Dylan

Age 20. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Dylan’s apartment is in the historic Roslyn building. The rent is split between three of them.

He’s grateful to live in the stable environment he has now. Dylan was in CFS care since he was thirteen. Transitioning into care was a difficult choice that he made.

I went to Jewish day school in the North End, which was awesome because there was tons of other Jewish kids around. Everybody had high aspirations, and Jews of Winnipeg are mostly wealthier. It’s like this great community because people were well supported and well positioned to support each other. But then my parents got divorced and my mom.. I guess her mental health problems started getting the best of her.”

Dylan mentinoed that he is 16 years younger than his eldest sister. His mom had her when his mom was 16. And his eldest sister had her first child at 16.

“My mother was trying to raise myself, my brother, and my twin sister. That was hard – being a single parent and having mental health issues and a substance abuse problem. She lived in poverty and we never really had the stability that my friends had. They were going to Jewish summer camp. I was so appalled at my own circumstances because of how wealthy the other kids were. I’d be like struggling to get enough clothes together for three weeks without being able to do laundry. and these kids were telling me that I didn’t have nice enough things to be coming to camp.”

I lived with my mom. Pretty shitty since she was in poverty. When I was 13 I started getting more and more sick of it. My dad died when I was 10 – he had cancer issue for 4 or 5 years. I had some pretty bad depression issues after he passed away. I managed to get in to this really great guy and he kinda coached me through my depression. Childhood depression is like a whole other ball game, I have no idea how you could deal with that ton a day to day basis but he could, he did it well.  As time went on it became more apparent that my circumstances might not all be due to mental health and may be due to the shitty environment that I’m in. So with his help, and my own frustration, i erupted one day and flushed my moms pot and called the cops. That was like the day that I ended… like I never went home after that. 

Basically what happened was I had a panic attack after I flushed my moms weed and went to the hospital in an ambulance. The cops knocked on my door. They come out and say Hey Dylan what happened earlier? And I talked about me flushing her drugs and me feeling uncomfortable. I remember them saying so you’re more of the parent in this household than she is. And that was very representative of my feelings at the time. I felt like it was clear that she was the parent she didn’t go to school she had to get a job she had to work or do something that was better. Obviously I wasn’t taking into account her mental health issues and those problems and how they impact her. But the police after that told me that my mother didn’t feel safe with me in the home. In my opinion what my mom was trying to do was teach me a lesson about flushing her pot. But she said “I don’t feel safe, you have to go stay in a shelter.”

Dylan will be on a panel this coming Monday at an event called 25not21: Sharing Our Stories. He is leading a group of student activists and youth from care in lobbying the provincial government to change the age-out extension policy.

“They took me to Mayfair. I remember having this really terrified night where I was just with homeless kids basically and I was like clinging onto my iPod because it was the one thing that I owned. I was so terrified because I had this image of homelessness and poor people as being this really negative thing because of like the juxtaposition from being a Jewish kid in Garden City right. So I was really terrified but after that I just refused to go home and I wound up couch surfing between my friends places. Social workers got involved and they’re like what’s happening and eventually I said I need to go into care.”

Dylan chose to go into care. In many situations, children are taken from families. Sometimes unjustly. On the other hand, Dylan recognized at the age of 13 that he needed support. He needed someone other than his birth mother to ensure he could survive.

He moved through multiple foster homes, as many kids did. One was out in the country. It didn’t last though, because as a then 16 year old, Dylan was shaping his own understanding of the world, and his caregiver’s racist and homophobic beliefs restricted his ability to work on what he was passionate about. He left that home in much the same way he left his mother.

This is the worst I’ve ever been in mental health-wise. I was in this crazy depression where I had like 10 days in a row where I had not really eaten anything. I didn’t have an appetite and I was really suicidal and wouldn’t talk to my caregivers at all. And I remember Diane, the woman that lives there, just yelling, trying to get me to come out. She would scream and say Dylan you need to grow up and learn how to make your own way in the world, you can’t just sit in your room all day. I rememer being so mad at her once that I punched a hole in my wall. After that I couldn’t take it and I left just the same way I had the panic attack like three years earlier, and I went to the hospital.”

The cops got involved this time. They charged him for punching a hole in the wall so that he could go to juvy for the night – instead of staying at the home. He’s not sure how, but that evening they took him back to Mayfair instead.

“Basically really really terrified. I ended up staying at that shelter for a few days. I came from this sheltered home in the country, and in my first few days there (at Mayfair) I saw this person get like 40 Vicodin taken from her. She was freaking out. The staff were freaking out and three cops had to come in. They were restraining her and she was screaming about how someone was gonna get hurt. I remember being so fucking terrified this was happening. But then I got more used to it and a few days later I was in a bus shack with a bunch of kids crushing up someones pills and snorting them. I ended up just staying in a bunch of different foster homes and shelters. Then when I was 17 I ended up moving to this really great home and family that was super supportive and super awesome, but it didn’t feel like I was connecting with them cause like, what 17 year old is going to take up new parents, and I ended up living on my own.”

Dylan has been on his own since then. He will age out of care this year. Usually CFS care goes until you’re 18. If you fill out the forms, and are a permanent ward of care, you can extend that to the age of 21.  Dylan is now fighting to change that to the age of 25. Many reports have recommended this change in the CFS system. Ontario and Alberta follow this policy. The ability to support people like Dylan, who is a student at The University of Winnipeg and who is working with other youth from care, is important to allow foster kids to go somewhere in life. To change the path their parents (or lack of) put them on. To decide their own fate. 

Check out the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/901376863263827/

The campaign recently made the news for a protest on the steps of the Legislature building. They invited provincial ministers to attend the film screening and panel on Monday. When they did reply, they staged a cry-in. Dylan did nine interviews with the press that day.

cry coverage in the metro
Cry-in on the steps of the Legislature, covered by Metero. Photo taken by Dylan. 
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Megan

Age 20. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Megan just moved back to Winnipeg last year from living in Oklahoma for a year. She was born and raised here. She was in Oklahoma for rowing (the sport), and still managed to find some Winnipeg connections out there.

“When I moved to Oklahoma, me and my mom went for brunch at this place called Syrup. It’s like a trendy place in Norman, which doesn’t say much, because they thought I was hipster.”

(Megan is not that hipster. She’s too classy to be hipster.)

“Anyway, it was super busy, so we ended up sitting next to this daughter and her mom. Our tables were awkwardly close together so we started talking. They had moved here from Alaska to go to school doing athletic therapy or something. We asked what part of Alaska she was from, and she said Anchorage.

My sister used to date this guy from Alaska because she went to boarding school  His name is Tanner. She would go up there to visit him, and they had this party for Tanner once he was graduating and done school and was going to Michigan. 

This lady, Ilene, had met my sister. And so my mom was like “Oh, do you know the Sorensons?” and she said “Yeah, they’re like our best friends. Why?” and I said “my sister dates him!” and she’s like “Oh Justie! What a lovely girl.”

I was like “what the fuck.”

But then the girl got my phone number and we texted sometimes. And then she ended up dating this guy that I knew in Norman who played hockey – nobody plays hockey there – so obviously i knew him because another friend of mine was playing hockey down there. 

So I knew this guy that she was dating and she knew this guy that my sister used to date… it was so weird.”

It seems that “Winnipeg” translates to “one degree of separation.” Here we see that to an extreme – from Alaska to Oklahoma.

Here’s a map of the continent with Norman, Anchorage and Winnipeg marked with big red dots:

See how far that is?
See how far that is?

In starting this blog, I was hoping for some intense stories. As I go along, I’ve found there’s way more stories out there than I had imagined. It’s become less about personal histories and more about the impact of Winnipeg as a place on people’s lives.

I’m okay with that.

I think it will be neat to see where this can go, if I maintain the blog throughout the next five years. Maybe I can work up the gut to ask all kinds of characters for their stories, as I would love to do.

Either way, I expect to keep hearing stories of a person who knows people, that already know other people the first person knows.

One degree of separation.

Apparently I’m not the only one looking to document this phenomenon. Here’s a link to the mention of another project, probably more organized, like this one:

http://www.creativemanitoba.ca/news-events/news/read,385/254/urban-legends

Kevin

Age unknown. Resides in Winnipeg, MB.

Kevin grew up in a trailer park on Main Street. He’s a pure bred Winnipegger. As of last summer, he is living on Langside near downtown Winnipeg.

“As a Winnipegger, I never really see myself leaving Winnipeg. I can’t see myself leaving the West End, really. The only reason I might leave is for a school program that’s only offered somewhere else.”

Kevin works in the community nearby. He’s a representative and a social activist for many causes. In the past month, he’s opened his doors to those willing to participate in gaining awareness.

He’s also hosted the bicycle blender a few times.

Winnipeg is the place for Kevin to be.

“I believe that people who were raised here, people who went to school, people who worked in this neighbourhood, need to stay here. Y’know people who know what it’s like and we need to build up our community to be resilient and strong.” Winnipeg faces many similar issues of other North American cities. But the hearts of it’s people may be different.

“I love the West End.” The West End is home to many recent immigrants, homeless people, among other indigenous people and white Canadians.

“My dad was a heavy drinker. He wasn’t really around when I was growing up. So my mom and dad’s relationship was kind of broken. So over summers I remember just running around. My dad was always out and my mom was always home sleeping so I would bike around the neighbourhood with my friends until early in the morning.” Summer in Winnipeg brings the city to life. People can finally leave their homes and spend time outside, enjoying fresh air, spending time with friends and meeting new people.

Kevin saw his dad sometimes, though. “We’d run into Palmer’s Pizza, see my dad and get some money to buy pizza.” Him and his friends had fun, as children should, despite whatever parts of life were not so nice.

Now that we’re nearing winter, it’s important to find stuff to keep us busy. You can still get outside. FortWhyte Alive always has neat outdoor things to do.  Check it out here: https://www.fortwhyte.org/visit/activities/

Secondhand Story: Iain

I’m not sure how old Iain is, but he can’t be over 25.

He works as the produce manager for Neechi Commons. We were having a hookah last night when he shared this story of an elderly woman with a big mouth and no fear. I didn’t get a chance to record the story, so I’m putting it in my own words here.

Iain was at work on Saturday when a little elderly woman began making a bit of a scene. She was at the checkout, trying to buy groceries but repeatedly returning items to the shelf. At one point, she tried to open a bag of dry noodles and it exploded everywhere. She started trying to call over the security guy.

“Hey cocksucker!” she yells, “get over here! Do your job and help me!” She wanted a hand cleaning up I guess, or help moving her cart of groceries out to her car. The man didn’t respond because he was talking with someone. She walked over to them. He explained this was a trainee he was busy talking to. She started to hit on the trainee saying, “Oh why don’t you come home with me? Right now? I have some ganja at home. We can have a beer and chat and I have ganja! Come home with me right now!” The pair of men seemed confused. The woman was wearing a lot of stripes and some weird cut off corduroy, so they asked

“What are you dressed up as?”

“I am GUILT.” she said.

She went back to the counter to buy her groceries, continued to put stuff back and verbally abuse the security guard with taunts for a while. At this point Iain came over to talk to the guys and found out the “trainee” was actually the guard’s cousin.

Once the woman had bought everything, she started to leave the store. On the way out she stopped at the corkboard and started stealing all the tacks. She gathered them all up and put them in her pocket as posters for events and such piled on the ground at her feet. The security guard approached her to take back the tacks and send her on her way.

As she was leaving, she overheard them laughing about the incident. She caught some comment they made about her and shouted back “I heard that! You’re gonna get it one day!”.

My friend Iain paralyzed us with laughter with his version of the story. I wish I had recorded it. He mentioned how it was funny because of her size, her outfit and her age. If she had been an old man hitting on some younger girl, they probably wouldn’t have laughed.

This story sounded so very Winnipeg to me… oh the things you can see north of the tracks, right?

Neechi Commons is a somewhat revolutionary grocer in the North End that employs indigenous people in the community and sells locally produced goods. Visit online here:

http://neechi.ca/

Or go see the store for yourself. They also have a delicious restaurant and beautiful indigenous artisan gift shop!