This is the first in a series of blogs written by folks in Edmonton with lived experience. Our first writer is Nadine Chalifoux, an independent advocate for housing, homelessness, health, Indigenous affairs, human rights, social injustice and women’s rights.
In the recent weeks we’ve experienced unusual cold snaps and Arctic lows, I am reminded of my own suffering with Jack Frost and his gaggle of cold. A part of my life was living in the outdoors as my home. Homelessness plagued my life for too long and I realize that if I had not had the community of fellow homeless folks, I would never have survived the frigid temperatures. Their wisdom and experience in the great big urban nature not only kept me alive, but also made me realize I was in a new family. A family of individuals, all afflicted by society’s implemented version of stable living. One I waited far too long for.
I find myself always worrying about that family with every severe weather warning, whether it be extreme heat or cold. It has been infused into my soul. I know there are not enough facilities to provide shelter or protection from the weather for my family out there.
During this severe cold snap, I have been piling on multiple layers of clothing and slipping on my winter gear to brave that same cold to hand out gloves, hats, scarves, and heat packs. Sometimes I will carry some granola bars, snacks, and candy to give back to the family that has helped me survive. I share this experience to remind Edmontonians that those people living without homes are a family and should be treated as such when interacting with them. They will still need each other when moving forward to living a self-sustainable society branded life. The care needs to be inclusive of a family, not just individually. To all those out there housed and homeless, stay warm and safe.