Happy in tent city, thank you

Rating: NNNNNwhat sort of people are living in the Tent City at Cherry Street and the Lakeshore? NOW went down.

Rating: NNNNN

what sort of people are living in the Tent City at Cherry Street and the Lakeshore? NOW went down to find out. There, amid the illegally dumped garbage and ragged trees, in the rush of traffic and the snapping of tarps in the wind, live a pretty mixed group.

Some have cellphones and drive cars, some are obviously destitute. One even lives in a “house” (built, ironically, of lumber bought at Home Depot, the corporate behemoth that owns the contested land). Roger Potts is one tent city resident, and here’s how he answered reporter Nicholas Garrison’s questions.What is your income?Nothing. I go to Queen and Sherbourne — cash corner. If I get work, I’m lucky. I don’t collect welfare. I don’t collect unemployment (insurance). I collect beer bottles, cans, for a couple of bucks.

Where are you going to go if and when you’re forced to leave this site?I’m hoping… Well, first of all, if they’re going to come around to remove me, there’s going to be an argument. I’ve been here 16 months. I’m looking at it as, if I have to leave this spot, I’m going to move to the other side of the tracks, which isn’t far. I mean, they might argue with me, they might arrest me. If it happens, it happens. I don’t want to leave. I enjoy myself here. This is the way I want to live. I have my tent, my campfire, my friends — this is where I want to be. I don’t bother nobody.

I refuse to go to a hostel. I mean, I’ve been to Seaton House, I’ve been robbed, I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been beat. I’ve been to the Salvation Army and it’s the same thing.

What do you eat?We have Street Patrol. We have the Salvation Army down here every night. Salvation Army comes four times a day, in the morning at 7.

So the food is all right?Oh, yeah. We can’t complain about the food. We eat. It’s healthy food.

Do you cook?We have open fires, we have hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops. We go to food banks. We do what we have to to survive. I mean, it’s not like we’re — how can I put it? — destitute.

What’s your bed like?My bed… I have a tent. It’s made for six people. I’m comfortable. I’m warm enough right now. People will come down and drop off blankets or sleeping bags. You know, I’m quite comfortable, and I enjoy it. I like it. I don’t want to move inside.What’s the best place you’ve ever lived in?I was married for 18 years. I had my own place. I had my wife. It didn’t work out. After 18 years it was over. Ah, that’s when I came down here.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?Right here. By myself. Leave me alone.

By yourself, or as a part of this

community? Well, with my friends. I have a friend down here. My buddy that lives there, I’ve known him for 20 years. We’re great friends. You know, we can do stuff together. We survive together.

Do you read books?Oh, hey, I can show you a book I got. I’ve got 40 books in my tent. I read every day. I have a full library in there and I read constantly.

What kinds of books?True stories, John Grisham, anything that’ll keep my mind occupied.

What kind of education do you have?I have no education.

None?No. Well, grade seven.

Why did you leave school?When I left school it was a matter of… my parents kicked me out. They couldn’t support me. They had a hard enough time supporting themselves, never mind me.

Is there anything you’d like to study if you could go back to school?I would probably take electronics. I love working on cars, bikes. I’m self-taught.

Nobody taught me to do it. If I was able to, I would go to school and take an electronics course. I applied twice for OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Plan) and was turned down. Because I live on the street, you know, they’re not willing to help me.

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