As I got home, I was hit by the news that Elvis Lachance had been murdered in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. I have known Elvis for years and he has been homeless or incarcerated for the entire time I have known him. I saw him las Tuesday night as he wandered into the Rook and Raven after City Council was over and was trying to panhandle. We didn’t have any cash for him and as he was on his way I was thinking that he would benefit from staying at The Lighthouse. I made a not to talk to him this week before he heard that he had been picked up again and tossed back into the Correctional Centre. I wrote a note to talk to the Community Chaplain to ask him when Elvis was getting out. Then I heard that Elvis was found dead in his prison cell this morning.
To put Elvis’ murder in perspective; he has a huge heart and was incredibly gentle. He knew sign language at times came in incredibly useful at the Salvation Army when helping house deaf people. Elvis was the guy that would help people with their plates and food and do everything that he could do to help out. He was a small guy and was never ever aggressive with anyone. Some guys fight all of the time on the streets but Elvis was a peacemaker. In seven years I never saw him once make an aggressive or mean act. It isn’t right that he is dead tonight and I suspect he is jail for something relatively minor. As a colleague at another agency said to me tonight, “he was my bud”.
I don’t know how to process the murder of a client. At one time I keep a significant emotional distance from most of who I deal with, yet at the same time it is guys like Elvis that motivate me to get out of bed in the morning. I failed him years ago once and he got hurt and I have always carried that with me. To find out that he is dead really hits me hard.
I get asked why I keep doing this and this year more than any other I ask myself the same question. There are easier and more profitable ways to make a living than working in an emergency housing provider and I am told they don’t have the same level of stress that this does. I spent much of the summer pondering a move to Calgary where I could go and see the Calgary Flames and Stampeders and more than anything, not have the stress of working with the hard to house. In the end we decided to stay because I thought I could make a difference in Saskatoon.
I love Saskatoon and I love working at The Lighthouse but tonight I feel worse than I have in a long time. It’s going to take a while to leave this behind while at the same time it’s the memory of this absolutely pointless and preventable death that will have me back at my desk tomorrow morning.
I will say that when people like Elvis die in prison, there is something wrong with the justice and correctional systems. Elvis was maybe 100 pounds and 5’4 inches tall. He wasn’t a threat to anyone and at the same time could not have defended himself.