Homelessness lives here

Jackie sleeps in a tent down by the river. He’s been living there for four years. “The ground’s getting pretty cold,” he…

Jackie sleeps in a tent down by the river.

He’s been living there for four years.

“The ground’s getting pretty cold,” he said.

“And I wake up all night, about every 40 minutes.”

The 25-year old was warming up at the Bluefeather Youth Centre Wednesday afternoon.

“I need to save some money for shoes,” he said, looking down at his socked, sandaled feet.

“It’s starting to get chilly, and my feet are getting cold.”

Jackie used to live with his dad. The pair left Washington, and his mom, when he was two.

But eight years ago, his dad moved south. Dad told Jackie he was going alone.

Jackie was 17.

“I was trying to get a place,” said Jackie.

But apartments were expensive.

And Indian and Northern Affairs was no help.

“They gave me trouble,” he said.

“They didn’t want to see us younger people on social services. They just lectured me through the whole appointment.”

With no real alternative, Jackie got a tent from his cousin and some blankets from the Salvation Army.

Home is a tiny island, a 45-minute walk from downtown.

“It’s cold because I have to walk through the river every night,” he said.

But Jackie’s less likely to be discovered there.

“I’m nervous,” he said.

“But I’m even more worried about bylaw coming and taking my tent away.”

A couple of years ago, Jackie and a friend dug a hole near Grey Mountain and covered it with tarp and moss.

It was a better home than the tent.

“But the cops showed up and chased us off,” he said.

Jackie spends his days moving between the Whitehorse library, Bluefeather and the Salvation Army soup kitchen, where he eats dinner every night.

“Sometimes I spend the night at the Salvation Army and wash my clothes,” said Jackie.

“It’s a good break.”

On weekends, when the Sally Ann and Bluefeather are closed, he spends his days at the library.

“But on Saturdays it closes at 6 p.m.,” he said.

“Most days are just spent wandering.”

Jackie is hoping to get a janitorial job at the Roadhouse Inn, in exchange for room and board.

But it’s hard to get work without having a home, he said.

• • • • •

At a booth by the door, Little Angel serves her grandmother some homemade stew.

The 18-year-old has been working at Bluefeather since May, cooking and cleaning.

She made the stew from scratch, and sat down to eat a bowl with her Grandma, who is also known as Angel.

Little Angel is homeless again.

And her Grandmother is worried.

“I don’t like my grandchildren wandering around the streets with no place to go,” she said.

Angel is also worried about her daughter, Boots, Little Angel’s mom.

“Last night she passed out on the chairs at the Salvation Army,” said Little Angel.

“She has no place to stay. That’s why she drinks so much.”

Little Angel grew up with her younger brother and mom in Good Hope Lake, BC.

But three years ago, the family moved to Whitehorse so Little Angel and her brother could go to high school.

That’s when things started to fall apart, said Boots, who walked in the door and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek.

Little Angel got up and brought her mom a bowl of stew.

“I had problems finding a place to stay with the kids,” said Boots.

“It shouldn’t cost so damn much to get a roof over our head.”

The family found a place for a while, but lost it after a year. They were forced onto the streets.

Things fell apart, said Boots.

“And they’ve been apart ever since.”

Little Angel’s 14-year-old brother lives in a group home in Mary Lake. He’s still in school, but sometimes has to take afternoons off to hold down his job at A&W.

Little Angel is almost finished school; she only needs three credits.

But this term, she couldn’t go.

“It’s hard to go to school when you’re homeless,” she said.

Boots still has a house in Good Hope Lake, and was home for five months.

But it’s hard to stay there — she’s worried about her kids.

“I’m not even sure where (Little Angel) stays,” said Boots.

“And I worry about what will happen to them wandering around the streets — I want to be close to them.

“I came back here at Thanksgiving to be with the kids.”

Little Angel, who had been staying with friends and with her boyfriend at his dad’s, got a small one-bedroom apartment on Hansen Street in August.

It cost $700 a month.

“Rent was almost all of my paycheque,” she said.

“And after electricity and phone, I never had food.

“I couldn’t afford it.”

“I went to see where she lived, last time I was visiting,” said Angel, who still lives in Good Hope Lake.

“And it was so small, and only one exit — there was danger of fire.”

While she was at work, Little Angel’s brother started partying in the apartment with friends.

Someone kicked in the door. And, last week, Little Angel was evicted.

Now her stuff is at her brother’s group home, and she’s homeless again.

Boots is still looking for a home for her family.

“But it costs too much money,” she said.

“With power and rent, there’s no money left to eat.”

After finishing their stew, Angel and Boots left.

Angel is staying with her other daughter, who has a house in town.

Boots didn’t know where she was staying.

“One night she just walked around McIntyre all night with nowhere to go,” said Little Angel.

“I worry about my mom a lot.”

Little Angel didn’t know where she was going to stay that night either.

“It’s hard staying with friends, ‘cause often they’re drinking, and I don’t want to drink,” she said.

“It’s loud and hard to sleep.

“And I’m always jumpy ‘cause I’m not used to my surroundings.”

Although she likes her friends, when they’re drinking Little Angel worries about her stuff.

“I’ll probably go stay at my boyfriend’s dad’s place,” she said.

Little Angel’s dream is to make a down payment on a house for her mom.

“But it’s hard when you’re homeless to plan things,” she said.

“I don’t have a dream,” said Jackie, after thinking about it for a minute.

“I never thought of one.”

Subjects in this story asked us to omit last names to protect their identity. The first names are correct.