August 7, 2018
At this point in our interviews, we had only spoken to men and were hoping to gain a female perspective of the community. We spotted Raven flying around on her longboard earlier, and as luck would have it, saw her sitting on the steps of the Mustard Seed a little while later. We gave her a sheepish grin and wave, and she scooched over so we could have a spot to sit.
How long have you been longboarding for?
"I’ve been longboarding for about two years. I really like sports. I like anything that has to do with a bike, rollerblades, ice skating. Well. anything that’s active, pretty much. I have been living here in this city for about 11 years, almost? And it’s been a tough long hard road but uh you know it’s- as long as you keep your nose out of most people’s business and stuff and you’re polite and you know how to get out of sticky situations, it’s pretty good. You know. It’s not hard to live out here but sometimes addictions can make that really hard."
What needs do you see in the community?
"I would definitely want to work on getting another drop in down here. Because with all the new faces that have been coming into the city and people from Indonesia with that recent earthquake and that volcano in Hawaii, a lot of people are looking to Canada to come to live and there are more immigrants that are occupying the streets of Edmonton compared to what the regular homeless count would be which I don’t really know what that was. The population has definitely grown, that’s for sure. I don’t want to see most people on the street, I don’t like being on the street myself like it’s something I’m too used to and I’d like to not be used to it."
"There needs to be more addictions counseling based programs. More activities to get people interested. Not just having a BBQ- like instead of a BBQ we take people out to a lake or something and everybody is welcome. As long as someone has a form of transportation and then it’s good. Or take up Telus field and start playing baseball other than just one night which here they do that tonight. I think that would be more fun. Even street hockey, you know. People in vehicles can go around, people can move the hockey nets if need be. I’d rather see people be more of a community around here instead of just all huddled over in one group over here and one group over there."
"All of us down here we treat each other like we’re family you know even though some of us get stabbed in the back- not literally, but metaphorically - we still treat each other like we’re friends, family. As long as you show that you care about somebody, somebody will pass that on. But a lot of people forget about compassion and stuff like that. A lot of people have been treated so horribly in their life that they just don’t believe in it anymore."
They just have a wall up?
"They just push you away right away. There’s a lot of things that don’t get said around here about how things should be run. That’s just my opinion, right?"
Is there a space that you can go to to feel safe?
"Yeah, I put my music on and I usually just board around or walk around. If I didn’t have music or marijuana, I don’t think I’d be on this planet, still. Marijuana helps a lot. I think they should make more marijuana based programs that help people get a green card or something. A lot of people would need it for medicinal use. There’s different kinds of marijuana. There’s Sativa and there’s Indica. Indica is for nighttime when you want to get rid of depression. Sativa is more uppity."
Have you been in this community for eleven years?
"Not this spot particularly for eleven years but all over Edmonton. Downtown has always been my main hangout. The co-op I go to the staff there are just snobs half the time I don’t like any of them - they don’t run the co-op like they used to. You ask for one thing but they’re too busy doing something else or they’re talking their phone… texting... and half the time they’re not really doing anything.
What co-op is this, sorry?
"The Boyle Street Community Services. It used to be run where people could go there to feel safe you know, that’s what it was. There was a youth unit drop in but now there’s barely anything in there to keep youth occupied. There’s a computer and maybe a TV. There used to be a pool table, there used to be a foosball table, there used to be all these kinds of cool things. They took them out because it was taking up too much space and now they have couches in there for people to sleep but it’s not even a drop in anymore. There’s not really a community there anymore. Maybe for the people upstairs in the adult drop-in they’re more coordinated. I don’t really access much of the adult [drop in services]. I’m 27 and I should be accessing the adult supports but I don’t. I have major trust issues with people. I’ve had my trust broken so many times that I don’t even know who to trust anymore because a lot of people lie to you and I don’t think the staff should be there to lie and tag you along just to bring you down but sometimes it feels that they’re not really there to help you they’re just there for the money. And a lot of people have agreed with me."
"The Bissel is the best place that I’ve gone that actually have staff that care what people do and they will be right on that person if they’re there that day like, 'You, you! You got this appointment here, you better be going!' They have an employment program too and that works pretty good lots of people have gone on to work on that. I got work there and it’s done pretty good for me.
Did you end work over there because you wanted to work somewhere else?
"Um no, I just stopped working because I had a medical issue. Dealing with depression and PTSD and anxiety. I had a bad couple of things happen to me three years ago. I’m still doing okay, I’m more traumatized by guys and shit now. Someone who I thought was a friend decided to do something really mean that was really bad. I also lost my cat about a month ago. I’ve just been really depressed about that. It’s not the only thing that’s been an issue in my life. Not having a home anymore is one. My confidence levels are low, my self-esteem isn’t that great. Sometimes it is, but most the time I’m always thinking that people are talking shit about me when it’s not really that. It’s just my negative thoughts. That plays a big part in my life because sometimes I don’t know if when someone jokes about something if they’re joking or being serious. Because, down here you don’t know. Everybody has a different sense of humour. Some people I can trust but it’s really hard to get that. It’s really rare- there are maybe six or seven people that I trust and then the rest I don’t. As much as I want to say they’re all my friends none of them are really friends down here cause any of them can snap like that and stab you in the back and that would be the end. Some of them aren’t like that. I see things everyday and they’ll be saying something about someone and then they’ll be a friend to that person then say something negative about them when they’re gone and it’s like- how many of you say something negative about me once I’m gone? Like you all act like my friend yet you fucking stab other people in the back?"
"My music is like my life, man. If this world didn’t have music I don’t know what the hell people would do with their lives. I like to create to music even when I’m walking just the sound of my foot steps off the cement. Like dun-dun-dun-dun… Even the sound of a car driving by can be a whoooooossshh. It’s a sound- just like music. I always used to pretend when I was young that I was a conductor. I would listen to Mozart and pretend.
I actually host karaoke here [the Mustard Seed] on Tuesday. Yeah. Everybody likes that I host it because the people that used to host it before would either never show up or they didn’t know what they were doing or how to make it work. But me, I make it work every time and I’m always there. The more I do it the more enthusiastic I get about it. I’ll call a person’s name up, be like: “Jennifer! Come on out, it’s your turn to sing!” Yeah. Tuesday, eight o'clock. Today I’ll be doing it, eight o'clock after supper. Even if you guys want to sing, you can sing. Sign up right at eight, though. "
"When a guy and a girl hang out down here, it’s automatically assumed that they’re going out. But a guy and a girl can just be hanging out and not be girl friend and boyfriend yet they’re still thought of. “Oh is that your old lady?” No! I’m not his Old Lady! I’m not anyone’s Old Lady! I’m not even old! Don’t call me old!"
And marriage seems like such an adult thing to do...
Yeah I think of it as something that just ties you down and I don’t like being tied down I’m more of a free bird kind of thing. I want to be able to not be held down by my relationship and my last one a lot of people were like, “Raven you don’t seem like yourself anymore! You seem so sad and depressed!” and I would be like, “I know, I know” yet I would still be in a relationship. Then finally when I was out of it I was like, “I’M FREE! I’M FREE! I’M FREE!!!”
"A lot of people don’t see that I’m pretty patient and I can tolerate a lot of bullshit. I never was able to do that when I was younger. I used to be the kind to go like, “Smack!”"
It’s so hard to overcome that. How did you? Was there a moment when you were like ok I need to change?
"Oh no, I just knew that it wasn’t good to fight and that withholding my anger and trying to use my words was more effective than using my fists because I don’t like having to hit somebody when it comes to a fight but if I have to to get my point across then I will. It always ends up that I’m the one left standing and the other person is the one down on their butt. I don’t like putting someone down on their ass- I like being able to say “Oh it’s all good, you know!” It’s a lot more difficult than a lot of people think because a lot of people don’t know how to use their words. They’re more used to hiyaaa punch kapow! That’s how I deal with things! Gang life or whatever. There’s a lot of competition down here when it comes to selling drugs or whose block it is- it’s not anyone’s block. It’s everyones’ block. You know it’s the whole city’s block. It always ends up being like that. Nothing you can do about it really unless you make a stand that enough is enough.