On Homelessness: “Walking past”


“Look. I know. But I’m telling you, we, like, run in the same circles or something.”

“Which fucking circles are you running in?”

“I dunno, man, just…I’m telling you, I see him everywhere.”

“Give him some cash, man, he’ll leave you alone.”

“I dunno. Do you think he, like, stalks me?”

“Who knows, man. You know what he’s after.”

“Think he can hear us?”

“Probably. Keep looking forward don’t want to give him the wrong idea.”

The subject of their intrigue happened to be a well-recognized face on this street. His salt-and-pepper beard perpetually caked in sweat, eyes bloodshot, if ever opened, fingernails speckled with dirt.

When he wasn’t pacing the corner of the main street, he would lie curled on the ground, enveloped in a makeshift bed, a mattress formed from warped cardboard and a newspaper pillow.

A Styrofoam coffee cup rest at his feet to collect spare change—its position was far enough from his person so as not to elicit too intimate an interaction between hopeful donors and himself, yet close enough to grasp in the case of a thief lurking uncomfortably nearby. This was his domain.

The men who passed him daily found themselves split between curiosity and repulsion as they, in American Apparel, wondered how one could end up on the streets, and why the man couldn’t pull himself up by the bootstraps “and just find a job,” as they all had done for themselves.

The day he disappeared, those who questioned his absence primarily didn’t know who to confront with their concern, or why they felt they needed an answer in the first place, and never did anything about it.

word by Annie Rubin

“With such ease, passersby devalue or dehumanize the lives of homeless people. This story’s focus on the interactions of one man tries to demonstrate a lack of compassion and emphasize the societal conditioning that our culture perpetuates towards those who are not able to work or find a home.”

colour by Shalak Attack

“Shalak Attack is a Canadian-Chilean visual artist dedicated to painting, muralism, graffiti urban art, and canvases. Shalak  has manifested her artistic expression on urban walls across the world.  Shalak is a co-founder and member of the international art collectives “Essencia”, the “Bruxas”, and the “Clandestinos”. 

Shalak also works with several other mixed media approaches such as tattoo art, jewelery, illustration, installation, sound, and video making. In the past ten years, she has participated in numerous artistic projects and exhibitions in Canada, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Palestine, Jordan, Isreal, France, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Senegal and recently in Sweden for the Artscape Mural Festival. 

Shalak shares her passion for freedom of expression, and has facilitated visual art workshops to youth of under-privileged communities and prisoners in various countries across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and in Africa.  Her artistic work and community art-reach is rooted in the social and cultural values she received from her family growing up across Canada.  Since then, her most impacting education has been learning from different communities around the world. Public walls has become her favourite place to paint, she uses graffiti as an art form to create accessibility to culture for diverse communities.” 



It’s winter and it is snowing pastel. Réal is selling the magazine again, in front of the pharmacy. He is a camelot in French. It means he stands on the corner and holds out a periodical to passers-by. In this digital age, one would expect a mobile app to do the job – but Réal is ubiquitous to me every day, in every weather.

His permanent frown had led me to assume he was a grumpy guy. My dad would have said Réal just didn’t flex his smile-muscle. I had just moved to the area where he was assigned, and he had quickly become a landmark to avoid. Crossing over to the southern sidewalk, dodging his broody stare, I would wonder if he was trying to repel us.

Us, one-time customers, potential long-term subscribers, do we get a smile?

I might have irreversibly fallen for the comfortable trimmings of preprogrammed greetings: into barista prickly welcome, fake customer service friendliness, miscalculated voicemail inflections. All I had to do was talk to him, and his forested eyes lit his nested face, teeth standing strong like elder mountains, uncovered by a dissipating set of clouds.

I had to question Réal about his salesmanship. We had broken down our assumptions, flooded the gutter with cigarette breaks and all apprehensions of human contact had melted away with the season. Had he ever tried to vary his approach? Tried talking to people directly? I wanted to ask him, in a medical way, would he try smiling?

I said, Réal, how can you get more people to buy your magazine?

He gets fifty percent commission – the rest goes to support persons without homes. Increasing the clientele helps people in need. I wanted to feel that I could help Réal help customers help the magazine help the homeless.

He said he had tried many approaches, but the way he was doing it right now was the way that worked best for him. It just wasn’t him otherwise.

His frown was his unique selling point and I was someone who had fallen for it.

It is nice that flowers come right after snow. You would expect the castaway autumn leaves to leap back onto their branches, like a rewound tape, so as not to startle the scenery. Like an old hand-drawn cartoon, autumn colors swirling in reverse, smudging circles into the background. But spring here comes like an overdue vagabond, and Réal is a perce-neige in French. It’s Flower for “snowdrop”. But instead of insinuating gravity, perce-neige pushes its stem through the ice asking for the sun.

word by Hoda Adra

colour by Sam Rowe

From the author: “This foot goes naked every other second. It made me think of how someone could find themselves bare from one day to the next, how the cycle of homelessness can be brought upon by a single striking event. Conversely, the shoe appearing reminded me of the resilience I’ve witnessed, from support networks and individuals that work within and through issues of homelessness and displacement.”

no excuse for stillness


Trace the effort that it takes not to see us; this is the work of disappearing. Let your flesh be erased into the skin of the walls you pass, feel the weight in your heels as they touch the ground before us: prostrate. This is our altar, rest-stop, bedroom, front porch on a Tuesday afternoon.
What will you do with your hands? 
Wish you had pockets? A cigarette? Something to bite into.
My spine grinds softly into the wall but it won’t make a mark. These surfaces don’t have the give to take the impressions of my body; I know. My legs have held the same bend for hours, and to shift weight would suggest movement, but there is nowhere I need to be today.
Not looking is also a choice: Keep your chin steady, level with the chest and with the slope of the sidewalk, your stride has suddenly widened – did you notice? Hold your breath, I am not sorry; wait for the reward, the prize of making it four steps further until you can relax, release your mind.
Does it hurt (to look)? 
Why are you afraid?  
I appear idle in spaces designed for movement. I won’t be ordering any pizza or beer or pulling keys from my bag to enter the stairwell or slipping cellphone into pocket or leaning against the doorjamb waiting for someone who should be here any minute or gripping the end of the leash while the dog takes a piss. I am here without an acceptable excuse for stillness.
My belly is swollen with indigestion and my hair slicks back at the nape of the neck. Chips of paint fall into my eyes, and you: your mouth tastes of chalk; your feet are light, but the burden is heavy. The sky is falling in streaks of blank nothingness and your apathy is numbness you use as armour. It is wiping us out and away from one another. It is killing you. What you cannot see does not disappear; it festers untended and intentionally forgotten, I take on your sickness. I am not the exception: with this strategy, everyone will be left behind.

word by Alisha Mascarenhas

colour by Brett Amory

From the author: “I needed to write this in response to my own complicity in the stigmatization of homelessness, both visible and intentionally erased. I wanted to address the violence of looking away, which I relate to and am sickened by. The posturing of the man passing on the sidewalk stirred a particular kind of anger, invoking fragments of a larger struggle with how to navigate interactions with people I meet in the street; chance encounters, moments of confrontation and real as well as perceived threats.”