Saturday, 18 June 2016

Gotta Find A Home by Dennis Cardiff

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People by Dennis Cardiff
Published by Karenzo Media on the 4th June 2014.

One of my WorldReads from Canada.

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Gotta Find A Home on twitter where its author posts as @DennisCardiff. I will admit that I am one of those who generally averts their eyes when I notice beggars on the street so, other than the usual political platitudes, I know very little about the people themselves. Intrigued by Dennis' synopsis, I bought his book. All the profits from Gotta Find A Home are donated to homelessness alleviation projects in Toronto so I thought even if I didn't like the read, I was doing a good thing with its purchase.

As it turned out, this is a pretty fascinating book. Written in diary form, Dennis recounts daily conversations he has had with members of a fluctuating group of homeless panhandlers (beggars) who live near to where he works in Toronto. Conversations aren't recorded, but related from memory, so I did find the speaking style a little odd to begin with. What surprised me most though was the lack of a stereotype within the group. These people are of all ages from their twenties to their sixties (although many will die much younger than they might if they weren't homeless) some are abuse victims but not all, some are alcoholics or drug addicts but not all, some have a university education while others can barely write, some are mentally disturbed while others are highly intelligent and articulate. There is apparently no such thing as A Typical Homeless Person.

Dennis makes no claims to have the answers to homelessness, neither does he defend or vilify the behaviour and actions of the people about whom he writes. Instead he simply presents their day-to-day lives and leaves us readers to make our own decisions. Formerly anonymous grey shapes, as appear in every town in Britain in the same circumstances as in Canada, now define themselves into 'normal people' (if you'll excuse that phrase). This is Joy. This is Ian. This is Hippo. This is Lucy. They talk about their friends and relationships, what they might have for dinner, how much they've earned today, and whether there is enough to pay the rent. Then they mention an acquaintance who had his teeth kicked out and another who was doused in gasoline and set alight.

I think Gotta Find A Home would make a very interesting Book Club choice as I found my assumptions being challenged, but without my being made to feel defensive or hectored. I would definitely like to hear opinions from other readers as I hope that this memoir will remain memorable for me.

Etsy Find!
by Rosy Pads in
Missouri, USA

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Books by Dennis Cardiff / Memoirs / Books from Canada

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