Tom's Story : My 16 Year Friendship with a Homeless Man

SKU: 9781990770142

Jo-Ann Oosterman
Book Type:
Pottersfield Press
Copyright Data:

Sale price$22.95


Tom's Story is about the author's friendship with Tom Hogan, a First Nations man who was perpetually homeless, a self-described chronic alcoholic, and a person who had episodes of psychosis. He was also a great storyteller and a gifted Woodland style artist.

Jo-Ann first met Tom in 1998 when she volunteered to co-ordinate an art group for people who were homeless. She was an outreach worker and an HIV counsellor at the time. During the sixteen years of their friendship, she spent countless weekend and evening hours sitting on sidewalks beside Tom, listening and observing, then heading home to write it all down.

With Tom's permission, she wrote about the hard realities of his life – a traumatic childhood, sleeping in bug-infested shelters, or panhandling in the sub-zero weather for just one more bottle. She became Tom's ally when he entered and left recovery programs, or simply searched for a safe place to live. Sometimes she helped; sometimes she got in the way. Other times, she tried to walk away, but she was always compelled to seek him out again to follow his story.

Tom's Story is a unique and raw window into the lives of people who are homeless and marginalized because of addictions, mental illness, and generational trauma. This book is a testament to the power of hope, friendship, the generosity of people who own nothing, and using art to promote healing. It is also a strong argument for the harm-reduction model of managed-alcohol programs.

Jo-Ann Oosterman is a graduate of The Humber School for Writers where she studied under the mentorship of David Adams Richards and received a Letter of Distinction for "superior writing merit" after completing the first draft of Tom's Story. She wrote Tom's Story over a sixteen-year period from 1998 to 2014 when she had a close and often complicated friendship with Tom Hogan. Tom was an Ojibwa man who was a self-described chronic alcoholic. He was perpetually homeless, could tell a story like nobody's business, and he could paint as well as Norval Morrisseau. Sitting on street corners bearing witness to Tom's life and stories helped Oosterman find meaning in her own life.

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