Mack and I saw the play Homeless put on at Alberta College on Monday night, an event sponsored by Grant MacEwan. The price of admission was donations of food or clothing, small offerings in exchange for the opportunity to watch a show that has struck a chord with audiences at the Fringe and Kaleido Festivals, among others.
Homeless is a deeply honest play, chronicling Jeremy Bauming’s journey as he struggled to understand those that do not have a place to call home. It was a journey that inspired him to take on a position at the George Spady Centre, an overnight shelter in Edmonton that focuses on harm reduction, and will, unlike other shelters, accept clients who are intoxicated or high.
In expressing his own history and experiences that led to his personal misunderstanding and fear of the homeless population, he shines a light on the greater societal prejudice that exists. At the Spady, Jeremy encountered many memorable clients, each with their own wrenching story of trauma, abuse and pain.
Bauming doesn’t try to neatly tie up loose ends with a happy ending – more befitting of the reality faced by the homeless, given the complexity of the challenges that may include mental health and addictions. That said, I felt more hopeful than helpless at the play’s conclusion, buoyed by the strength of the clients Jeremy described, people who are able to make it through another day in spite of unspeakable hardship. The audience was silent – the emotion was palpable, and there were more than a few tears in the audience.
Following the play was a panel discussion, featuring a few members in our community supporting those on the streets as well as those working towards ending homelessness. What stayed with me was a comment by Julian Daly, Executive Director of Boyle Street Community Services, who talked about the negative perceptions of homeless people, resulting in a push for segregation, a NIMBY-ism, their exclusion from public spaces: “There is a silent apartheid in Edmonton.”
Especially on days like today – think about our neighbours, and what it might be like not to have a warm home to return to at the end of the day.