Saskatchewan

La Loche woman featured in documentary on street people returns home for screening

A woman from La Loche, Sask., who spent years living on the street in Victoria is back home for a screening of a documentary film that examines the life of homeless people, including her own experience.

Film Us & Them was 10 years in the making

Krista Loughton's (R) documentary Us & Them examines homelessness. Karen Montgrand (L) was one of its subjects. (Krista Loughton/Submitted to CBC)

A woman from La Loche, Sask., who spent years living on the street in Victoria is back home for a screening of a documentary film that examines the life of homeless people, including her own experience.

"Living on the street is pretty hard, especially when you've got nowhere to go," Karen Montgrand told CBC Radio's Morning Edition ahead of the screening of Us & Them set for Friday night. 


Montgrand is visiting La Loche with Krista Loughton, one of the filmmakers behind the documentary project that was 10 years in the making.

Returning to the northern Saskatchewan community provided Montgrand with a rare opportunity to visit family. According to the filmmakers, after falling into a life on the streets, Montgrand has been struggling to return home for more than 20 years.

She said she immediately went to see her elderly father.

"My dad was real happy," she said. "He can't walk. He's pretty ill."

Four lives

Loughton's film follows the lives of four people.

Montgrand, who is now set up in a stable home, recalled how difficult it was to live on the street.

"Dirty. No place to take a bath. It's hard but I did it for 20 years," she said.

Much of her time was spent seeking free food and asking people for money as a panhandler.

The money, she said, was often used to buy alcohol.

"Make a little bit of money and go buy some more drinks; start drinking with my friends," she said. "When I get a little high or something, I just go back to the camp I had in the bush; crawl back into my little blanket ... and it's not really great to be outside to tell you the truth."

Unexpected effect

"The film started 10 years ago [when] I befriended four people who were living on the streets in Victoria," Loughton said. "I set out to help them but they actually ended up helping me."

She explained that as she sought expert advice on how to help people in distress, she discovered her own need to resolve hurts of the past.

"My friends ... essentially counseled me," she said.​

Loughton said she hopes audiences, after seeing her film, will be more compassionate when they encounter the homeless: "For people to leave the theatre and never look at a homeless person the same way again.

"I'm happy to say that's completely working. It's a very powerful film," she said.

The screening is part of La Loche's National Addictions Awareness Week program.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition

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