Every blogger has different yardsticks to measure their degree of success.
Some have a finger on the pulse to measure likes and comments which dictate their future content.
Others, like the next guest of #Reid2Write, simply use their site as a platform to jot down their creative thoughts.
That’s how I found the blog of Chris Jensen, better known as ‘Toad’ in his local community. He has been living by himself on the streets of Vancouver, Canada since 1991.
A self-confessed drug addict, Chris, who is in his late fifties, enjoys writing poetry about daily events as well as offering some of his running thoughts on a range of issues. All of this while hauling his worldly possessions from location to location, collecting cans and bottles to return to the depot.
A fascinating story which has been covered in the local press, I was delighted that Chris agreed to answer a few questions today.
Can I ask how you ended up on the streets?
There was a time when I was able to moderate my drug use, however because of the nature of the beast, most times it wins the battle.
Although my drug addiction brought me to the streets, you can’t hold a job being a hard core drug addict.
Now it’s more of a way of life, and a sense of freedom. Time doesn’t really matter all that much to me, right now, night or day – it’s all the same. The only difference is that the day brings more people into my life, while night brings out the undesirables.
How did you manage to get into drugs?
Drugs help me to lose myself. I came from a very abusive home life, full of sexual, physical and mental abuse. Being the oldest child of three, I was still the most immature. My sisters however, are one and two years younger and a lot smarter – far more mature than I’ll ever be. They never got into drugs.
In the end, drugs didn’t really help – it made things worse. I’ve been in 28 detoxes and 13 treatment centers. I had a clean time of three years once. In that time, being clean, I wasn’t happy about my way of life.. So back to the drugs I went!
While I’ve been answering these question, I’ve not used hard drugs for over four months. Funny how all those years I struggled, now there is no desire, possibly because I’m closer to contentment in my life. Could be the answer. I don’t know or really care.
Have you noticed things change within the homeless community in the twenty-five years you’ve been on the streets?
Quite honestly no! Just a lot of different faces, some have moved on or passed on….
What are the biggest dangers you’ve experienced by living on the streets?
I have been living on the streets for only a few years, however I’ve been trapped on the street for many years which is a different story. There are many, cruel people wandering the streets taking where they can. Some are very dangerous. On the other hand there some really unique soul on the streets also!
Now back to the question, my biggest fear would be myself.
Is there any reason you prefer homeless camps instead of homeless shelters?
We don’t camp that much any more, even when we’re out of the way and out of sight, the city frowns on the idea. Private property and liability!
Now about those shelters…if you have spent a night in one of those places, you have to be insane or very desperate to go back. On the other hand if you don’t know the city or how to get the things you need for next to nothing, you may not have a choice.
However I believe a shelter is a much safer place for women trapped on the street or homeless.
How do local people react to you and your friends in the community?
Local people mostly all react differently to me. I’m not that easy to get along with in any situation, just not a people person.
I always find they are quick to judge and always assuming wrongly. I don’t really have any friends, maybe a few acquaintances, probably do to with my bitterness and sometimes an extremely ‘un-charming’ personality.
What is the biggest struggle you face each day?
Nowadays since my hard drug addiction seems to have taken a back seat in my life it’s finding the time to do all that I would like! Just doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day.
However, while I’m deep into the hard drugs, struggling throughout my addiction, the only struggle was always in how I was going to get more drugs. Period.
Tell me more about your poetry and what was your motivation?
Poetry was a gift from another blogger (check out hastywords.wordpress.com). She dropped into my very first blog site, which was started kind of like a dare. Anyway, I’m always curious when someone chooses to read anything or view anything that I’ve posted! Hasty was writing poetry. I had never wrote poetry until she dropped into my old site.
I would steal her poems and rewrite them, adding a line or two. A couple times we wrote a duet together. Now I have written hundreds of poems, but a lot have been deleted or lost. I’ve gone back and read some of my first poems. But they stink.
Now I love writing poetry. It seems like the only way to release some lost emotion and to hide in between the lines some unique thoughts and theories.
I find my muse within life and reading other peoples material.
Given the financial worries of many people, homelessness and losing their possessions is a very real possibility. Is there any kind of message you would give?
No, not really! I lost everything so many times that I couldn’t even give you an honest account. I’m talking about those moments where it seems you would not need anything else, happy about what you have. Then within a blink of an eye, you only have the clothes on your back and what you carry in your pack.
It’s funny. I always get everything back each time. Only it always seems quicker. I’ve learned that beside my naked self, everything is only material. Sure I like having all those toys I collect. It’s only human nature.
I think if there was a message it would be live smart. Always take care of yourself and those around you that you love. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
When it comes to the government, all you need to do is to keep jumping through those hoops, over an over. You can’t win! The government is the big machine!
Just jump through the hoops…
PS – You think you could get me on Wikipedia? lol
Chris can be found on:
Further Reading – Archive of #Reid2Write interviews
image attribution – https://deletedangel.wordpress.com