Down and out at Christmas

The woman is talking with a raspy voice. She says it's from the mould in the hotel where she's found herself living lately. "I share the washroom with about 10 men - I can't shower because the tub is so filthy," says Jean, not her real name.

The woman is talking with a raspy voice. She says it’s from the mould in the hotel where she’s found herself living lately.

“I share the washroom with about 10 men – I can’t shower because the tub is so filthy,” says Jean, not her real name.

“When I go to the toilet I have to put on rubber gloves. You don’t dare go in there without a mask.”

As the temperature plunges well into the minus 20s, Jean is skittish. She fears if her identity or name of the hotel is made public, she will be thrown out. If that happens, the only place left is the Salvation Army shelter for the homeless, which is full some nights.

” My landlord told me the house I was renting was sold and I had to move. I have osteoarthritis and couldn’t pack up, so he threw my stuff in the dumpster. Then I found out he just rented it to someone else.”

Her adult daughter Susan, (again, not her real name) tries to visit her mom, but is not allowed in the hotel.

“This can’t be legal,” she says. “I’m a non-drinker, non-druggie and I’m refused past the lobby. My children, nieces and nephews want to visit grandma, but they can’t even come in!”

Jean drinks, and that’s problematic for Susan, who is trying to run an alcohol-free home.

Susan’s husband can’t stand the smell of booze, so visits by Jean are kept short. Susan feels guilty, but wants to set a good example for her own kids.

” You know, mom raised a big family in downtown Whitehorse. She always had an open-door policy for all our friends. Our house used to be packed with kids. I know she’s lonely now.”

Jean was once a journalist, and most days is well-turned out with her hair done up and makeup tastefully applied.

” Some people think I’m doing fine, but it’s not so. I don’t feel pretty and clean. I’m hollow and my spirit is flying away somewhere else.”

“I’m falling apart and I can’t take another month of it. I just lie there and cry and cry and cry. It’s like a little prison. How did I end up like this? With no one to talk to?”

Roxanne Livingstone is a freelance

journalist who lives in Whitehorse.

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