But then, in the summer of 2018—much to our relief—my dad and I came across Lucy and Rhylie squeegeeing car windows at the corner of Yonge and Dundas streets. When I gave her a copy of my book she was jubilant. She jumped up and down yelling, “Woohoo.” It was very rewarding to me to be able to bring a little bit of happiness into the life of this woman who, though still young, had known so much misery.
Several months later, as the season began to change from summer to fall, we, again, encountered Lucy beside the Eaton Centre. We were pleasantly surprised to see how nicely she was dressed. Smiling, she told us that she was finally off the street. “I’m living at a women’s shelter,” she told us. She said that Rhylie, too, had a place to stay. After we had said goodbye to Lucy and were beginning to walk away, she said, “This is a good thing that you two are doing!
In the winter of 2018 my dad and I came across Rhylie once again outside of the Eaton Centre. Only this time he was alone. From the expression on Rhylie’s face we knew immediately that something was wrong. “Lucy’s in the hospital,” he told us. As tears began to well up in his eyes, he said, “She’s not doing very well.” Before we said goodbye to Rhylie, he said something that I will never forget: “Thank you so much for putting Lucy on the cover of your book. It made her feel human.” (Unfortunately, we didn’t think, at the time, to ask Rhylie for the name of the hospital where Lucy was a patient, and so was unable to visit her before heading back to our home in Collingwood.)
In April of 2019 a producer with a major media outlet expressed interest in doing a story about the positive influence that my cover photo of Lucy has had upon her. But first we needed her permission. We spent about a month looking for Lucy, but without success. A disturbing question kept forcing itself into our minds: “Was Lucy still alive?” But then, in May, we got a lucky break. While doing a photo shoot of a young woman, named Diamond at a safe injection site in Toronto, we discovered that she is a friend of Lucy’s. Diamond promised us that she would pass our contact information on to Lucy.
The very next day, when my dad returned home from work, there was a voice mail on our answering machine from Lucy. When he called her back she told us that she was doing well and that Rhylie and her were sharing an apartment together. She also told us that she had managed, with help, to get her drug problem under control. She had even begun writing again. When my dad told Lucy about the possible CBC story, she was positively ecstatic.
Later that day my dad received an email from Rhylie saying:
“I can’t begin to thank you enough! Partly because your book exists and the fact that you chose Lucy to be on the cover are the reason that we are both alive today! At the time of your photographs I think that the both of us had given up on life! Now we have both chosen to live! We no longer smoke crack cocaine which was difficult to say the least! Lucy is now at a healthy weight and I think that she’s happier than she’s been in a very long time. I know that I am! We are both currently housed and we are both on our way to being healthy again in mind, body and health!”
Since the age of 14, I have taken portraits of people experiencing homelessness.