'Homelessness is not a disease': living library offers stories from the streets

At many times in their lives, Sandra Robb and Mike Kennedy have been homeless, and they shared their stories about it with strangers at a living library in Fredericton.

2 people who've lived on the streets of Fredericton tell their stories at living library

Mike Kennedy, 60, has been homeless much of his life and says the key to surviving is to keep a feeling of hopelessness at bay. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

Mike Kennedy has no fixed address. The 60-year-old from Fredericton, who has multiple sclerosis, spends many of his nights on a stranger's couch.  

Kennedy sat down inside the Fredericton Public Library to share his story as part of a living library on homelessness this week.

A living library takes the stories of everyday people and allows them to be "checked out" by another person, much like a book. The borrower is then directed to the person with the stories.

A living library was held at the Fredericton Public Library. A living library is where people can 'check other' people out like a book and hear their stories. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC)

Kennedy said a sense of hopelessness can overwhelm people who find themselves living on the street, so they need help before they reach that stage.

"I guard myself against hopelessness," he said. "I have felt hopelessness and I never want to feel it again."

Getting help isn't instantaneous. Instantaneous help belongs in drive-thrus, you know.- Mike Kennedy, from the living library 

Not only does Kennedy not have a roof over his head, without a fixed address, he said he also doesn't have access to health care.

To have access to a medicare card, a person must have a permanent or fixed address.

Over time, a homeless person can get the right help, he said.

"It's a process to get help," he said. "Getting help isn't instantaneous. Instantaneous help belongs in drive-thrus, you know. 

"Your attitude will determine your altitude."

Helping others

Kennedy's message, though, is simple. Help others. He said homeless people are among the most giving.

"Somebody that doesn't have anything will offer what they have to someone else," he said. "That's beautiful. 

"Homelessness is not a disease."

Kennedy wasn't the only one at the library sharing stories of life on the streets.

These cards represented people who had stories to tell about either experiencing homelessness or working with people who are homeless. (Nathalie Sturgeon/CBC )

Sandra Robb, who became homeless after complications with her health left her unable to work, has lived on the streets for more than 14 years.

Robb has now found a home in Fredericton and said she doesn't plan to leave anytime soon. But it has been a struggle to get where she is now.

"No one wants to belittle themselves day after day," she said.

Her advice for those people who might still be hoping for a home.

"Fight. Call every day. Nag them. Keep going at them, keep calling, they'll tell you know and after awhile they won't the answer the phone because it's your number, but they'll know it's you."

About the Author

Nathalie Sturgeon

Reporter

Nathalie Sturgeon is a reporter for CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She is a recent graduate from the journalism program at St. Thomas University. She is from Blackville.