Written by Gail Prior


Martha watched the unwelcome person approach. It was that “do- gooder” named Sandra.

“What the hell does she want this time?” questioned Martha. She seemed to turn up wherever Martha was camped out. This time, in a public park, where other homeless people were gathered together for comfort and occasionally sharing the limited tents during inclement weather, sexual encounters or shared needles.


Martha was beyond caring and just living day to day now. She dreamed of another life at night, rolled up in her sleeping bag.

She was grateful to Carl, who stayed nearby, as he would never allow any of the more “predator” type men to take advantage of her. They shared food and wine when available and were most companionable. Lately, he had salvaged two plastic chairs from an alley behind an apartment building, so they could now sit, relax, talk and drink in comfort.

She vaguely recalled living with another man, a warm home with lots of food and water. But he had abandoned her, although the rent cheques came for a while but oftentimes used for liquor. There were two young girls but they were being fed by a neighbour, as they had gone next door complaining of hunger. It had only happened a couple of times but that bitch had called family services. The children were taken into government care and Martha was labeled unfit and an alcoholic. She continued on her own in the home until evicted. The landlord had claimed the place was a “pig sty” with empty bottles littering the property inside and out.

She moved in with an ageing aunt but was asked to leave just because she had a couple of drinks one night or was it over many nights? Literally thrown out with her few clothes, a small cooler of food, some toiletries and a tattered sleeping bag.

“So what?” thought Martha. She had friends downtown and would be welcome in their circle. Maybe score a couple of drinks or something even better. Yeah, these were her people.
Sandra, the street worker was in her face now. “Come with me,” she said. “How about a shower, bed for the night and some clean undies?” Cajoling she says, “Let’s fix you up and maybe we can arrange a children’s visit.”

What children? Who were they? Oh, then remembering vaguely through her alcoholic hangover, that there had once been two girls. When was that? Right now she did feel dirty and needed a change of underwear and socks. Sandra was a soft touch and would issue the clothing items, if Martha played ball.
“Yeah, right,” thought Martha. “I’ll try for a food voucher that was always good for a response from the worker. Couldn’t have street people going hungry now, could we?” She was disdainful of these “do-gooder” types but hiding that feeling and smiling weakly would get her at least a twenty dollar voucher. She could sell it later for half that and buy herself a nice big jug of cheap red wine. Maybe enough left over to get an “expired” one dollar hamburger from the nearby take out place.

“Great Combo,” thought Martha. “I can party to-night.”

Sandra is asking her to get into the Van. She keeps talking and is offering shelter, food and counselling services. A chance to start again with a support system in place. She advises Martha that she has limited time to gain custody of her children, as permanent adoption proceedings are in the works.

All Martha can think of is her next drink. However, she craftily replies, “I need to think and do appreciate your efforts. Would it be possible to get a food voucher now and maybe some clean underwear from your Van? I’ve got a few things to take care of and we can talk to-morrow – yes, to-morrow.”
Sandra wrote out the food voucher and doled out fresh underwear, allowing Martha to change in the Van.
“This feels better, thank you so much,” purred Martha. “I’m sure I can come to some terms with myself and get on the right track. See you to-morrow. We will talk then.”

With the Van out of sight, Martha soon sold the voucher and headed to the liquor store. She would move on to-morrow, out of Sandra’s jurisdiction but to-night held the promise of happiness, where there were no yesterdays and no tomorrows. Just drinking and dreaming with Carl.

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1 Response to Written by Gail Prior

  1. Pauline Grey says:

    Sad but very true…. addiction doesn’t disappear overnight…..

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