If we walked through Edmonton’s inner-city, sometime during the past year, we may have passed Jim Boskoyous or Harry Botteril or Randy Brent, Coreen Cattlemen, Peter Collins, Stan Cowley, Bruce Cyprien, Lisa Daychief, Mary Daychief, Russell Dumais, Rodney Dyck, Howard Frazer, Arnold Gladue, George Gladue, Freda Goodrunning, Evelyn Guignion, David Haines, John Hiebert, Claude Hynes, David Jordanoff, Bob Kelly, Christian Kidd, David James McGladrie, Phil Mooney, Erwin Bruce Neufeld, Ramon Norory, Peter Denis Olsen, Darryl Paul, Richard Paul, Randy Pollock, Barry Pratt, Guyle Otto Rain, Bertha Ray, Leslie Rohovich, Sonny Sandhu, Sherry Senft, Albert Lenny Stevenson, David Stonechild, Stephen Torok, Kevin Vezena, Irene Ward, James Warwick, Christopher Waskahat, Wendy Williams, or David Yellowbird. We will not pass them again. These were their names.
A couple Sunday’s ago, at Hope Mission’s memorial service, we remembered these 45 men and women. Most were taken by poverty, addiction, despair—taken by living too long on the street.
Forty-five is a number. It’s the number that gets reported—and as such, it’s an abstraction that has nothing to do with the lives of these people. For each of these 45 men and women had a name, a story—at one time, a dream and a song of hope for a much different life. A life they were not quite able to attain or hang on to.
And so we grieved as we read their names and saw their faces scroll by. And we remembered them anew as we heard their stories through their friends and family, and through some who had worked with them over the years.
We heard of their battles, the fears that isolated them, the desperation they were dealt. And too, we heard stories that made us smile. We heard of their humour, their generosity, their loyalty to friends.
We heard of selfless acts. “I owe him everything!” These words, through tears, came from a woman who attributes her now flourishing life to the persistent encouragement of one who was not able, himself, to stay clean. “I’m here, alive, because of him.”
While all the missions and social care agencies continue to work for the restoration and healing of homeless and hurting people—we also pause, along with the inner-city community, to honour and recall the humanity of the men and women who have passed on.
These are their names.