Zoey Roy's homecoming: finding a safe place after homelessness
Métis poet, hip-hop artist and activist releases poetry memoir of her life
Zoey Roy, a young Métis artist and activist in her 20s, has lived in many places. She has her own place in Saskatoon right now. But sometimes home was the entrance of a bank or under a city bridge. Sometimes it was a room at Kilburn Hall.
Roy has taken her life experiences and written about her path from homelessness to finding safety and identity in a new poetry memoir called homecoming.
"My dad was in the military and so he raised us in different military bases across Canada and he just liked to travel," Roy said. "And my mom raised us all over Saskatchewan. I grew up between parents. So I lived [in] a lot of places."
I had a really good childhood, rich with culture and a lot of diversity. I did experience adversity, of course, just like a lot of aboriginal youth.- Zoey Roy
The memoir documents how she left home when she was barely a teenager and spent time on the streets. It details how she spent time in the justice system and also references some experiences of sexual abuse.
"I had a really good childhood, rich with culture and a lot of diversity. I did experience adversity, of course, just like a lot of aboriginal youth," she said.
Leaving home at 13
She left home when she was 13, "and a lot of that was out of stubbornness. I didn't really feel like I had a place to belong and so I searched and searched for a place to belong, searched for identity."
Roy said she didn't know where she fit in, and that brought chaos into her teenage life. While she was on the streets she was incarcerated 28 times over 16 months.
"I think what I really needed was a shoulder, someone to love me, and jail wasn't the place for me. So I started advocating for restorative justice after I turned 15 and I realized that the system was built to facilitate a lot of aboriginal people's failures."
She said she was up against a felony and would have had a mandatory sentence if she committed another crime.
"I had to make a choice. I knew that I didn't want to be in the system. I didn't want to be another statistic. So I had to either continue on that path which I knew I didn't want it didn't make me happy, or I can suck it up, get a job and go to school."
So she started getting involved in helping other people. Roy said she volunteered thousands of hours, she worked low paying jobs. She also returned to writing and expressing herself through art.
"I wrote poetry as a healing mechanism and I found that it really worked."
Here is an excerpt from her memoir:
Home becomes where my heart is safe,
where our bodies are safe
I have found safety within the confines of my body
My body has become my temple.
A nomadic temple.
Roy is involved in many projects and currently wants to teach children. She is enrolled in an indigenous education program at the U of S.
You can hear Zoey Roy in conversation with Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski tomorrow morning at 8:10 a.m. on 94.1 FM.