Remember the Polaroid instant camera? It was a big novelty when it first came out. You took a picture, pulled out the self-developing film, and in just a few seconds the image started to appear right before your eyes, as if by magic.
That same sense of wonder permeated observers of the survey, led by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, of homeless people in Waterloo Region, which took place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Dozens of trained volunteers went out and interviewed 281 people who were in shelters, on the streets, or “couch-surfing” as they ricocheted between the homes of friends. Within three days — a miraculously short time for such an ambitious endeavour — the picture emerged, clear and sharp, and also deeply human, of the precarious life of our homeless.