Whatever gets you through the night: tough choices for a homeless man

Kicked out of the shelter and looking for other places to stay warm

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Dolphus Noskiye takes partial credit for the existence in Slave Lake of an overnight homeless shelter in the winter months. But now he’s not welcome there.

“They don’t like me over there,” he told The Leader on a cold, snowy morning last week. “They kicked me out last night.”

It probably wouldn’t serve any good purpose to get into the details. Noskiye has one version, in which he didn’t do anything wrong, and the operators of the Mat Program will have another.

The bottom line is no shelter is going to accommodate everybody. Rules are rules, and not everybody will fit into them.

“I’m not going back there,” Noskiye said.

We asked what he will do.

“I might go to High Prairie,” he said. “They have a detox over there.”

He’s been through detox programs before; it didn’t stick. He tends to fall back under the influence, and end up where he has spent a good portion of his adult life.

Noskiye isn’t too forthcoming about whatever the factors are that led to the lifestyle he’s known for. There are probably things in his past that are difficult to talk about, or even think about. He’s one of 10 children, born and raised in Desmarais. He has lots of relatives there still, and spends some time in his home community, but never stays. Last time he was there, he got hit by a car, which has him using crutches thanks to a damaged knee.

Noskiye doesn’t seem to like Slave Lake very much, but keeps returning.

Life on the straight and narrow apparently isn’t very attractive either. A year or so ago, Noskiye appeared in a Lakeside Leader article as a ‘success story’ in beating alcohol addiction, with the help of traditional healing methods. But what appeared to be a good news item turned out to be just another brief detour on a road that led back to the mean streets of Slave Lake.

Asked about it, Noskiye said he got tired of living in Canyon Creek.
“It went okay,” he said. “But I screwed up a little bit.”

How so?

“It’s like being in jail out there,” he said. “I couldn’t see anybody. Can’t go anywhere. I just took off and came down here.”

And here he is.

Asked where he spent the previous night, Noskiye gestures towards the building across the street.

“Over there,” he says.

But isn’t it locked? Yes it is, he said, but he knows how to get in there.

“I use my McDonald’s card.”

Such tactics are good for as long as you can get away with them, but being persona non grata at the Friendship Centre, Noskiye knows he has to come up with some other plan for surviving another winter. Hence the idea of trying High Prairie. The day before, he said, he’d spent hours at the truckstop, trying to wrangle a ride to Wabasca. He came close, he said, but wasn’t quite able to talk anybody into it.

“I’ve gotta do something,” he said.

Getting back to the idea expressed at the start of this article, Noskiye said he and the late Elmer Bellam had something to do with getting a shelter set up in Slave Lake in the first place.

“I started that idea,” he said.

He remembers the morning he came up with it.

“Me and Elmer just got out of the drunk tank. We were walking down here to the liquor store and I said, “something’s gotta happen here in town. Me and Elmer went to town council.”

What influence that presentation had on the establishment of the Mat Program is hard to say. Whatever it was, at the moment, Noskiye is not welcome there.

Dolphus Noskiye

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