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She kept describing her situation as "humiliating"
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By Gil Clelland


Just before we closed down for the night at our weekly drop in, I received the phone call. "Gil, come quick. I'm standing here with this man...and he won't let me into my apartment."

"Is he hurting you? Are you ok?" I asked.

"Yes, he just put a lock on my door. This man won't let me...." Jenny began.

"Hello, is this Gil?" a gruff voice interrupted on the phone.

"Yes, to whom am I speaking?" I responded.

"This is Julio. I am Jenny's landlord. She used my phone to call you to help her out. I've kicked her out of her apartment."

"Was it money? Or behaviour?" I enquired of Julio. I've received quite a few of these phone calls in my time working with friends in poverty. It is usually one or the other.

"Her behaviour. I have given her lots of warnings but she doesn't change. She needs help. Hopefully, this time, she will learn."

So I rushed over to the address Jenny gave me. I saw her standing there beside a man sitting in a nice sports car. Julio shook my hand, revved the engine, and drove away.

Jenny and I stood there. The light from what was her apartment illuminated enough of Jenny face for me to see her pain.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I don't know who that man is. He locked me out. He kept calling himself my landlord. Jim. Jim is my landlord. I have his number. Can you call him? Jim is my landlord. Not this guy."

Over the next twenty minutes, I explained to Jenny that Julio was her landlord. And she could no longer stay there tonight. Heartbroken, she got into my car and we drove away to find shelter. Mental health and an abusive past has kept Jenny in a constant state of an alternative reality. I didn't know until that night how hard it actually was. We used to banter a little at drop ins. Nothing deep. Just fun playful words. That night was different. That night, through anger and pain filled words, she kept describing her situation as "humiliating."

We walked through a process of getting checked into the Salvation Army. After a couple hours, I left her to come home. My family welcomed me, excited about camping for the weekend. Friends called later to see if I was ok. My life is filled with love. But for this young woman who was sleeping in a shelter for the first time ever, she called me because I was the only one she could trust. She shared about family - burned bridges and anger. She talked about friends - "I'm mostly a loner." But, she just knew she was in trouble and she called her "friend" - the name she kept calling me that night.

I don't know the type of endurance required to live a life of poverty. I walk beside my friends and they endure some of the worst things life can deliver. I want to identify. I want to sense something g of that endurance. So, for one day, I am going to go 100 miles. Called "100 Miles for Home," my co-worker Darryl and I will be biking 73.8 miles and running a marathon -26.2 miles. From Kincardine to London on Sept 20, 2014. If you want to support this run, we will be accepting donations up to one month after the event. Go to www.sanctuarylondon.ca for more details.

Gil Clelland
Sanctuary London
519-902-9774
gil@sanctuarylondon.ca