My encounter with Leonard and Gina is still one that I’m in shock about. Let me tell you how these two are the begging of something bigger that I hope to accomplish.
On my way to work one morning, at approximately 6:50a.m. I walked past the TD Bank ATM area. Inside I saw two bodies on the ground, snuggled together and sleeping. I thought it was rude of myself to take a photo of them but I did. I didn’t know why I did it yet but as the morning progressed it started coming to me.
I have grown up around Yellowknife’s homeless folk, they don’t scare me and I sympathize for them. A lot of them have addictions, they come from broken homes and can’t just break the pattern they are currently in. When I see them around Yellowknife I see people who have stories of hardships, and these are the stories I want to tell. Why? Because I think knowing who these people are will give us all a new perspective on how we can help them.
On my way to get lunch on the same day I took the photo of the two people sleeping, I met Leonard and Gina on the sidewalk. I was taking a photo of something else and Leonard asked what I was taking a picture of. As I started talking to him, he explained to me his story. Leonard use to have a camera like mine and liked to take photos, but some months ago he lost it.
As you would guess, Leonard and Gina are not from Yellowknife. Leonard is apparently from PEI or started off his journey there. He has hitchhiked clear across Canada. About a year and a half ago he met Gina and they have been together ever since, they even refer to themselves as husband and wife even though it may not be official.
Why these two keep traveling I don’t know but before coming to the NWT, the two where in Whitehorse for sometime and then when the opportunity arose they hitchhiked right into the NWT. Leonard told me he had never been to the NWT and wanted to check it out.
What really stuck out to me about these two is how honest they seemed and how optimistic they both appeared. Leonard had said that he is an alcoholic, he didn’t shy around it. It is his addiction.
As our conversation was winding down we got on the topic of where the two had been staying. Up until that day they had a tent in the bush where they were living – Leonard and Gina as a couple wanted to stay together and neither overnight shelters allow that so they opted for their tent. Unfortunately a fire, presumably from their small stove they used for heating, lit their tent on fire and they lost all their belongings and heating fuel. Not even thinking about the couple I photographed earlier I asked where they stayed last night. Their response, TD Bank ATM area. I was shocked to have come full circle with the couple from the morning. Leonard then praised the people of Yellowknife because between leaving the bank that morning and meeting me on the street another resident had heard about their tent and gave them another one.
Leonard and Gina aren’t perfect people and many have also told me how these two can be aggressive and rude but I gave them two minutes of my time and they seemed very thankful to be recognized and spoken to like normal people. It wasn’t until we were practically walking away from each other did Leonard ask for money for a coffee. He didn’t guilt me into it or pressure me, he simply asked. I did give him two dollars, however I would have rather given a coffee card he could redeem, which I’m working on getting.
We don’t always know the stories of those we see on the streets, we often don’t give them the time of day and simply think of them as an eye sore. But just imagine if we did. Sure some stories will not be pleasant some people really are two lazy to try and turn their lives around but others have had the misfortune of getting into these situation they can’t get out of. I don’t have a solution I can only tell the stories of these people in the hopes it help find one.