Looking Back to Look Ahead

Looking Back to Look Ahead

Source of Image: Joe from Pixabay (castle …)

“What’s that mess by the back door?” Harry’s wife, Abigail, said sharply, as she placed the bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. Harry smiled knowing it was a jibe and figured he’d take his time to respond. What do they say? Count to ten before speaking. It’s something he’d come to do whenever she made that kind of comment.

To be honest, he wasn’t in the mood to get into another parry and riposte right now. He’d been doing a bit of work outside on what was once their dream solarium. It was no longer a dream, just a reason to get out of the house. Harry had finished all the writing he’d wanted to do.

He’d been working all afternoon and so, he thought he’d come inside, grab a bite to eat before continuing. And after finding the box, he could take some time to think. Harry had no idea what it was, although he was curious.

“What is it anyway? I mean, just throw it out.” Abigail said, as she took more things out of the bag.

“It’s nothing. Just something I found while I was digging to lay the foundation.” He could tell by the way his wife was taking the items out of the bag, set movements, each thudding on the counter, like little bursts of anger, that she was peeved about something. It was the box, this time.

“Well, I’ve got some friends coming over and it’d be great if it weren’t in the way.” He thought, should he question it being ‘in the way’ as it was just a small box.

“Come on, it’s not really in the way.” But the moment he said it, he knew he shouldn’t have. It only made matters worse. He remembers how things blew out of proportion the last time and it led to nowhere good.

“It’s an eyesore and that makes it in the way,” she said, her words terse. They locked eyes.

“No worries. It’ll be out of the way after I open it.” It was best to appease now.

Abigail stopped putting things in the cupboard. “Whaddyamean, open it? Why do you want to open it?”

“Well, I was curious because you don’t often dig up a box. Rocks and other stuff, sure, but not a box.” Harry shrugged his shoulders. He drank the last of his coffee and got up. “I haven’t a clue what it is, to be honest. If you’re interested, I’m gonna open it now.” He thought he’d throw out an olive branch and hope for the best.

Harry walked to the porch where he’d left the box, unsure of whether she’d be at all interested. These days, half the time, he really wouldn’t be surprised if she just walked out on him. It’d been going on for a year now. Harry tried his best not to get into anything with her these days. The one time, he’d really regretted. He was sure the neighbours must’ve wondered. Afterwards, he vowed to never let it reach such a fever pitch again.

He knew it all stemmed from the problems with her family. Her parents were breaking up with a divorce looming. They had created a wasteland for their children while doing battle, dragging the entire family through the muddy trenches of what was appearing to be a pretty sordid life. He wasn’t surprised. Money had a way of dragging people down to never-before-seen levels.

Of course, Abigail would be the last to acknowledge it. She’d always been the peacemaker. But it had even exceeded her attempts, leaving her adrift. He’d tried to allay her fears for herself, their own children and so on. But nowadays, he just left things alone. Still, the past year had been pure hell.

Harry dusted some more dirt off the box. He looked up as his wife came into the porch. “Just thought I’d take a look at what you’d found.” She shrugged her shoulders as she sat down. He’d put it on a bin bag. Lifting it, he turned it around and around.

“It’s pretty light.” He shook it and they could hear something was inside. Abigail sat on the bench paying little attention, looking out the porch window, immersed in some turmoil within. Harry wasn’t entirely sure why she was there, but he figured maybe there was some ember within her that could still be ignited. “I can’t imagine it’d be too complicated,” Harry said as he fussed with the lock. “Let’s see if the internet can give us a bit of help,” he said as he pulled out his phone. He looked for a moment. “Well, here we go.” He showed her the website he’d found on how to pick locks.

“Nowadays, you can find the damndest things on the internet,” Abigail said, rolling her eyes.

“Pretty good someone decided to share, though.” Harry thought it was best to stay positive to keep things on an even keel. He read the instructions while Abigail was lost in her thoughts. “That doesn’t sound impossible.” Harry started to get up. “I’ll go and collect some of our tools. It’s not too much we’d need. Just a paper clip, I think,” Harry said. Abigail picked up the box, scrutinising it.

Harry returned with a paper clip. He was pleased she seemed to be at least somewhat interested, even though he was sure the troubles hounding her still rattled and boomed in the background. He began inserting the paper slip, jiggling it around for a few minutes. “I don’t know if this is the best approach,” he said, laughing. Meanwhile Abigail read through the instructions on the website Harry had found.

“Here, let me try,” Abigail said. Harry looked up.

“Sure, here ya go.” He handed the box to her. She placed the clip into the lock and while jiggling it, she pulled it in and out. Abigail worked at it for about ten minutes. Harry watched, his back against the wall. He thought how nice it was for her to be so completely distracted by picking a lock of all things.

Smiling, he wasn’t sure if he’d seen her give such rapt attention to anything in the past year or so. “I think the keyway just turned.” She smiled at him, looking like she’d just won an unexpected prize. Continuing to apply pressure, the keyway finally rotated and they heard that magical click as the lock disengaged.

Harry laughed and clapped. “You did it! I don’t know. I think you may have some hidden talents we need to talk about,” Harry said. Abigail smiled. And that was like an unexpected light, something Harry hadn’t seen gracing her features for a long while.

“I’ve been thinking about shifting careers,” she said. Harry smiled as he opened the box. Inside, there were a wide assortment of letters primarily. He opened one of them.

Source of Image: Felix Lichtenfeld from Pixabay

“Well, the date is 23 January, 1916. It says ‘To my Dearest Penelope.’ And it goes on talking about what the writer’s doing in England and their training. They just talk about how it’s going and when they think they’ll be going over. I assume they mean mainland Europe.”

“O, my God,” Abigail said in a sudden gasp. “Is the person who wrote it a William Morris Turner?” Harry flipped to the next page. He nodded.

“Yeah, that’s what it says. ‘With all my love, William Morris Turner.”

“And was the person to whom it was written Penelope Ann Harcourt?” He looked at the envelope.

“Right again. It’s addressed to Miss Penelope Ann Harcourt. How did you know that?”

“Well, the land we’re on, pretty much all of the homes in this subdivision, used to belong to the Harcourts. I mean this is going back decades. When we were growing up, our mother told us about the family and how they eventually sold their land. Then it just became a part of the town. Their house is still standing, actually.” Harry furrowed his eyebrows.

“O, of course. That’s the community museum on whatchamacallit street.”


“Well, I’ll be darned. So, what’s the story here?” Harry said as he picked up the box and began looking through more of the letters.

After getting some more coffee, they spent the rest of the afternoon reading the letters. Harry didn’t say a word about Abigail’s friends coming over because clearly it hadn’t been that important. Maybe she’d just said it. He thought it was best to just let the afternoon flow.

“The one thing that’s different is this letter,” Abigail said, lifting up a letter. “It’s not from William Morris, either. It’s from Penelope. And it’s not even in an envelope.” Harry looked over. “To be honest, it doesn’t even look like it’d been posted, actually.

“What does it say?” Abigail opened the letter and began to read, a look of enlightenment touching her features.

“Ah, that makes sense.”

“What makes sense?”

“It says, “My dearest love, I received your letter with the usual anticipation and joy. Rest assured, I was overjoyed with the question at the end of your letter! My response is an undeniable and emphatic YES! I would so love to be your wife!” And the letter talks about a few other things. But that’s the main part of it, I think. It’s utterly beautiful,” Abigail said, her eyes moistening.

“I mean, yeah, it’s beautiful, but why did I find this buried. It doesn’t make any sense,” Harry said, furrowing his eyebrows and taking the letter from Abigail.

“Well, that’s the really sad part about it, isn’t it” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. “You see, from what my mother explained, they never got married. William Morris was killed in 1916 and so it was never to be.” She looked at Harry, her voice cracking. “It’s horrible because you know why she buried all his letters and her letter. She must’ve been so thoroughly heartbroken.”

Harry touched her shoulder, gathering her into his arms. It was the first time in a while that Abigail had expressed any emotion other than anger or frustration. She’d become tightly bound over the months. So, he wasn’t sure if she were crying for Penelope and William or the sadness enveloping her own life. In any case, something had clearly broken.

Harry gave her a tissue with which she wiped her eyes. “It’s awful because this place was sold around that time, after the war. I mean, it was sold and they started to break it apart. It’s just makes you realise the horrible things people have had to endure.” She sat looking at the letters, straightening them and placing them back in the box. “I mean, can you imagine how it would’ve been when she got word he’d died. She would’ve been absolutely lost. I’m not surprised she buried the letters. She didn’t want to destroy them. She just wanted them gone.”

“Where did she go? Do you know?”

“I’m not sure. She had family in England. They were originally from there and so that’s likely where they went.” They sat quietly for a moment.

“Well, there’s a sad story. You can only hope it ended happil,” Harry said.

“Yeah.” Abigail got up from the floor and sat on the bench. “It just makes ya think of the big world out there. Myriad sad stories to go around, eh,” she said, looking at Harry.

“Absolutely.” He didn’t want to say anything, as he thought he’d rather give her the floor to maybe speak her mind.

“It kinda makes you realise the world’s full of sad stories.”

“Happy stories, too. Don’t forget that.”

“I know. It’s just, you forget,” Abigail said, closing her eyes.

“Yeah, but the most important thing is at some point, you remember,” Harry said. Abigail looked at him, their eyes meeting. She looked down.

“I’m sorry for how I’ve been. How long, I don’t know.”

“No worries. It’s in the past.” Their eyes locked again, with Harry and then Abigail smiling. “Well, how about we say, in honour of Penelope and William, it’s time to turn the page.”

Placentia’s Tipstaff: Ceremonial Role in Law Enforcement

Placentia’s Tipstaff: Ceremonial Role in Law Enforcement

Image of the Tipstaff that was gifted to Placentia (Source: Christopher Newhook).

One of the numerous artefacts visitors to Placentia can see when visiting the O’Reilly House Museum in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador is a Tipstaff. It’s staff-like in appearance and was given to Placentia in 1772 by none other than King George III who was the ruler of Britain at the time. It was an honourable gift, given to recognise the prestige of Placentia in the eyes of the monarchy. But what exactly is a Tipstaff?

What Exactly is a Tipstaff?

A Tipstaff is a feature of the judicial practices of a nation. In modern times, a Tipstaff is an officer of the court. It is also the symbolic rod which is used to represent these officials. No one is certain when it came into being.

Sometimes referred to as tipstave or tipstaff, it derives from various related languages. In Danish, the noun would be stav while in Old English, stæf refers to a “walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod uses as a weapon, pastoral staff.”

The idea is for the officer to carry the Tipstaff. Then, he would unscrew the crown and within is a warrant appointing the holder of the Tipstaff to their position of authority.

Steeped in History

The Tipstaff played a role in law enforcement in Britain centuries ago. It still does today. There are two Tipstaffs in England and Wales, one an officer of the Royal Borough of Kingston and the other of the High Court of England and Wales.

Image of Tipstaves, a short club, after which the office was named (Source: Wikipedia).

What likely happened is a Tipstaff most likely began much as its name suggests. It was a stong pole used as a weapon for law enforcement. Then, over time, the person who would customarily carry the Tipstaff came to be known in this manner. While merely supposition, it may very likely have been the progression from an item to a position of authority.

A Gift to Placentia

In the eighteenth century, Placentia had originally been chosen as the central military centre for Britain. This was in 1714, at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was largely to settle the balance of power in Europe.

Image of the Treaty of Utrecht that brought the War of the Spanish Succession to a close.

With the Treaty of Utrecht, a peace treaty following the end of the war, Britain was handed Newfoundland. Placentia, formerly known as Plaisance, when in the hands of the French, was also passed over to Britain as a part of this treaty. And it was there, Britain decided to place its primary military defences.

However, throughout the century, Placentia began to be overshadowed by St. John’s. Increasingly, Britain was focussing its attention on fortifying St. John’s in lieu of Placentia (see page 99 of The Placentia Area — A Cultural Mosaic).

So, when Britain gifted the Tipstaff to Placentia in 1772, it was largely a symbolic gift. By that time, St. John’s was being granted more and more official duties. And it would be St. John’s that would become the seat of government, the main British garrison and a growing commercial centre.

Nonetheless, the Tipstaff stands as proof of the esteemed role Placentia played when Britain first laid claim to Newfoundland.


Timms Solicitors 2023 “Who or What is a Tipstaff?”

Wikipedia 2023 “Tipstaff”

Online Etymology Dictionary 2023 “Tipstaff”

Food Insecurity and Health

Food Insecurity and Health

Image by Alexandra Haynak from Pixabay (people …)

Hunger is a feeling no one would ever welcome. Incorporated within a societal malaise, it now goes by a term less couched in the rawness of hunger and closer to the parlance of offficialdom—food insecurity. Although, whether it’s called hunger or food insecurity, it’s a dilemma that’s been with us for a very long time. In the past, food insecurity played a key role in the challenges to one’s health. In sometimes unexpected ways, it still does.

Insecurity in the Past

Food insecurity in the seventeenth century very much existed in Newfoundland and Labrador. At the time, it would’ve likely been referred to as malnutrition. Families were strung out along the coast with little access to medical assistance.1 Insufficient access to nutritious food is a quality to which the Placentia Bay area, as a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, has been able to lay claim for centuries.

With no refrigerators and certainly no grocery stores, they were reliant on restricted sources of food. They could take advantage of food they could provide for themselves from their gardens, household farms and fish. All was stored or preserved in myriad ways. As well, there was food such as flour or tea that was ordered prior to the winter. The inveterate hope was they would be able to make it to spring. But too often, they didn’t.

The Effect on Health

Many times they would run out of food before the birth of a new season. The lack of food led to health conditions tied to vitamin deficiencies. Beriberi was due to a vitamin B deficiency. Rickets was tied to a deficiency in vitamin D and finally scurvy, was a vitamin C deficiency. The diseases were a common complaint.

In the more distant past, there were no measures taken to confront the problems of food insecurity. Centuries ago, many families would run out of food in March. Anything stored in the autumn, such as root vegetables, salt cod or meat from the household farm was largely depleted or gone. Families had yet to begin fishing. So, it was considered “the long, hungry month of March.”

Hunger is a problem regardless of the age. These are sculptures were made by Jens Galschiøts “The Hunger March” in Copenhagen (Source: Wikipedia).

Even into the twentieth century, the continued lack of refrigeration, electricity and freezers ensured a diminished health for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. There may have been an established network for the exchange of foods. However, distance always compounded the accessibility to food. There was no way to get the food to people before it spoiled.

However, as time progressed into the twentieth century, there was an increased knowledge of how to circumvent these conditions. Healthcare was becoming more accessible. Technological improvements were able to collectively address the problem of the deficiencies that were once synonymous with the winter. Over the years, refrigeration and freezers developed.

Nowadays, most know their food is often just a short walk or drive away at the grocery store. One would think we should be set, the challenges known centuries ago a thing of the past. They’re not.

Current Food Insecurity

As of 2021, a study on the Household Insecurity in Canada 2021 estimated 17.9% in Newfoundland and Labrador were food insecure. That’s in a population Statistics Canada considers for 2023 to be 531,948. Of that amount, 4.5% were regarded as severely insecure. This means some simply missed a meal or reduced the amount of food they were eating.

There were 8.6% who were moderately food insecure, meaning they were willing to compromise in the quality of food given a lack of food and money. Finally, 4.9% of people are regarded as marginally insecure. They would take measures to limit their food intake or simply worry about running out of food. Food insecurity has changed its tactics. But it’s not going anywhere.

Current Effect on Health

Centuries ago, the deficiencies in food led to certain illnesses such as rickets and beriberi. Nowadays, the problems tied to food insecurity are different, yet equally devastating. As time progressed, by the latter part of the twentieth century, the lifestyles of many has contributed to a new set of health conditions. Now, more often than not, people are suffering from problems tied to obesity or diabetes. Both are tied to lifestyle. Both are also tied to food insecurity. And somewhere in there, money is playing a role.

A researcher firmly stated that the link between health and food insecurity is unquestionable. Obesity or diabetes are health conditions that may not be directly caused by food insecurity. Although, they are considerably exacerbated by it. However, one study, based on data from Ontario found the development of diabetes to be tied to food insecurity.

Sugar and needles of insulin, the double threat of diabetes. (Image by Barbara from Pixabay.)

Obesity is another condition that is associated with type 2 diabetes. Obesity is considered a major reason for developing Type 2 diabetes. Although obesity on its own is considered to be a potential result of food insecurity. It’s considered a paradox for obvious reasons. How could you run the risk of gaining weight due to a lack of food? It’s a conundrum being studied.

Yet some have put forth some explanations. For instance, some have blamed it on the low dietary quality and energy-dense food that is being consumed. To explain the tendency for women to exhibit obesity more than men, some have suggested this is because women are more likely to sacrifice good quality food to allow their children to benefit.

Final Thoughts

As in the past, food insecurity can have a grave effect on health. In modern times, type 2 diabetes is linked to food insecurity. However somehow related, the pathway to conditions such as obesity is still unclear to researchers. Nonetheless, we know that food insecurity involves specific challenges to one’s health. It’s changed over time, but remains a tenacious problem to those for whom the ready access to food is sometimes a challenge.

In a future essay, we’ll take a closer look at what most know is one of the main culprits behind food insecurity—poverty.


1. Medical assistance was sometimes available from British military hospitals. Although, their primary concern was their soldiers.


Carvajal-Aldaz, Diana, Gabriela Cucalon and Carlos Ordonez 2022 “Food insecurity as a risk factor for obesity: A review” Frontiers in Nutrition

Brown, Alison G M et al 2019 “Food insecurity and obesity: research gaps, opportunities, and challenges” Translational Behavioural Medicine 9(5): 980–987

Gundersen, Craig and James P Ziliak 2015 “ Food Insecurity And Health Outcomes” Health Aff (Millwood). 2015 Nov;34(11):1830-9

Tait, Christopher A. et al. 2018 “The association between food insecurity and incident type 2 diabetes in Canada: A population-based cohort study” PLOS ONE

Tait, Christopher A. et al. 2018 “Food Insecurity and Type 2 Diabetes Risk” Population Health Analytics Laboratory

Tarasuk V, Li T, Fafard St-Germain AA. (2022) Household

food insecurity in Canada, 2021. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce

food insecurity (PROOF)

Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador 1996 Book 5: Health and Hard Times

Newfoundland and Labrador Adult Basic Education Social History Series

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie Going Home

Gwennie rocked back and forth, the chair creaking in its familiar way. It was so lovely to sit near the front window, the sun unencumbered by the sheers. She’s glad she’d asked Olga to remove them. Olga was her new caregiver and she was a blessing.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Her heart was racing as she watched her Penelope play with an imaginary mouse, most likely. She put her hand to her chest. It was nothing to worry about. It’d done that sometimes in the past. Penelope was probably as old as Gwennie was in cat years. Like Gwennie, she obviously still had some life in her yet. She smiled at the thought. Goodness, last time she thought about it, she reckoned she was around 98. One loses track. It’s like that when you reach a certain age. The numbers cease to matter.

She shimmied forward on her chair, thinking she’d go get a cup of tea. That would be nice. Gwennie’d already had something to eat for supper and so, all she really wanted now was something small. Maybe she’d have one of the biscuits Isabelle had brought.

Getting up Gwennie felt another sharp pain in her chest. That one concerned her. She got up with a little effort ….

Her head tilted back as she swung high. Back down again and her sister pushed her again, laughing.

Image by Petra from Pixabay

“One more time, Gwennie and then it’s my turn, okay,” Gwennie’s sister said, squealing with delight as she pushed her again.

“Push one more time, Ida! One more time,” Gwennie said, yelling at the top of her lungs, giggling all the time. Ida pushed her one more time and then they both let the swing slow down so Gwennie could jump off. They switched and Gwennie used all her might to pull the swing back as much as possible and then with a laugh she pushed Ida. They did that for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a beautiful Sunday and so they were given a little extra time to play. But they still had chores to do. So, Gwennie spent part of her day helping her mother with the sewing and knitting. Her mother was mending her father’s trousers and Gwennie was darning her brother’s smellie socks—at least that’s what she always thought. Ida was in the kitchen and her brothers were with their dad in the woods checking on the snares.

“Yeah, thanks,” Izzie said, as she took the forms from Ryan. They’d already wrapped up her body and placed it on the stretcher. It was a small town and so, they both knew Gwennie.

“It was her heart,” Ryan said.

“Geez. Why worry? I think she was closing in on a hundred. When ya get to that age, you’ve lived your life to the full, is what I think. So, it’s okay to say good-bye,” Izzie said, as they rolled the stretcher out to the ambulance.

“Well she had a good run, that’s for sure,” Ryan said as she slammed the door closed.

Clambering into the ambulance, Izzie’s mind was on Gwennie. “Yeah. But you know what I always wonder. I think about when they’re unconscious and already pretty much gone, in their minds, do they go anywhere?”

“Don’t know. I think they’re just gone.”

“Y’know. I think they go back to a time in their lives when they were happy, truly happy — not a care in the world. I bet many go back to their first home,” Izzie said.

“Ah well, we all know you’re a dreamer,” Ryan said, smiling at Izzie. Checking behind him, he drove off.

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Homelessness is a condition we all agree is worth eradicating. Easier said than done, we may say. While in urban areas it’s signs are obvious to even those fervently disinterested. Although many do ignore its presence, it’s not easy to overlook that person sleeping on the bench along a busy thoroughfare. But homelessness leaves less of a trail in rural areas.

Plus, homelessness is a condition that easily disappears behind the more apparent ideals we hail regarding rural life—peace, comfort, an idyllic quality. In either case, homelessness is a social ill that can be rectified. Once it’s identified, there are methods to ensure its abolishment. Sometimes, people just need to know there’s someone there who can lend a hand.

Recognising Homelessness

For many, small towns are an unspoiled refuge, places seemingly far beyond the roar of the city. They’re places where those who choose to live there can enjoy many quiet moments of peace slipping by, little tread of the day remaining. Yet, it often disguises certain elements that fail to harmonise with that tranquility.

Homelessness, being one of these conditions, is therefore too often hidden from our view.

Harsh realities like crime and, in particular, issues such as homelessness are like splinters that can disrupt that serenity. And because they are “out of place” with the doctrines of rural life, they are less noticed.

Homelessness, for one, is certainly not a defining characteristic of small town life. Ask anyone in the myriad small towns that dot Placentia Bay, or small towns anywhere, for that matter, about the presence of homelessness and I can guess the response—“Huh?” they might say. “We don’t have homelessness here,” they would assert.

It is also a matter of homelessness not adhering to the visual keys with which urban homelessness has become synonymous—people on the streets or in missions. It’s hidden.

Homelessness simply doesn’t always accord with the idyllic reservoir of rurality. Thus, we may fail to see it. So, our goal is to find ways to shed light on these more malignant aspects of life. If left to metastasise, homelessness will go on to weaken the people who comprise the community.

What is Hidden Homelessness?

According to Statistics Canada, hidden homelessness sits within the rubric of those who are “provisionally accommodated.” According to the federal government, these individuals are using emergency shelter and other system supports because they have been unable to secure permanent housing, Hence, they remain functionally homeless.

People sometimes need to sleep in their cars. (Source: Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

These individuals may be staying with relatives or friends—couch surfing. Sometimes, we’d find them living in their cars or trucks. They are “hidden,” as they do not take advantage of homeless supports or other services and are not adequately housed.

Who Can Help

Identifying those in need of assistance is one of the most difficult tasks when addressing hidden homelessness. However, most people who are encountering problems regarding homelessness are likely going to avail of some form of social assistance.

The Placentia area, Cape Shore, Whitbourne service providers who offer resources for families would be one of the sources of assistance. Regardless of their needs, people would be reaching out to these types of organisations.

No doubt if people are challenged in their attempts to find affordable housing, there are likely other problems tied to food or employment. Thus, organisations offering services such as employment assistance and food banks play a central role.

Another key service provider would be ones tied to mental health and addictions. People who are homeless are more susceptible to mental health problems. These organisations are likely also going to be assisting people encountering problems finding housing. Finally, organisations focussed on housing will clearly be a central player in the issue of difficulties identifying permanent housing.

The Personal Touch

The various reasons homelessness has remained invisible are true. Yes, homelessness has countered the pastoral facade that encompasses many rural communities. And yes, homelessness is largely hidden from the general view in rural areas.

However, it becomes apparent that one of the primary rationales for the concealment of homelessness in rural areas is simply because there’s no one who can provide any assistance.

The organisations above certainly offer a more informed glimpse of rural homelessness. However, organisations such as those who deal with housing or homelessness are not the only ones needed. What’s needed is a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW), someone who can offer more of a personal touch. This is someone on the frontline whose sole goal is to assist people with their attempts to locate permanent housing

Housing Outreach Worker

Since November 2021, the Placentia area, Cape Shore and Whitbourne area has benefited from the efforts of a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW). Notices were placed in the various communities to make people aware of the services offered by the HOW. Gradually, people began to get in touch and avail of the HOW’s services.

As soon as the word had gotten around the HOW was in place, people appeared daily requesting assistance. So, it seems one of the primary things necessary is to ensure someone is able to offer guidance.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The HOW who currently works in the Placentia area, Cape Shore area and Whitbourne area is also there to offer assistance for the clients who’ve availed of the services. Sometimes, it’s just a quick chat on the telephone. A lot of times the programmes need to be deciphered. It’s essential as it conveys a genuine interest and concern in making certain their problems are being solved.

Turning the Tide on Homelessness

It may appear simplistic to state that all we need is to ensure someone is there to provide assistance. And not only just assistance, someone is required who can show compassion and be genuinely interested in solving homelessness. In the end, though, perhaps all people need to solve one of the most burdensome problems is time.

Time is needed to patiently identify the heart of the problem—what is necessary, who needs to be contacted and so on. Time is required to follow-up with the various services and organisations needed to get someone housed. Time is also necessary to speak with those being helped to assure them, very simply, they do indeed matter.

Mysterious Archaeological Finds

Mysterious Archaeological Finds

Image of the excavation at Fort Louis (New Fort NE Bastion excavation 2007) (Source: Steve Mills).

Many times archaeologists can only greet some artefacts with a furrowed brow. Their response can only be maybe a slightly more articulate version of ‘huh?’ Now, sometimes there’s an iota of context that can provide a modicum of identity for the artefact.

They may have the location within a known site and they’ve maybe got some idea of the time. So, they’ve definitely got a bit of the ‘where,’ as well as the ‘when.’ As for the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why,’ they’re stymied. The only thing we know or certain is the creator was invested in sharing a message. That’s all.

An Inscribed Rock

In Placentia Bay, members of the public encountered a rock bearing a curious inscription. Located in Haystack, Long Island, it’s anyone’s guess what the inscription means. Urve Linnamae had conducted archaeological surveys on some of the Placentia Bay islands.

She had identified sites potentially of Maritime Archaic and Dorset Pre-Inuit origin. However, as noted by later archaeologists, the inscriptions were likely made using a metal tool. This would’ve removed Maritime Archaic or Dorset as a possiblity as neither possessed metal tools.

Image of inscription in Haystack, Long Island, Placentia Bay (Screenshot from “Graffiti”)

It’s anyone’s guess what the inscription was intended to mean. John Robinson who published Olde Founde Land in 1997 pointed to it being a reference to the voyage of St. Brendan, occurring in the mid-500s AD and recorded in 950 AD. Maybe.

John Robinson’s explanation was possibly a form of postdiction, wherein our minds fill in the unknowns in an effort to complete the story. So, we take what we do know and try to make some sort of sense of it. He had little else to go on.

Locals in the area referred to it as ‘the Frenchman’s letter,’ knowing the region was initially settled by the French. However, they were simply basing it on the presence of French and an ignorance of the French alphabet. It’s largely much like the English alphabet, but as expected, the locals didn’t realise. Again, it’s anyone’s guess. Thus, at the moment, the only person or people who know the origin of the writing are those who originally inscribed the symbols.

Doodling or Something More

Hopping over to Jerseyside, in the Town of Placentia on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay, we find another mystery. Located in the Fort Louis excavations that took place in 2011, the archaeologist, Matthew Simmonds, revealed three pieces of slate (page 161). They were presumably roof tiles.

Curiously, each had an image inscribed on its surface. One was a sundial, the slate etched with Roman numerals I to XI, minus the IV. Another possessed a two-masted sailing vessel with the rigging and portholes visible. One also had a drawing of a two-masted sailing vessel, its two masted sails, yard arms, rigging and hull planking. A final one possessed what appeared to be a woven basket.

It’s difficult to see, but these are the slate rocks possessing images found during the Fort Louis dig (Source: Matthew Simmonds).

Were these drawings made for a particular person? Or were they just the casual doodles of an individual with a passing flavour of artistry? We haven’t a clue. Still, there’s beauty in the intention of communication with someone.

Any writing is simply a form of communication, one with ourselves or someone else. If it’s simply a set of characters that’s been written, ones we can identify as letters or numerals, we may understand. However, much like in these instances, we not have a clue of the message being shared. All we do know is that some form of communication was occurring.


In the end, whether it’s the characters on the rock, the odd designs on the pieces of slate or any number of mysterious finds archaeologists uncover, there’s one thing they hold in common. They are each a desire to share an idea over time and space. And we may never have any notion of that idea. But it’s much like encountering the pathway, knowing it once led to some unknown destination.

We have no idea of what, in particular, the creator was seeking to share. It offers a glimpse of the connections that held people together then as it does now. And we’re certainly not averse to putting together the known quantities in various ways and then simply guessing. Much like John Robinson, we take some known knowledge and then somehow incorporate it into our mystery.

Moreover, there’s an element of poetry in not knowing. Everyone’s imagination can forever fly to the stars with their best guess. That’s the allure of a mystery. We’d love to finally discover the hidden meanings behind these mysterious finds. Still, we remain in awe of the quiet and hidden intentions they embody.

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Birdseye View of the Placentia Health Centre (Source: Lee Everts).

The Placentia Health Centre is a relatively recent addition to the landscape of the Placentia area. It emerges from a long history of healthcare. Undoubtedly, it reflects an ongoing investment in healthcare.

Placentia stands as part of a strong healthcare network. Recent changes, however, are adding tension to the healthcare system. The goal will be to hold onto a system buoyed by a rich heritage of healthcare.

Early History

As early as 1698, health was already a concern for residents. At this time, there was apparently a hospital located in Placentia near a lime kiln used for the construction of forts and fortifications such as Fort Louis.1

A first edition of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, in Spanish (left), and a copy printed in 1714 in Latin and English (right). ( Source: Wikipedia).

As the years progressed and following the War of the Spanish Succession, Placentia was ceded to Britain from France in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Placentia became the military headquarters and continued to provide medical services. However, as more people settled in the Placentia area and on the islands of Placentia Bay, health became a personal or community responsibility.

Thus, care and maintenance of health was approached using a mixture of beliefs, home remedies and knowledge derived from past experience. This art and skill of healing was often equal to what the medical profession would offer years and decades later in hospitals. Certain people within the community would have been regularly called upon to provide medical assistance for injuries—births, deaths and so on.

Health in the Twentieth Century

Nevertheless, more needed to be done. Hence, it was the Commission of Government2 who, having taken office from 1934 to 1949, recognised the need for a greater investment in healthcare. Charged with reviving the ailing the economy of the Dominion of Newfoundland, one of the initiatives of the Commission of Government was intended to rectify health inequities across the island.

The Commission of Government borrowed a scheme used in Scotland—cottage hospitals. They were ideal as they could be used to service a population that was widely dispersed. One of the first cottage hospitals was situated in Argentia. However, when an agreement was made with the United States to permit their use of the land for a military base in Argentia, the community and everything else, including the hospital, needed to be moved and resettled.

Photograph of the Placentia Cottage Hospital (Source: Anonymous).

The hospital was then moved to Placentia. Hence, by 1949, thirteen of the eighteen hospitals were built. These included hospitals in Old Perlican, Markland, Burgeo, Harbour Breton, Come By Chance, Stephenville Crossing, Bonavista, Norris Point, Grand Bank, Placentia, Brookfield, Gander and Botwood.

Under the Commission of Government, nursing stations were also dotted around Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with the cottage hospitals, hospital ships provided floating clinics. For instance, the MV Lady Anderson serviced close to 75 settlements along the southwest coast of Newfoundland. Afterwards, it plied the waters of Placentia Bay where it was also used to transport patients to and fro the Placentia Cottage Hospital.

Entering the Modern Era

Since the early 1940s, the Placentia cottage hospital remained as a sentinel for the provision of health for the Placentia area. However, change was on the horizon. In April of 1986, the Lions Manor Nursing Home opened its doors. Ten years afterwards, the heritage of health in the Placentia area continued to evolve when the Placentia Health Centre was built.

Then, two years later in October of 1998, the bricks and mortar of the old Cottage Hospital were taken down. Nonetheless, its memory as a place where residents could seek health care has remained safely housed in the touching stories of residents.

Current Health System

Despite its rich background, the current healthcare system for the Placentia Bay area, as a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, is beset with challenges. Top of the list are wait times for various surgeries. In a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at 60%, Canada topped the list along with Norway in terms of wait-times for medical care.

Photograph of William H. Newhook Health Centre (Source: Eastern Health).

Other challenges also stress the system. Nowadays, Emergency Rooms (ER) are closing in rural centres in Newfoundland and Labrador. It places a strain on the health system. The William H. Newhook Health Centre closed in Whitbourne, forcing residents to either go to Carbonear, St. John’s or Placentia. First and foremost, it’s an additional burden for these residents who are distraught at the loss of their Health Centre, as well as for the receiving ER.

Other rural areas across the country, Manitoba and British Columbia are reeling from the same closures. So, this is definitely not a problem restricted to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unquestionably, there is a lot of room for improvement for health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. The situation at William H. Newhook Health Care centre merely serves as a representation of what can happen in any of the communities, such as Placentia.Hilda Whelan, the mayor of Whitbourne says they’ve just been exceptionally lucky no deaths have resulted from the closure of the Health Care Centre.

Not so for others apparently. When the Canadian Institute for Health Information on “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes” for Newfoundland and Labrador, the province did not fare well. While Canada as a whole rated 65. Newfoundland and Labrador scored an 87, well below average performance.

On a Final Note

The health care in the Placentia area surroundings has been in existence officially since 1698. Undoubtedly, the heritage of health in the Placentia area is deep and interesting, one firmly etched into its identity. In the 17th century, the investment in health was a top priority. The goal is for it to remain an integral part of the landscape in the years to come.


Antle, Sarah 2022 “Patience running out in Whitbourne, as emergency room remains closed for 7th straight week” CBC NL

Canadian Institute For Health Information 2023 “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes details for Newfoundland and Labrador”

Kulkarni, Akshay 2022 “Emergency rooms in rural B.C. were closed for equivalent of around 4 months in 2022, data shows” CBC

Modjeski, Morgan 2022 “Emergency room closures in rural Manitoba a growing concern after patient dies being turned away” City News Everywhere

Savoury, George 1975 The Cottage Hospital System in Newfoundland (St. John’s : Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Simmonds, Matthew 20122 “The 2012 Field Season at Fort Louis, Jerseyside, Placentia” Provincial Archaeology Office, 2010 Archaeology Review, March 2011 Volume 9

Wilhelm. Henrike 2023 “Frustrated Whitbourne residents protest ongoing ER closure — and promise more rallies to come”


1. The source for this information is unknown. Although it is reasonable to assume that forts would contain hospitals to address the needs of their soldiers.

2. The Commission of Government was appointed by the British government which took control of Newfoundland in 1933. Economically, Newfoundland was in dire straits. The general feeling was that Newfoundland needed to take a rest from responsible government for the moment.

A Safe Place for Ada

A Safe Place for Ada

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

“The moon’s really bright tonight. The sun’s not even down yet. Imagine that. It’s like that time a couple of years ago in the field by your parents’ farm. Remember that,” Ada said, wrapping the blanket a little more tightly around Marley who shivered in the cooling summer evening air.

“Thanks. You seem immune to the cold,” Marley said.

“It’s not cold,” Ada said, laughing.

“But yeah, I think it’s getting close to full,” Marley said. “It’s so peaceful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” she said, barely a whisper. The reality of the situation suddenly weighed heavily on them, neither wanting to draw it into their circle of peace. So, for a few more moments, they remained quiet, the jibber-jabber sounds of the ducks punctuating the light evening hum.

“Well, thanks for letting me stay,” Ada said.

“Geez, it’s not a problem at all. My home is your home. And before you worry about it, Xavvie loves you being here. You’re like his little sister. I swear he’d do more for you than he’d do for me.” Marley rolled her eyes, pinching Ada’s side.

“I’m glad,” she said. “And thanks for getting me outta there. I really think he was gonna hit me or something.”

“I don’t think he could stand straight. He was completely pissed out of his mind, what I could see. But yeah, people who drink too much are often pretty dangerous. All I know is I’m glad I was there to get you outta there.”

“Yeah,” Ada said, again in hushed tones. They were quiet again, soundlessly absorbing the mood of the evening.

“Anyway, I’m gonna go inside and get something ready for supper.” She checked her watch. “Xavvie should be home soon. Are you gonna stay out here for while? I can give you a shout when supper’s ready.”

“Yeah. I’ll just sit out here for a while, thanks.” Ada smiled, her eyes distant, as Marley got up.

“Listen, it’ll all be okay. You can stay here as long as you need, it’s not a problem.”

“Thanks,” Ada said as she nervously played with the corner of the blanket.

Looking around, she was never sure. Although, she hoped if she were by herself, he might be more willing to appear. Everything was silent. Ada just sat quietly, her eyes on the ducks in the pond in front of her. They always seemed to be so consumed with eating or grooming. Periodically, they’d tip over, their pointed tails popping upwards towards the sky.

Her mind wandered to what had happened. Freddie had promised her it’d never happen again. He got dead drunk a couple of weeks ago and it was Xavvie who’d arrived just as he was really getting unpleasant. She’d been thankful he’d arrived and was able to kind of talk him down. Well, Xavvie and Freddie were old friends. Afterwards, Freddie had promised her it’d never happen again. Then … she spotted a movement at her side.

“Hey, how’re ya doing, kiddo?” Ada smiled.

“Not too bad. Really glad to see you. I didn’t know if you’d come or not.” He took off his cap and put it on his knee, sitting down he leaned against the back of the seat. He smiled at her.

“I just had to wait a bit is all. No worries.” He looked at her, his face suddenly more serious. “Well, like I told ya, that one is not to be trusted. I mean, that sort is always thinking of themselves. They don’t give any thought to anyone else.” He put his hand up for her to wait. “Before you say, sure, maybe he’s had a hard life. That sort normally have. But if so, he’d best get that figured out before he gets involved with anyone else.”

“Yeah, I know,” she looked down, ashamed. “I thought I’d give him another chance.”

“Well, hopefully you now know he’s not to be trusted. Geez, girl. You’ve gotta watch yourself. Too soft hearted, you.” He pointed at her, a smile on her face. “Not to worry.”

“Yeah, I’m here now and so, I’ll just go tomorrow when he’s at work to clear away my other things.”

“Ask Xavvie if he can go with you. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do that on your own.”

“No, I won’t. I’m sure Xavvie wouldn’t mind coming. I don’t think it’d take me very long.” He started to get up.

“Where ya going?”

“Hey, listen, your old man’s got things to do.” He laughed at her. “You’re not the only one who needs a checking up.”

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

“Yeah, well, thanks Dad.” He gave her a hug and then wandered off along the path. She watched him go, not a care in the world. It’d always been that way, even when he was alive. Her dad was always the kind of person who never let anything get under his skin. She smiled. Ada sat there, watching her dad far in the distance, she could see people around him. But she had a feeling they likely didn’t even know he was there and so, they just walked by.

She didn’t have a clue how he knew about her boyfriend, if she can even call him that anymore. But her dad had known something wasn’t right and told her. She was the one who didn’t listen.

“Ada,” she heard Marley calling. “Supper’s ready.” She got up and folded the blanket. Her dad was out of sight now. But she knew at some point, she’d see him again. Folks sometimes say they’ve got a guardian spirit. Ada smiled, thinking, and sometimes we do.

Ageing Into Nature

Ageing Into Nature

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For some of us, the physical changes that accompany ageing are just a part of life met with a shrug of the shoulders. The tick-tock of the clock as the years slide by, a distant yet comforting beat of our lives. The growing laugh-lines or the salt and pepper, gradually growing more the former, are rarely noticed. They are simply one more of the expected changes that go along with life.

For some, however, this shift in time is like the grating of an oversized door opening to places they’d rather not go. Of course, some would cock their heads to the side wondering, what’s the problem? It’s only natural, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is. But maybe that’s it. It is only natural. Perhaps in the end, nature may just play a central role in the dilemma.

We have a troubled relationship with nature. Some insist we’re a part of it and some do not. Some assure us we control nature while others feel otherwise. Therefore, could it be the difficulties we encounter with growing older are tied in part to our distance from nature?

And so, is it possible that since some of us don’t feel tied to nature, we’re not about to follow its rules? Which is to say, many of us aren’t about to grow old “naturally.”

A Part of Nature or Maybe Not?

We definitely have a difficult relationship with nature. We live lives increasingly separated from nature. More and more of us reside in urban areas, distant from the groves, meadows and meandering streams and rivers with which nature graces the landscape.

It’s known that around 4.3 billion people across the world—that’s more than half of us—now reside in an urban area. More often than not, our lives are framed, day in and day out, by a world structured by steel and fiber-glass, buildings perched on even the smallest piece of land. So, the many facets and peculiarities of nature are certainly not a part of our day to day lives.

Potted plant on the ledge. Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Yet, many would insist they are indeed a part of nature. And yes, even for those living in the hearts of our largest cities, that potted plant perched on their kitchen ledge may be a signal of their union with nature.

Still, there are those who would insist they are not bound to nature. The question would never arise. And being so distant from nature, it’s finer nuances and subtleties elude them.

But those who feel disconnected from nature also consider it merely yet another facet of life, one needing to be controlled.

Controlling Nature

Some would point to the rise of Christianity in western society as the point where we diverged from nature. We then rigorously followed the words of the Old Testament. Thus, every Sunday, we were reminded how humans were made in God’s image, granting us dominion over all creatures, great and small.

We then took many things in hand. As a result, we’ve had a significant impact on the environment. One of the most pronounced effects on nature is our role in speeding habitat loss. Our actions often simply destroy a habitat.

When a new housing project is started, trees are removed wholesale. Most likely, countless animals previously lived in those trees or used it for obtaining their food. It doesn’t matter, as we’re in control and reign supreme. We also fragment a habitat. So, the area once used by a creature is no longer valuable in its entirety since a development was placed in the middle.

Another action indicative of our control is linked to our emission of air and water pollutants. Chemical pollutants bioaccumulate, increasing in concentration within the animal’s tissues and then they’re transported throughout the food web.

A goose exploring a bag or garbage. Image by G J Whitby from Pixabay

Plastics can be yet another form of pollutant. Floating in the currents through our watersheds, plastics are often ingested by wildlife, mistaken for food. Sadly, animals eventually die since their stomach is full of material it can neither digest nor break down. Otherwise, the plastic is caught on the animals appendages, thus incapacitating them and leading to their death.

Through these impacts, we play a controlling role in nature. It would seem we possess a relationship with nature that places us at the steering wheel.

Fear of Ageing

In this light, we can turn our attention towards ageing, a process governed largely by nature. Though we may try, ageing is something over which we ultimately have no control.

Initially, we can recognise some truly have a true fear of growing older. Known as gerascophobia, it can affect people of all ages. As an age-related anxiety order, it may involve changing behaviours to impede growth. It’s a serious condition.

People also develop a fear of ageing for some genuine concerns. Some fear the loss of their cognitive ability while others out and out fear death.

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

As people age, it’s not surprising the fear of death may strengthen. It may be simply because we have loved ones we’ll be leaving. Maybe there’s a loved one for whom the elder is still caring. So, a fear of death is understandable.

But overall, ageing is a component of nature, something many of us seek, with more or less success, to control.

Departure From Youth

All things being equal, as we naturally change with age up to, say, 30, we’re okay. But that’s usually when we begin to show signs of age. We are departing from the world of youth. This also has a significant role to play in our dance with age.

Our difficulty with our increased distance from youth is staunchly connected to our western society. It is a world that worships youth, with many, at all costs, desperate to hold onto the charms of youth.

Fountain of Youth, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) (Source: Wikipedia).

For millennia, we’ve been steadfast in our search for the fountain of youth. In past centuries, the search for youth has had its place in the manifesti of the most stalwart explorers. In modern times, the story is much the same.

Anti-ageing is a billion-dollar industry. We are presented with non-stop images of youth and vivacity as the pinnacle of life. Youth is the eternal goal, with its rich and voluminous brunette, black, red, and blonde hair, not a grey hair in sight. Don’t forget all those lithe and firm figures.

So, once we reach 29, with 30 looming, for many of us, we’re keen to apply the brakes. That’s when things get a little more tricky.

Tightening the Reigns on Age

This cavalcade of beliefs and ideals thrusting towards us with monumental power forces us to unthinkingly accept these truths regarding the virtues of youth. To be young and to remain so, is the fundamental goal. Given the strength of these pursuits, it’d seem we have but a faint hope of accepting the varied intricacies of nature—to just let it be.

So, like many components of nature we organise, arrange, and manage throughout our lives, many seek to do so with ageing. Like clockwork, once we’ve reached adulthood, ageing takes on a new meaning for some.

According to the wider society, every additional wrinkle or grey hair is met with a fount of lament. If at all possible, it’s quickly then extinguished. In North America, the anti-ageing industry was worth USD 17.44 billion dollars in 2022. And researchers pin it to be at USD 60,95 billion by the end of 2027. It’s astonishing, but it tells us just how many may not want to age “naturally” and let it happen.

Thinking back to our relationship with nature, is it possible that our response to ageing, a natural phenomena, is much the same as our approach to other aspects of nature—no worries, we can control it.

Is there a chance that because we won’t accept our place in nature, we’re resistant to growing old naturally. Nature is something we make an attempt to control and it’s done so to a great extent by virtue of the gargantuan anti-ageing industry.

However, though we try to wrest control of nature and bend the rules of age, we’re never able to do so. We continue to age.

Let It Be

Thus, despite our most strenuous efforts to control nature in this regard, we seem to ultimately fall short. Yes, we are constantly thwarted by our search for the fountain of youth and the boons it would achieve.

We spend an immense amount of time contesting with nature. From the dandelions with which we annually do battle, to those rivers incessantly overflowing to countless other situations. Likewise, we undertake personal battles with nature.

If we were able to push past the dense thicket of ideas foisted on us regarding the virtues of youth and accept the word of nature, what would happen? We would be ageing into nature and willingly accepting our role as a part of time.

We would accept the natural changes that accompany the progression of time. If we truly accepted our place in nature, there would be no need for cosmetic surgery to remove the wrinkles. Why? Because as we age, our skin naturally wrinkles. Similarly, there’d be no need to visit the hair salon in order for our grey hairs to be dyed blonde, brunette or red. Why? Again, because it’s the sort of thing that happens naturally.

Accepting Our Place in Nature

Personally, I’ve always found a quiet poetry and a certain kind of magic in the words “when I’m old and grey.” Although, if we continue to fight the marvels of nature, the anti-ageing industry at our lead, fewer and fewer of us will even be able to utter those words.

No question, ageing is accompanied by an increasing number of aches and pains. To be sure, it has its challenges. Yet, it has its benefits and maybe it’s time to place more attention on those rather than on our looks.

Enjoying a lovely walk with the dog. Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay.

What also comes with those complaints against age is a degree of resoluteness and strength. Anyone who has made it to the age of eighty, when those complaints often arise, can safely know their experiences have equipped them with the ability to contend with whatever challenges they may face. Embodied in those words is a degree of time, knowledge and experience.

Fundamentally, these are the genuine gifts of nature.


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Sense of Place — Finding the Home in “Home”lessness

Sense of Place — Finding the Home in “Home”lessness

Eradicating homelessness is in our hands (Image by Mona Tootoonchinia from Pixabay).

Homelessness is a challenge for us regardless of where we live, whether in a bustling city or a peaceful village. Homelessness just looks different. In any case, it’s critical to find long-term shelter for those seized by the merciless grip of homelessness. Although, the idea is not only a lack of housing. In order to achieve a rewarding life, people must somehow develop a sense of place for the locations where they live. This paves the way towards transforming house into home.

But what exactly do we mean when we talk about sense of place. Generally speaking, a sense of place refers to the attitudes and feelings individuals and groups feel towards a place. In its simplest form, sense of place refers to a piece of space that has been made meaningful. That place may be where we work, recreate or indeed live—our home.

Yet, there are challenges. Homelessness is something readily visible in our cities. As soon as we extend our view into the rural areas, homelessness is far more difficult to identify.

Regardless, holding to the importance of sense of place, the idea is to not only re-house, but also re-place people as part housing services.


Homelessness in Canada is not something that’s a “here or there” phenomenon. It’s estimated that every year, more than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), homelessness is defined as “the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.”

A sad reality in our cities (Image by paulaquiyahora from Pixabay).

In cities, it’s easier to identify homelessness. Iconic images of men or women asleep on public benches or over grates are sad reminders of the harsh challenges of the lack of housing people have been forced to face. A form of homelessness often witnessed in rural areas, known as hidden homelessness, is a little easier to overlook.

Taking a Closer Look at Hidden Homelessness

Homelessness in rural parts of the country is readily disguised behind the cherished elements of many small towns. This type of homelessness is often referred to as hidden homelessness. In these circumstances, people may be in interim housing, temporary housing, say in a hostel or rooming house, living with others such as a friend or relative, or in institutional care, for instance in a health institution or group home. All of these qualify as a form of homelessness.

In 2014, around 2.3 million people said, at some point in their lives, they’ve suffered from hidden homelessness. For the majority, it was something they experienced for at least a month to a little less than a year. Just under 20% experienced it for a year or more.

There are some who are more likely to experience hidden homelessness. According to Statistics Canada, this might include those who’ve suffered from childhood maltreatment, if one has a disability, or those who have a poor sense of belonging to their community.

As an example, in places around Placentia Bay, hidden homelessness is the primary form of homelessness encountered. I’m a member of the Community Connections Housing Coalition in Placentia. We focus on challenges to housing experienced by people living in an area encompassing much of the southwest Avalon and Whitbourne. Our Housing Support Worker is always busy with several ongoing cases. As soon as one is completed, there are others waiting. And the situation here is mirrored, I’m sure, in other parts of the world.

The goal is to find houses for people facing housing challenges. We all know the most important stage is ensuring people have some sort of shelter. These are the nuts and bolts of the issue. Still, there’s more.

Equally important is to not only ensure they have a roof over their head, but they’re also on a path where they can develop a sense of place. The key is to not only be re-housed, but re-placed.

Place of My Own

Most of us know a house is not the same as a home. The former is defined by bricks and mortar, flooring, wiring, heating, water and such. But a home is imbued with a sense of place—tried, true and close to the heart. So, the idea is to develop a sense of place tied to our home.

Locations may not always evoke positive feelings. Certainly, a sense of place may work to exclude others. For instance, in a home or place of work, one person may regard some quality as a binding force, an element of their sense of place. Although, for another, they consider that element to be a force of opposition. However, my focus here is more on sentiments an individual or group feels will positively tie them to place.

So, we’re after understanding a home as possessing a sense of place. A sense of place is not something one can order from a store and then simply await its arrival. Fortunately, it would appear that some of the things we need to help create a sense of place are really quite sensible and straightforward.

Creating a Sense of Place

In order to forge a sense of place, one of the first characteristics for which we can search is a feeling of confidence. Many people who rent are always wary of their rental fees rising or in some cases, of eviction. It would be a comfort if individuals could be confident this would not occur. Given that comfort, they would be able to explore the deeper and finer refinements of their homes in order to develop a sense of place.

Another element contributing to our sense of place would be the ready access to nutritious and enjoyable food. Being forced to wonder where one is going to find something to eat is an all consuming concern. Such a challenge will provide an incessant drag on any positive feelings individuals may be developing regarding their homes.

Words of live by (Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash).

Another stepping stone towards a sense of place requires an individual be able to harness and cultivate a positive mental health and well-being. So often, we may be able to obtain shelter, ideal in every way. Yet, again a person can be brought down by a nagging poor sense of self, one ebbing on depression. All of these components work together, a vicious circle of despondency, perhaps driving people further into depression. Again, if we become all consumed by our poor mental health, there is little chance to explore meanings that can invigorate and bring to life to a sense of place.

A social network begins with a friend (Photo by Jay-Pee Peña ?? on Unsplash).

Part of what can provide a lifeline in these situations is a social network. Oftentimes, simply chatting about the challenges we are facing is sufficient to place them at bay. Sometimes, this is long enough for us to devise methods by which we can extricate ourselves from the tricky situation in which we’ve found ourselves. Again this alleviates the challenges we are facing. In so doing, it permits time to delve into the ideas and sentiments tying us to our homes.

Another basic necessity that would be seemingly miles from a sense of place would be making sure something like sanitation is in good order. Sanitation? Well, we all know how we’d feel if our toilet were not working or our shower or bathtub cannot be used. We’d be miserable. It’d be a challenge for anything useful to blossom regarding the values, meanings and beliefs infusing a place. Frankly, you and I both know, we likely wouldn’t care.

Peaceful contentment (Image by Pexels from Pixabay).

Finally, I think nature has a role to play in helping to bring to the fore sentiments that can ripen into a sense of place. And when I use the term nature, it can mean anything from a secluded view of the sea, our only companions the gulls wheeling in the sky to our favourite potted plant on the window ledge in the kitchen.

So, we’re seeking an enriching relationship with the living creatures—plant, animal, or fungus—with whom we share this planet. This can help to forge the favourable bonds we cultivate with our homes or even areas near our homes. In so doing, a sense of place enters its early stages of creation.

Home Matters

When we engender a sense of place tied to our house—the roof over our heads—it has established a meaning for us. We’ve noticed it and thus, we now care and are attentive to how it alters and changes over time. We care what happens to the future well-being of this place, our home. It is now incorporated into how we define ourselves.

A sense of place is not something that is ready made upon entry to a house. It is something that must develop with time. Although, as noted above, there are certain attributes that can aid in the creation of a sense of place.

Thus, working towards finding houses for those who are homeless is only one stage in establishing a home. At heart is the critical need to pave the way towards establishing a sense of place. This will work to permit people to find a degree of comfort and contentment in the places where they live, places that will become, in time, their home.


Ali, Nadia 2018 “Understanding Hidden Homelessness” Homeless Hub

Gaetz, S.; Barr, C.; Friesen, A.; Harris, B.; Hill, C.; Kovacs-Burns, K.; Pauly, B.; Pearce, B.; Turner, A.; Marsolais, A. (2012) Canadian Definition

of Homelessness. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

Habitat for Humanity 2018 “Hidden Homelessness across Canada”

Relph, Ted 2022 “Placeness, Place, Placelessness”

Rodrigue, Samantha 2016 “Hidden Homelessness in Canada” Statistics Canada