I recently spent the better part of a Sunday day with Dan who is a street messenger in downtown Montreal.
The street messengers are peers who’s personal experiences have made them experts in addiction, homelessness, and survival on the streets.
After 5 years without a fixed address, Dan and his dog Tamara moved into a small apartment in the city. For the last 3 years, Dan has participated in a program through Cactus Montreal called “Messagers de Rue”.
The messengers patrol the streets of Montreal providing addicts and sex workers with sterile needles, clean pipes, condoms, and referrals to services they need. The messengers also collect needles keeping our city safe and are trained in the use of naloxone and can intervene in cases of opiate OD’s.
The data that the messengers collect helps us better understand the needs of some of Montreals most marginalized individuals so that health services can better respond.
Aside from the supplies that street messengers provide, they also extend connection, understanding, and empathy to the people they meet and serve.
Aside from the service he provides as street messenger, Dan is teaching himself guitar, going to school, and applying to colleges. I found Dan to be open, curious, and an approachable. I really enjoyed the time I spent hanging out and taking pictures of Dan, it was a pleasure for me to get to know him and to see the great work that the street messengers do.
I didn’t plan on going to Varadero. I imagined it to be Cubas version of Playa Del Carmen with crowded beaches and people selling coconut shell necklaces and green Fidel hats every 2 feet.
My daughter and her boyfriend were staying in an all inclusive on the peninsula and invited me to spend a night in their hotel: a comfortable bed, hot shower, and free food as well as the prospect of spending time with my girl sounded good to me.
I was surprised to find more Cubans than tourists on the public beach I landed on when I first arrived. There wasn’t a vendor in sight and no-one paid attention to me as I stripped out of my sweaty cloths into a bathing suit. I left my pack under a palm tree and jumped into the crystal waters. I’m not a beach person, but the water was about as perfect as it gets.
While Varadero is a tourist town and seems to offer the usual tourist activitie and the largest port in Cuba is under construction, the same Cuban hospitality and openness that I found in Havana still permeates the made just for tourists feeling.