“The Homelessness Project,” a book which chronicles life on the streets in Northwestern Ontario, will be launched locally this Sunday (Nov. 23) starting at 1 p.m. at Northwoods Gallery & Gift.
Author Jon Thompson, who currently works as a reporter for the Kenora Daily Miner and News, will be on hand to sign copies of the book, which will be available for a suggested donation of $20 or more.
The 110-page book, complete with photographs, was created as a fundraiser to help contribute to the rebuilding of the Shelter House in Thunder Bay after government funds were unable to be procured for the project.
In a desperate attempt to raise funds for the condemned building, Thompson and photographer Jamie Star were commissioned to work together to create this book of observations on life for the homeless.
Thompson said the finished product deviated from its ill-conceived original plan.
“Why would you tell a stranger your whole story, ending at the point where you have nothing, and then be photographed and put in some weird street yearbook?” he asked.
“And never mind the fact that being homeless in Ontario is practically illegal,” he added. “So it would be like putting together a confession document for the police.”
Instead, what came out of it was Thompson hitting the road and living with those on the streets—essentially writing why the original idea would be impossible given the laws, social issues, and stigmas that surround being homeless.
Thompson, 30, said the book was written for a middle-class readership, “bridging an understanding between mainstream society and the people who live in the streets of Northern Ontario.”
So far, the book—the first he’s written—has been launched in Kenora, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout. The tour will wrap up next Saturday (Nov. 29) in Thunder Bay, where Thompson will present a $5,000 donation that represents the profit it’s made.
Alongside the book tour, Thompson also is meeting with social workers who deal with people who live in extreme poverty.
He hopes to find a conclusion that outlines the unique challenges Northwestern Ontario faces when it comes to poverty—and perhaps find valid suggestions to help those who need it.
Thompson confessed that writing a book is something he’s always wanted to do—and using his skills in order to help is something he feels good about.
A journalist who has built a trusted franchise out of his name by finding the story and telling the truth, Thompson opted to adopt a pseudonym, Tommy Jonsson, for this project.
“I don’t want people to confuse my name and the research that I do, and the serious work that I do as a journalist, with this other piece that is really more of a creative piece of work,” he explained.
This book, he stressed, is not a written testimony where he speaks out on behalf of the homeless. Rather, he intends it to be an assembly of the stories and observations made by those who live “at the front lines” of poverty and homelessness every day.
In essence, Thompson feels this is contribution as an activist in helping the cause of homelessness.
He believes activism shouldn’t be about throwing money around, or about participating in small fundraisers, if you are capable of something else altogether.
“You have people working Bingos and selling chocolate who are lawyers,” he remarked. “There are real issues that we can address with our skill sets, and sharing our skill sets between us is going to make our civil society stronger and our democracy healthier.”