on the top floor of the hall, where there are a half-dozen cots covered with sheets and blankets. This isn’t going to work for me, for a couple of reasons: for one thing, I snore so loudly people will think there’s freight train rolling through the room. But more than that: the idea of sleeping in a room full of strangers makes me extremely nervous. I asked for, and was granted, a chance to bunk in a part of the building where I would have some solitude.

I feel exhausted, but it takes me hours to get to sleep and, last I remember, I peeked at my cellphone to see that it was 2:15 a.m.

I would awaken at 5:11 a.m. and be served breakfast. It amazes me again – maybe it shouldn’t – that there are people so compassionate they would give up their nights to run a shelter where the next person through the door might be the last person you’d want to meet.

Just before leaving, I notice that in a bathroom stall in the basement of the shelter, someone had scratched a question into the aging paint: “Where is God?” it asked.

I don’t know for sure that God is anywhere, but if so, then He is here, looking out for those in need of help.

At 6 a.m. I’m out the door, homeless no longer. One of the people who had slept there was standing on the steps outside, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. He said he would be staying there every night until spring, but after that, who knew?

We wish each other luck and I move on, into the day.

Organizations: Truro United Church

Geographic location: Prince Street, Truro

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Recent comments

  • jackie
    February 01, 2015 - 11:45

    do they need warm blankets

  • Brett Spears
    January 31, 2015 - 15:40

    I'm not always homeless, but when I am I demand my own private room.

    • Wandy
      February 02, 2015 - 07:25


  • Shawn Hinton
    January 31, 2015 - 14:26

    Well written as always Kevin. Nice to see your still out there, trying to open some eyes. Drop a line sometime.

  • chief wiggam
    January 31, 2015 - 08:56

    i only had one story left to read from the daily news... i'm glad i saved it for your story. very enlightening. Mr. Adshade, i found your story giving me pause at a number of spots. i suddenly became thankful for all that i have. it certainly has given me a crack in my armour. for that i thank you. great story.

  • Gwen Doyle
    January 31, 2015 - 08:06

    A great write up and a real eye opener , people have to realize that this is happening more and each community needs to open eyes and reach out to help, there are a lot of buildings that are not being used and could be shelter for these people as you never know it could happen to you or one of your family. Very good write up Kevin and maybe others will be just as compassionate as these people.

  • Anthony Giffin
    January 31, 2015 - 06:59

    The very first night of the beginning of my adult life when my step father threw me out on a cold winter storm night I had my two suitcases with my clothes/ I went to the top of the church steps and in the corner I took out all my clothes from my suitcases and put them over me to stay warm. I was 15 years old, scared and no place to go. back then there was no shelter. I went with out food for a couple of days and slept where I could. Truro might be a small town but there are needs that people must stop closing there eyes too. When we look at the hurt & pain going on in this world please remember holding out your hand to help another human being builds a brick of goodness in this world and breaks one of bad. To build a better world and to place human kindness first for a better world.. Just my 2 cents..

  • Richard Buell
    January 31, 2015 - 06:58

    Absolutely outstanding, major-league journalism.

  • Sharon Dickson
    January 30, 2015 - 23:00

    It leaves me very upset knowing there are so many people out there in the cold every day, and also starving.

  • Amarinda Washington
    January 30, 2015 - 22:27

    There is a concert coming up on Feb. 7th 2015. It's called Choirs for Comfort and will be happening at First United Church in Truro. It's by donation at the door and all the proceeds go towards Hub House and is matched by Scotia Bank. Hub House is going to be for people who have no where to go, necessities etc. So if anyone wants to support a great cause the opportunity is coming up!!

    • Anthony Giffin
      February 03, 2015 - 17:27

      Please remember it is not looking back but looking forward that will give people a second chance in life. When we share what we sow in this life it comes back to us in so many different ways. Ask what they need and do what you can.. Your life will be blessed by kindness. that's what we need in this life, more kindness and less of what the headlines remind us of what our world is becoming. Being kind is 100% free..

  • diane
    January 30, 2015 - 20:42

    excellent job kevin