Editorial

Triumph

I work for a large, old, established Christian mission in Toronto. I am a shiny staff member (not my words) starting a new project in a new neighbourhood. Poverty, need, despair – don’t worry, we’re coming with surveys, a big needs assessment and a picture-on-the-front-page-of-our-newsletter style project. It’s Christian community development with community buy in, and it’s ready to shine.

I work for a large, old, established Christian mission in Toronto. I am a shiny staff member (not my words) starting a new project in a new neighbourhood. Poverty, need, despair – don’t worry, we’re coming with surveys, a big needs assessment and a picture-on-the-front-page-of-our-newsletter style project. It’s Christian community development with community buy in, and it’s ready to shine.

I go to a community funeral, meet a young guy, close relative of the deceased. He’d been living with her in subsidized housing but wasn’t on the lease so oops, now she’s dead and he’s homeless.

Now, I abandon my community research efforts daily to house hunt with him, watching him become progressively more filthy each time he arrives at my office. Doors slam in our faces. Eyes narrow. “He’s just 17?” “Does he just want to sit at home and collect welfare?” Or they just take one look at him and tell us the apartment’s been rented. He shrugs the profiling right off his skinny back. “Used to it.”

Months of this. Months of texts at 4 a.m.: “Can u try again tumorrow?” Months of distractions from my “work.” Then, earlier this week – the wall. The morning after a flashy fundraiser event. I had shaken the right hands, tried to make small talk but the sorrow I’m immersed in is starting to dull the sheen. The morning after I’m sobbing on a dirty bathroom floor, weeping for my young friend and my unfinished work. I don’t know which is haunting me more – the look in his eyes or in the eyes of the polished executive who I disappoint for not performing as he would like.

I’m no longer shiny. I’m mired and dirty and wasted. I disappoint them all.

We got a call two days ago. Keys in hand, he walks into the smallest bachelor suite I have ever seen, and it will cost him almost his entire Social Services cheque. He’ll have $20 a month left over for food. He asks about a mattress. Some curtains. His first time into the place, he surveys the bare apartment and immediately hides behind a wall. Away from the curtain-less windows. “No one can know I live here.” I ask no questions. As usual. When your relatives are gang involved addicts, you hide for a living. I get that.

Keys in hand, he is triumphant. I am triumphant?

Kate Masson lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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