Our vendors: Benoit Chartier (L’itinéraire, Montreal, Canada)

I’ve known about L’Itinéraire since around the time it started. Twenty-two years ago, I’d often have lunch at the location on Ontario Street. I’ve been a vendor for 20 years now.

My job allows me to meet people and not feel so isolated. Even though I’m a loner, I like the feeling of belonging to a community, to society. I like helping others and feeling useful.

After a fire in the apartment building I used to live in, I spent four and a half months on the street in the dead of winter. I became homeless because the government workers in charge of low-rent housing were on strike.

I managed to get by in part due to the generosity of night bus drivers who let me sleep at the back of the bus. That isn’t allowed nowadays.

But there were nights I slept on park benches that winter. I’d leave behind bits of poetry. I think I aged ten years during those four months on the street. The worst thing is, I developed a taste for crack and alcohol. I lost everything, and I’m still paying my debts today.

Photo by Milton Fernandes

Thanks to L’Itinéraire, I’ve regained my dignity and the desire to stay sober. I’ve found help, psychosocial support, and friends I can confide in here.

I’m like a crab: I have a shell that everyone can see, but inside I’m tender and sensitive. Like everyone else, I’m looking for true friendship and love.

People have often taken advantage of my kindness in the past. I suffered because of it. Now I don’t hesitate to talk to intervention workers at the magazine or other resources when I feel threatened.

Today, I drink occasionally, like if I’m watching a game at a pub with friends. But I’ll never drink compulsively again—when I was drunk, I became a different person, a stranger that I didn’t like.

As this is a special edition, I’d like to thank my customers and say “Bravo!” to the staff at L’Itinéraire. I’d also like to mention how grateful I am to my loving parents, who are no longer with us. They always accepted me as I was, without judgment.

Translated by Michelle Daniel