“I’m Kent, people call me Pops.” Kent is 49 years old and has been on the street for 15 years. He pays $230/month for what he describes as a prison cell with a communal washroom he shares with the 52 other tenants in his building. Cable TV is an additional $100/month which he cannot afford. Last night, a drug user pulled the fire alarm to try to prevent an overdose.
For the past 8 years Kent has sat on his backpack busking with his plush dinosaur puppet he has named ‘Chompers’. Over the years, Kent has lost 5 similar stuffed animals to theft, dogs, and children. “The best day I ever had I made $300. A smile is nice if you have nothing to give.” “In the winter, we’d all learn the codes to get into the underground parkades.” Kent used to share this neighbourhood with his friend Paul Wilkinson or ‘Smokey’ who overdosed on fentanyl 2 years ago.
Kent has struggled with alcoholism since his career in the old field. “The PR reps would bring up cases of whisky for us. Everyone did cocaine to stay awake. I barely had 3 days off to see my family every month.” He lost his job after failing a drug test following a car accident. His severance pay was $50K which he took to Cancun, Mexico. “I tried to drink myself to death, but I ran out of money first.” When he returned home, his wife had left him and taken with her his two sons who he hasn’t spoken to in years. They are 25 and 36 years old now.
His drink of choice is Alberta Premium whisky, which he keeps in a thermos beside him. “I can’t go more than 24 hours without a drink or I have tremors which turn into seizures. I can drink about a 26 in a day.” Kent is missing all of his top front teeth. Most were loosened from falling down during his seizures, which he then pulled himself.
You can find Kent on 10th St NW in Kensington Village, Calgary AB.