Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When We Heard She Was Dead

We hear of some homeless person found dead on a street corner and we go on with our lives barely giving it another thought. Did anyone know her name? Her story? Who cares?

Then I discovered we did know her name. As did her street family. And they knew her story. And they cared. Deeply. It was Angel.

I remembered the young woman we met early on during our hot-diggity-dog street people venture. She had just finished her snack and was about to leave when she stopped and turned to the many stuffies hanging from her backpack and thrust a bright yellow Pluto towards me: "Here! His name is J.C.. He'll watch over you guys while you're out here." And she wandered away into the night.

I propped J.C. up on the van. From then on it became our our first order of business during set-up for the hotdog distribution to attach J.C. to the tailgate.

Angel revisited us a few times over the early summer. She seemed to enjoy just hanging out with some of our young adults. I thought to myself that the young street women were enjoying a few moments of just being normal again. Here they could let down their guard. They could chat about clothing or hair cuts or fashions and forget for a little while where they'd be tonight and what they'd be doing to survive.

The street folk have their own community and it's just like any other community in many ways - better by some standards in fact. And one of Angel's friends, Taz was deeply saddened that there was no memorial for Angel that he could attend. Angel's other family lived in Port Alberni and that's where her funeral services were held. During the week I'd found Angel's obituary online. I read it out as a sort of impromtu parking lot memorial to a woman I barely knew. But I knew God knew her very well. And in His arms she finally found rest.

A couple of notes from my journal:

2008 March,31,Sunday,

• we used up two dozen hot dogs but gave out several doubles

• client Angel donated a stuffed Pluto doll “JC” as our mascot

• team debriefed afterwards at MGM

2008 June,8,Sunday,

• Angel came by and was happy to see our mascot J.C. that she’d given us many weeks ago.

2008 July,20,Sunday

• 4 doz hot-dogs went out in a leisurely manner ... nice people

• Started by reading Angel’s obituary ... Taz appreciated that...

• Bronwyn from the Firehall restaurant came over to ask why we’re doing what we do and if we think it helps.. she lives in the area and the homeless often hang out around the restaurant

Angel’s Obituary and newspaper comments

Obituaries (07/18/08) CAMPBELL Angel Dorsheia (Hassel) Passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at the age of 27 years.

Predeceased by her husband Stoney, and sister Lorrinda. Angel will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by her parents Lillian and Soupy Campbell; her children Lillian and Jimmy; step-son Morgan; grandparents, numerous nieces and nephews as well as many, many friends. Angel spent most of her life in the Alberni Valley. She loved the outdoors, especially fishing and hunting and shot her first deer at the age of 10. Angel loved the water and could swim like a fish. One of her life goals was to become a Fisheries Officer. Angel had an outgoing and free spirited nature as well as the ability to make friends easily.

A Funeral Service will be held 3:00pm, Saturday, July 19, 2008 from the Chapel of Memories, 4005 6th Avenue, Port Alberni, BC with Pastor Les Schrader officiating. Cremation will follow after the service. In lieu of flowers, if friends so wish, donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, 5060 Argyle St, Port Alberni, BC., V9Y 1V4.

Condolences may be forwarded to the family by visiting www.mem.com .

Chapel Of Memories Funeral Directors 723-3633 137921 Vancouver Island



I kept some responses to the online news story that reported Angel's death as a supposed drug overdose of just another homeless woman:



Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 01:27 PM

Yes, they are human beings, and whether they’re a loved one or not, it doesn’t matter! I am honestly sick of all this sympathy all these low-life junkies are recieving. Honestly they’re so selfish and lazy. And I have every right to say this because I used to be a junkie myself, living on the streets in East Van. I always looked for excuses to blame other things for my way of life. And whenever someone would speak up and say “oh you poor soul” I’d soak it up! I loved it! they helped me blame other things for my problems. It wasnt until one day when I was asking for spare change when somebody shouted out the typical “get a job” that was when I realized that I need to stop blaming other things for my problems and get a grip on myself and reality. So I started doing labour jobs and saving my money, eventually I started renting an apartment and now I work as a supervisor at a successful business making $80,000 a year and I own my house and my car. And I owe it all to getting off my lazy ass and started taking responsiblity for my life. I say overdosing is just a good way to sift out the hopeless ones.


James Cunningham

Thu, Jul 17, 08 at 03:47 PM

I was a resident on the corner of Victoria RD & Milton ST for 3 years I moved here from Alberta in 2001. When we (our family) started noticing the incredible amount of drug use and drug behavior on that corner I decided to go on a mission and ask every department of the city of Nanaimo If they could come and sit at our house to view what was going on so that they may come up with a solution to deal with this problem. I sent hundreds of emails over this 3 year period to all in power at city hall and Nanaimo RCMP. I sat as a representative of our neighborhood at the restorative justice meetings with RCMP, Johns who were picked up during prostitution stings and X- prostitutes. I had to tell these people how their behavior had affected our family and the families of our neighbours. My intentions were to try and get help for these people, I did not hate them I hated what drugs were doing to them and I knew they could’nt see it because the drugs had taken over their lives. My final attempt to get help was at city hall as a delegate speaking about prostitution and drugs in Nanaimo. Councilor Loyd Sherry asked me not to speak on the matter but I did anyway but since that evening things have got more out of control than ever. The Nanaimo RCMP asked me to document all johns picking up prostitues license plates and colour of the vehicles. I did that and presented it to city council with over 350 different vehicles picking up prostitutes just on the corner that we lived, Who knows how many more there were. I will not say some of the people who I saw picking up prostitues as to protect their privacy but if I was to give out this information the people of Nanaimo would be shocked. Just for the record I still have all the emails and plate numbers on disk from my computer. It’s unfortunate that good people are dying because there was not enough effort put into helping them when we lived in the area.



Fri, Jul 18, 08 at 02:02 AM

I just want everyone to know that Angel was a real person. She was very close to my sister when we were all yonger. I remember having one of the best snowball fights of my life with her on new years eve. When you are 13 it is hard to imagine what your life will be like in five, ten or fifteen years; even though I havent spoken to Angel in a very long time I know she had walked a very hard path. My sympathy also goes out to her parents, I’m sure many of you may not know this but Angel had a sister who passed away almost ten years ago. It is a tragedy for a perent to lose a child, but there are no words to describe how it must feel to lose two. Drug involvedment or not, whenever any person passes away it is a sad event fro those who loved them and I know Angel was still loved.


1 comment:

Steve Bell said...

Thanks for this Grant. I sure am blessed by your perennial thoughfulness.