Part two of a series of stories submitted by members of the Slave Lake Homeless Coalition.

Bruce McDonald
For the Lakeside Leader

Leon Brule is 51 years old. He first experienced living outdoors in a tent city in Edmonton at about 19 years old.
Leon says he is from Wabasca but was born and raised in Slave Lake.

Leon has some recollections of residential school in relation to his personal and family life but reflects most strongly on he and his siblings being taken away from their parents at about the age of five to live in foster homes. He remembers hearing from his sister, who had attended their mother’s funeral, that their mother had passed away. He says he had not been allowed to attend the funeral.

Leon describes himself as being a lost little boy who didn’t learn to speak Cree.

Some of his twelve foster homes were on farms. He liked the work on farms, some located near Manning, Hotchkiss, Nampa, Carbon Valley, but he often ran away. He just wanted to be with his mother.

Leon says he goes back and forth between staying at his friend’s place and coming here to the bush camp to “see how everyone’s doing.” He described the people who stay here as his “street family.”

He said, “It’s about respect.”

Leon remembered someone named “Elmer” living there formerly who would say “Go to sleep, my son.”

Leon says he and others often clean up their bush area, and his cousins come to ask if he is okay. He says when people pass out he watches over them out of concern for their vulnerability to bears.

Leon said he went to the ‘soup kitchen’ (at the Community Christian Church) and said a prayer for “Juliana.” He says she has been missing for three weeks, and he has looked all over the bush for her.

Asked what Leon would like the people of Slave Lake to know, he said, “homeless people try to help each other out.”

In reference to the overall problem Leon said, “Everybody has to work together to get this right.”

Regarding community resources accessed, Leon says he used the Mat Program “almost every day” and expressed hope for “a place for the ‘homeless.” He said “I get my clothing from the Friendship Centre and my socks from the ‘soup kitchen’.”

Leon says he could see himself working for the Mat Program. Leon said, “I know the life and could really help people … they ask my help sometimes.”

Leon Brule, one of the people sleeping rough in Slave Lake.
Leon Brule’s tent in a ‘bush camp’ in Slave Lake.