I offer her a bottle of water and a granola bar that I had brought, to show that I come as a friend, as an ally. Stéphane is easy to approach. He is happy to discuss his way of life.
It’s a choice. Because there are times that get me into trouble. Because since I’m poor, there are some who discriminatehe explains to me when I ask him if he is looking for a refuge.
Obviously, his choice is out of the ordinary. Most people who end up on the street want to get out. But Stéphane defends his autonomy, his independence which he feels he cannot have when he lives in a shelter or accommodation.
I, like several colleagues, had the impression that his camp was recent, but Stéphane says he adopted this way of life 14 years ago. This time, he chose Parc Pie-XII because he feels good there.
Here it is peaceful. This is sweet and cozy as they say. It’s family, it’s good, the world is not mean. The other parks, Champlain, Victoria, some have had problems. Here I find it peaceful. Sometimes I do housework. And even, the other time, along the lake, I passed the broom in the trail. I was sweeping in nature, he exclaims. His sentences are often punctuated with a joke, a frank and communicative laugh.
Even if he wants to take care of his environment and he likes the place where he is, he will have to leave it in a few hours, order of the police. They came knocking on his tent on Wednesday morning to tell him to leave, otherwise his whole camp will end up in the trash.
Stéphane finds that despite everything, the police have changed in recent years. He has the feeling that they are more courteous, more understanding. They even call him by his first name, which he appreciates.
In a few hours, he will return to a wooded area further away from people’s gaze, where he may not be asked to change location.
A few days before the first of July, Point de rue expects an upsurge in the number of homeless people. People, families who have hoped until the last moment to find available and affordable housing. With emergency accommodations showing full, homelessness may be more visible in the coming weeks in Trois-Rivières.
Jean-Félix Saint-Germain, coordinator at Point de rue, invites residents of Trois-Rivières to approach them with respect.
It is not to approach the disturbing situation, but to approach the human being first and foremost. To introduce yourself, to ask how you’re doing. I think that this exchange can be egalitarian and respectfulhe explains.
Outside, twelve months a year
Stéphane is more resourceful than average. He manages to obtain electricity in his camp thanks to solar panels. He knows the tricks of sleeping outside in the winter.
There are those who do not know that we must protect our breathing by sleeping outside, we have no choice. Well dressed, I wrap myself in a polythene canvas and my breathing will warm me because it is cut off from the wind.
In recent months, Point de rue had counted four or five camps like that of Stéphane Bouillon. With the long weeks of cold last winter, Stéphane and others were able to take advantage of the shelters offered at the Carré de la Fosse.
That was practical! But it’s a half-empty, half-full affair. It’s because you had to be there three hours and you had to come back two hours later, or an hour later. At minus 20, you freeze the same.
To stop freezing, he would like to find an owner of land that he could take care of for free in exchange for shelter. Passionate about nature and wood, he dreams of being able to log and cultivate fruits and vegetables on a small plot, far from trouble and frequent travel.