Guardian reporter seeks shelter

Jim Day
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Guardian reporter Jim Day spent a quiet night at the Bedford MacDonald House in Charlottetown recently.

Jim Day spends quiet night at Bedford MacDonald House

The phoney arrives.

It’s roughly 5:25 p.m. when I show up at the men’s shelter in Charlottetown Wednesday looking to spend the night.

My watch, wedding ring and gold chain all left at home. No overnight bag. Just the clothing (drawn from my gruffer attire) on my back.

Lloyd, the night supervisor, was expecting me, the reporter.

He still did his best to play along, treating me like he would any of the homeless who show up at the door of The Salvation Army Bedford MacDonald House on any given evening.


I fill in the obligatory form that seeks information such as medical conditions, substance abuse addictions, and referral, whether by police, social services, corrections, self or other.

I was given a lengthy set of shelter rules to read, then to follow.


The grand tour was next.

I had been offered a good look at the place in the past prior to the facility re-opening in late December 2012, but the shelter certainly takes on a different appearance and feel when you know you are going to be spending the night — and you are left wondering how many homeless people will be sharing the facility with you and just what kind of interaction, if any, is in store.

The shelter can accommodate nine men with seven beds and two roll-away cots. A full house like that, I thought, might make for an intriguing night — perhaps even a rather uncomfortable, intimidating one.

Would I be sized up as a fake? Would I unintentionally offend? Would I be harassed, possibly harmed?

The night would turn out to be tame and uneventful.

First, I make my bed from the neatly folded sheets, pillowcase and thin wool blanket. The bed, which is slightly shorter than me, almost stretches the length of the tiny, tight room. A small plastic garbage receptacle completes the furnishings.

I head downstairs to the large common area, plop down on a soft couch, and flip on a large, flat screen TV.

Television, a book, and a pleasant chat with Lloyd would eat away the next five plus hours before I set off to sleep on not the most comfortable of beds.

Regrettably, I am not able to experience the shelter with the presence of homeless people on this particular night.

I am able, however, to allow my mind to wander into that rather chilling ‘what if’ scenario. What if I should be debilitated by a mental illness, consumed by addiction or simply fall on hard financial times, being left a homeless person?

What if?

Organizations: Bedford MacDonald House

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Sandy Brace
    February 02, 2015 - 16:22

    A correction to the article - Sign in time is between 5 and 11 pm, not 5-9. Thank you

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    January 31, 2015 - 11:27

    Let your mind wander about being homeless all you want, you still would not feel the multitude of feelings felt by the homeless. While the door may be open and most people genuinely feel grateful for the heat, the roof, the food and the not so comfortable bed. That being said, the feelings felt are still that of a beggar, with all it entails. Having to depend on someone or something else to survive does something to a person (or a province), just ask Mr ghiz or Mr Sheraton. Your whole world shifts almost into another reality when you are homeless. Perhaps they could donate their severance packages to the shelter, after all, it's all public monies, isn't it? If they gave the severance to the shelter I bet it would hurt their feelings at least a little bit financially, although nothing like the feelings of losing everything.

  • Equality for All...Right?
    January 30, 2015 - 17:24

    It's a sad reality that a place such as BMH is needed in this day and age. It's even sadder to see how difficult it is to get any steady public funding or support for a men's shelter. My workplace had planned on donating a portion of the funds we raised during the Christmas Season to BMH , but in the end the committee decided to drop BMH and gave all the money to the female centered causes that it had traditionally supported. Not that they were not deserving of help, but that perhaps a little more equitable division, just this once, might be in order. Another sad addendum to this lack of funds for a male support structure in society is the story of Earl Silverman. He tried to open the first shelter for male victims of domestic violence in Canada, but was stymied by the total lack of government help. The politicians simply didn't care...not enough votes to be had I guess. A truly heart breaking story in the end. National Post links below.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      January 31, 2015 - 11:35

      Equality for all - your comment is very accurate. The article you mention brings to light the inequality brought about by our socialist/ fascist government, and it's failed social and economic policies.