The buses are full as they heave and sigh down Jasper Avenue. The people getting on seem to shrink by pulling their bags in to their bodies as they pile on. Each transit elephants lets out a deep sigh as it heaves into the rush-hour traffic.
It is a particularly busy day on Jasper Avenue because of the unseasonably warmth. The sun is illuminating every surface of the avenue and drawing people out to enjoy the warm air. As the buses travel west down the street, the sun reflects off the crown jewels of the north side. A new Cactus Club Café with a glass exterior bounces the sunlight back into the street, welcoming the business core in for dinner. Further down, the new wooden walkway leading into a refurbished Earl’s competes for attention from the busy population. Dinner has already begun and the aroma of steak and garlic wafts outside, tempting passers-by.
Farther west, the unusual sunlight reveals behind the jewels of Jasper. The melting snow becomes dark; muddy puddles expose the dirty and difficult winter in Edmonton. Winter has cracked and fractured the pavement and the melting snow is finding its way into the crevasses and creating small streams cutting through the ice.
The sunlight reveals more than just damaged infrastructure. Part of the large crowd on this warm day is consists of Edmonton’s homeless population. Roughly 2,000 people are homeless in Edmonton, and half of those people go unsheltered. During the cold Edmonton winter, they are hidden from the icy wind and deep snow, and vanish from our sight. When the sun shines and melts the snow, the homeless re-emerges and integrates back into the busy crowd travelling downtown.
Standing in a rare vacant lot are two men with their faces turned to the sunlight. Their jackets are open and they are enjoying the rare warm breeze. They slowly leave the lot, and rejoin the eclectic downtown population, all the while pushing their shopping cart. Both begin scavenging through the garbage bins for cans and bottles to add the overflowing collection of items in their traveling storage unit. They follow the path of the westward buses, stopping at every garbage can to find more bottles to increase their income for the day.
The rare sunshine in mid-January provides the perfect catalyst to draw out the eclectic population that inhabits downtown.