13 April, 2005

by Jaime McCoy
Q. Erna is it true you were a nurse once?
A. Yes I was for a long time.
Q. Why did you become a panel member?
A. I want to tell people my story and to tell them being homeless is not about sitting on street corners begging, it's about real people who are in real trouble.
Q. Can you tell me about yourself and how you became homeless?
A. I was married and had two children. Throughout whole nineteen years of marrige my husband was abusive abusive. So I had to leave the home. I went into a home for battered women at first but I wanted more out of life I did not want to rely on state benefits. I went back to the Caribbean in search of a better life. After five years I had to come back I could not get work. I missed my children so much. I lived in a hotel at first but that was too expensive I soon ran out of money. I cry when I think of how many years I spent working and saving just to see it go on hotel bills. I needed to find work, any kind work but I couldn't I tried to get help from the social security. I didn't get a penny for eighteen months. I had to beg on the streets to survive. Now thankfully I am in a night shelter in the east end.
Q. So it can safetly be said you are not a alcoholic or drug user. Erna do you think you have been put into that catorgary by people that saw you begging?
A. Of course! I have had the disdainful looks especially from other black people.
Q. What is it you want the newly elected government to do when it gets into power?
A. I want them to admit we do have a problem with homelessness in this country this includes people in tempary accommodation. I want them to act and make long term plans to rid this country of homelessness and I don't want them to call it a new deal. I think it's appalling in this day and age to think we are one of the wealthiest countries on this planet and yet we cannot cure problems on our own door steps.
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