A Questionnaire for Reporters Writing About Folks Experiencing Homelessness


CW: homelessness, violence, illness, hunger, food, institutionalization, cPTSD, medication, psychiatry.
  1. What’s the largest bruise a security guard has left on your body? Could you draw it back on from memory? Is it tattooed in your brain, even as it’s faded from your skin?
  2. How many tuberculosis tests have you had to take? Can you count them on one hand? Do your hands still shake?
  3. Which item that you sold for food do you regret the most? Or have you learned that regret only comes in moments of quiet? Do you avoid quiet so that you can’t hear your stomach or your knees or your spine play the symphony of privation?
  4. How many times has your life been reset to zero point? If it happens again, will you cry or have you spent all your tears? Do people tell you that you are strong when really, you’re just not dead yet?
  5. How many flashlights have shone through small windows at you while you tried to sleep? Did it jar you awake? Did the subsequent nightmares feature every terror you’d run away to escape?
  6. What was it like cutting your meds in half to make them last longer? How many months did you have to save for a therapy session? What did it feel like when the therapist cringed while you described your life?
  7. What is the coldest your toes have ever been? How many days did the ache linger? Does a drop in temperature still make you panic?
  8. Will you tell the truth when the kid at the kiosk in the mall asks you why you even want this job? What address will you put on the application? Can you wear a retail-ready smile for ten hours after figuring out which play structure in the park offers the most cover from the rain?
  9. How many times has someone watched you use the washroom? How many case workers have laid hands on you? How young were you the first time you were under the care of someone who saw you as consumable?
  10. What makes you think you’re qualified to tell our stories?
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Food To Spare

by H. E. Casson
(CW: Food, hunger, neglect)

“You eat meat?”
She asked, incredulous
I said no
Then I said yes
Sometimes
I suppose
It feeds my gut
And teases my nose
It sits in my throat
And flavours my tongue
It’s comfort food
From when I was young
And mother would feed me
A chop so big
I forgot when I tasted
That it was a pig

But then, she cares
Her eyes are wet
She is a cow, in dreams
I’ll bet
(Just look at those eyes)
So I rationalize

That I was hungry for almost a year
(No politics for that, I fear)
An empty belly made me see
That I eat them
Or they’ll eat me

And lettuce didn’t fill me up
And orange juice didn’t please my cup
But a pizza pie with bacon strips
Pleased my lips

Reminding me of mother’s chops
The happy smell in butcher shops
And times when hunger was not there
And times when I had food to spare

Published in the Meat issue of (Ex)cite (2001).
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.