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2023 Voices of the Street: Losing Hope, Finding Home

The 13th annual Voices of the Street literary anthology titled, Losing Hope, Finding Home went on sale on May 5 and was officially launched on May 26 at the SFU World Art Centre. It was a special evening that included poetry, storytelling and a panel discussion with the book’s photographers.

The publication features 30 writers and three photographers from the community. It is a poignant look at life while navigating extreme poverty and social isolation, and one can’t help but intuit a collective sigh of relief when writers describe finally finding “home” — very real sentiments that are too often taken for granted.

You can purchase Voices of the Street: Losing Hope, Finding Home from your Megaphone vendor now!

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If you’re travelling west on Powell Street between Hawks and Campbell Avenues, heading towards the heart of the Downtown Eastside, you’ll see a striking architect-designed building made of concrete, glass and steel.

It is pleasing to look at — clean modern lines accentuated with pops of colour — and the view from its northern side is spectacular, facing the ocean and bustling container port, with the city’s iconic North Shore mountains so close, on a clear day you swear you could reach out and touch them.

The rooms inside are just as nice. The building is climate controlled and has 24-hour security cameras and gate entry for added safety. There is even a parcel delivery acceptance service.

With its proximity to transit, shops, craft breweries, restaurants, coffee shops and the downtown core, this is a highly desirable place to live.

Except you can’t. Your 65-inch TV is welcome, not your 65-year-old dad.

The structure is one of Vancouver’s newer state-of-the-art storage facilities. There’s a similar shiny place at Clark Drive and East 7th Avenue, rising in record time a mere stone’s throw from where B.C.’s largest addictions treatment centre — complete with 90 units of social housing — is slated to be built. That project was approved by Vancouver council in 2019, but the site still sits untouched. So here we are, in the spring of 2023, handing out garbage cans to bruised and broken people on East Hastings Street and ordering them to pack up their stuff and get lost.

Storage buildings are not the root of this region’s homelessness calamity, of course. But it’s hard not to be cynical watching such developments get off the ground while thousands of people camp out in doorways, on sidewalks and at parks — with the situation only growing more dire each year.

There are many deeply complex issues that must be addressed in order to truly “house” an individual — including poverty, intergenerational and other trauma, untreated addiction issues and/or mental illness, a toxic illicit drug supply, little or no social and health care supports, and costs of living completely uncoupled from incomes. The problem is not just a dearth of physical structures; real housing is holistic.

But the blueprint for improvement surely starts with the basics: a safe, permanent place to call home.

Megaphone lays a foundation in the pages of the 2023 Voices of the Street — the 13th edition of Megaphone’s annual literary anthology — by providing a space for those with lived and living experience of these issues to offer their views.

This year, our writers and visual storytellers explore the theme of home/homelessness published in a unique format: tête-bêche (from the French, meaning head-to-tail). This edition is comprised of two sets of prose/poetry printed together, but upside down and back-to-back, so you read one side, then flip the book over to start reading the other. Which side you begin with is entirely up to you.

One half is entitled, Losing Hope, the other, Finding Home. Both explore different aspects of being housed/experiencing homelessness; together, they create a spectrum of what it means to move from despair and disconnection, to care and community.

On this side, Losing Hope, Megaphone storytellers show that without shelter, not much else is possible.

“I feel all alone and afraid,” writes Eva Watterson in Homeless Lament (page 18). “I put a newspaper blanket and a garbage bag over me to keep in heat at night when I sleep, if you could call it that. I sleep with one eye open all the time, never knowing who could come by, or worse, what they would do to me… Days with no job, no money and no hope… Where am I going? Nowhere.”

In Dominion (page 14), a layered piece of writing that touches on themes of colonialism and rage, Nicolas Crier describes why the harsh conditions found in most SROs are no better than homelessness, while in Necessity (page 17), Suzanne Kilroy/Huculak states simply and powerfully: “Home is your place in this world, as necessary as air, land and water.”

For this publication, peer photographers Mike McNeeley and Priscillia Mays Tait, along with professional visual journalist Amy Romer, have captured, in a stunning collection of images, scenes of wealth and poverty jostling for the city’s limited real estate. On this page, for example, a man kneels humbly for spare change flanked by a Brink’s armoured truck and an ad for expensive jewelry.

Writing in this book is fostered through workshops held throughout the year at Megaphone and at Onsite, a transitional housing program located above Insite’s supervised drug consumption site.

Creative writing facilitators Katie Czenczek and Surya Govender have been key in providing a welcoming space for many emerging writers who go on to be published in Megaphone magazine and Voices of the Street. We offer them our thanks.

We are also grateful to our Megaphone vendors, who overcome so many obstacles each and every day — including inadequate housing and homelessness — to get the publications out on the streets.

And most of all, we are thankful for you, dear reader, for continuing to support Megaphone and its many projects, including Voices of the Street.

We hope you enjoy this year’s edition.

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