print logo
  • Username:  

A nomadic lifestyle in the heart of the city

 L'Itinéraire - Canada 28 November 2019

At the age of 31, Mario left his home to travel around North America for three years, without a job or a roof over his head. He ended up in Montreal and decided to stay. “I stopped travelling because it’s more complicated when you have dogs. But I still consider myself a nomad.” (697 Words) - By Sandrine Carpentier-Lalancette


L'Itinéraire_Nomades modernes_Olivier Chwaiki

'Nomad' Mario Paquet. Photo courtesy of L'Itinéraire

"The homeless are people who have no permanent residence or address," explains Mario, who has lived with his dogs in Montreal city centre for many years. "They are nomads even if they have not always been or if they no longer wish to be." According to Mario, drug addicts, homeless young people and homeless adults can all be considered to be nomads. He also likes the French term "SDF" (sans domicile fixe) which is used to describe someone who has no permanent residence.

At the age of 31, Mario chose to travel to North America for three years and, in the end, decided to tame Montreal city centre, where he feels at home. "I stopped travelling because it's more complicated when you have dogs. But I still consider myself a nomad."

Living in groups in order to help each other out

Mario thinks that homeless people should stick together more. "Living close to each other is important because it allows us to enjoy a better quality of life and to organise ourselves. But at the same time, you have to avoid creating ghettos of poor people," he stresses.

However, the fact that the city centre is so popular among homeless people means that other residents start to talk about them. Rosario Demers, who lives in the Ville-Marie district of Montreal, thinks that marginalised groups are far more visible than any other groups in the area (shopkeepers and local residents). "The issue of sharing public spaces becomes a problem when certain groups outnumber others," he adds.

This situation led to the creation of the Urban Mediation Team (EMU) in 2007, which aims to ensure that local shopkeepers' views are taken into consideration to the same degree as those of local residents and homeless people. Before the movement was founded, "anti-homeless people" measures were in place - sprinklers in parks, removal of park benches and the introduction of patrols etc. Today, the Urban Mediation Team's goal is to reduce the tension and fear which exists between the people who live in these two different realities.

"Those people who live in, work in or travel through the district are in a different category to marginalised people," Rosario continues. "[The latter] make up a separate world which survives thanks to the resources which are allocated to them. However, they are not entirely independent because they depend on these services and on other people's [money] in order to live."

Although 60% of the homeless people in Montreal beg regularly, Mario stubbornly sticks to his nomadic values. "I don't beg, but I always have my hat with me." He quickly learned to do without services aimed at marginalised groups, which he considers to be too highly regulated. "I survive thanks to the good relationships which I have with the residents in my area," he adds.

Why is there prejudice against people who live on the streets? Is it because they look different, because of the unsteady way in which they walk or because groups of them invade parks? The desire to make marginalised people invisible has become much more prevalent in society over the past 40 years or so. "People want homeless people to look clean and they want them to stay out of trouble," stresses Michel Parazelli, a professor and researcher at the School of Social Work of the University of Québec at Montreal.

Gaining acceptance comes from communicating and from forming relationships. Whether we are nomads, shopkeepers or just passers-by, we all have to do our bit so that all groups can coexist in harmony. "The passers-by who pigeonhole me have never spoken to me! They are ignorant and tend to forget that homeless people have lives too," Mario says.

Translated from French into English by Talei Lakeland

 Other Language Versions

SNS logo
  • Website Design