The Métropolitain


By Bill Economou on February 16, 2011

The newsroom at L’Itineraire, magazine remains one of the most unique in Montreal because it is the only one in the city where you will also find several tables set aside for homeless people to eat. That’s because the publication is published, sold and written by members of Montreal’s homeless population and serves as a vehicle to help restore their pride while articulating their points of view.

The magazine is published by a non-profit organization and about 150 people, including myself, sell L’Itineraire in different locations across the island of Montreal. Each vendor is assigned at least one or two locations to sell. A number of us can also be found in métro stations.    

I will soon be celebrating a small milestone as March 22nd will mark my 5 year anniversary of selling L’Itineraire. I still remember March 22nd 2006, the first day I started working at the Atwater Market selling the magazine. It was a bit of an inauspicious debut.  I bought a few copies and was given a few extra copies for free to get me started. However I did not last long that day. In fact, I was so discouraged I did not return until Easter weekend when the weather turned milder. This time, Mother Nature seemed to be smiling down on me as I was able to sell as many magazines as I had I had brought with me.

I soon also realized that due to the high volume of people who frequent the market it remained a location that was worth frequenting on a regular basis. So much so, that I started working there three days a week. I became a regular fixture and throughout the year I continued uttering my sales pitch, “Journal de la rue pour aidez les sans abris, street paper to help the homeless”. Sometimes my words fell on deaf ears with disinterested people passing me by and seemingly looking straight through me while other times I had the pleasure of meeting many friendly and interesting people who offered me a friendly ear before purchasing a copy. I worked three consecutive winters outside in the cold selling the magazine. December has always been my best month and I try to work as many days aspossible. It was quite a relief when I was eventually given permission to sell the magazine indoors.

I continued working at different sites in and around the market. However my successful experiences selling the magazine soon awakened a new fire inside of me as I sought to expand my horizons by also writing articles for L’Itineraire.

 I am proud to say that five months after I started selling the magazine through rain, sleet and snow I had my first article published. Soon after my articles started appearing every month. It was an extremely valorizing experience to see my name and words in print. Eventually some of the people I met at Atwater Market would stop to tell me that they had enjoyed my articles and encouragedme to pursue my new career path.

I continued writing and working harder, gaining confidence with each tap of the keyboard.  I subsequently also gained more confidence when it came to dealing with the many people I was encountering on a daily basis.

Itineraire_500.jpgEvery month L’Itineraire provides us with subject ideas to write about but I have also been able to generate my own ideas most of the time. And it is these articlesthat I feel particularly attached to as they have generated the most positive feedback.  One entitled “The value of a friend”, as well as another called “Honesty counts” received particularly favourable reviews from my clients. In fact, on one occasion a Montreal-area teacher came over to shake my hand at the market and told me that he had read my article to his students in the classroomand that it received positive feedback.

The next time you visit Atwater Market there is a good chance you will see me asI currently still work there five days a week. I still enjoy chatting with merchants and supplying them with change. Many people are used to me being there and are loyal customers - I know many on a first-name basis.

Some people working at the market buy the magazine regularly and I’m proud to say I remain one of our top sellers.

I have truly enjoyed working in the Atwater Market and I love the atmosphere. It feels great to help the homeless people of Montreal as well as the entire L’Itineraire organization over these past five years.

I want to continue doing my job as working hard and honestly provide great rewards. This has truly been an eye-opening experience that has also allowed me to gain a new understanding and appreciation of the true powers of the printed word.