I posted this photo this morning and was surprised by the feedback. After writing over 25,000 words on homelessness here, for the The StarPhoenix, and other publications, I had long ago thought that very few cared enough about homelessness to care enough to respond one way or the other.
The background of the photo is pretty boring. Wendy and I were simply taking the 6 p.m. cruise on The Prairie Lily. It was smoky last Friday and I debated bringing my Pentax K-3 with me at all. I did and I took some photos of the downtown and River Landing. As we approached Victoria Park I was looking at the east side of the river when a hush fell over the top deck and I heard someone say, “Oh My God, someone is living over there.” I looked and took a couple of photos. Someone actually cried a bit. Here we were basically taking the Saskatoon equivalent of a luxury cruise down the river using the very definition of disposable income and there was someone living in a tent surrounded by garbage. The top of the deck got very quiet as we sailed by and then as we passed it again on the way back.
The boat holds around 75 people. Let’s say it averages 50 people a cruise so at least 100 people a day see what I saw. It is directly across the river from the homes on Saskatchewan Crescent E. (some of which have asked that I remove the photos of their property despite it being in full site of Victoria Park and the Prairie Lily). Rather than cause problems. I took their photos down.
Over the last several years I have written several columns a year on homelessness and housing issues. I have written about the cost to society, best practices on how to stop it, the impact on children, and the impact of living in a tent. The Saskatoon homelessness count came out and there are 500 people living in some state of homelessness.
When I have written about encampments in the city before, people always tell me that they must be voluntary, when I have taken photos of the tents, I have had it suggested that they could be camping. I decided to include a person in this photo because that is where she lives and to be honest, the angle of her head makes it impossible to identify her from anyone else.
This is what homelessness looks like. A $80 tent from Walmart looking at multi-million dollar homes on Saskatchewan Crescent. It is also multi-million dollar homeowners looking back at a tent and no one is moved to change a thing.