Men experiencing homelessness on P.E.I. share their stories through poetry

Matthew Dunn stood in front of a crowded room at The Guild in Charlottetown on Wednesday night and read his poem, How did I get here? 

He said it was his first experience writing poetry — let alone reading it in public to a cluster of strangers.

Dunn's poem is part of an exhibit called, A Concrete Bed and was put together by Bedford MacDonald House, a men's shelter in Charlottetown. 

The exhibit featured poems from men who have lived at the shelter and have experienced homelessness.

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'I was … sleeping in cars, sleeping in banks'

Dunn's poem catalogues his struggles with mental illness and addiction, before transitioning to a place of hope after finding a place to live.  

"The homeless life has definitely harmed me but I have been blessed with a home from the Salvation Army," he recited.

Some of the most genuine, beautiful people I've met are homeless people. — Matthew Dunn

Dunn, 29, has only lived at the shelter for three weeks, but credits the shelter's stable accommodations for changing his circumstances and helping him find work. 

"It's hard to find a job when you don't really have a place where you can really even shower or sleep for the night," he said. 

"Before I went to the Bedford MacDonald House, I was … sleeping in cars, sleeping in banks."

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'People that are homeless, they're not bad people'

Along with poems mounted on the walls of the Guild were accompanying art pieces made by artist Jennifer Coughlin. 

She said it was emotional to hear the men recite their work at the exhibit's opening.

"We don't often really notice the homeless and I think exhibits like this really open up people's eyes."

Dunn said he hopes the exhibit will offer people greater insight into the lives of those experiencing homeless on the Island.

"People that are homeless, they're not bad people," he said, "Some of the most genuine, beautiful people I've met are homeless people."

A Concrete Bed will be held at The Guild until Mar. 1.

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