Steve Clarke or “Little Stevie” as he was known to many, was my friend. Stevie died in the early hours of December 3rd, 2011 at the age of 47.

I first met Stevie in the drop-in at PNC. Not too tall, he had a slender build, reddish-brown hair, a ruddy complexion and piercing eyes. He liked to tease [a lot!], though he was able to hear when things went too far and always quick to apologize. He liked to make people smile and hoped that his humour helped people have a better day.

Stevie lived life hard. Years of substance abuse took a great toll on his body. As we got to spend more and more time together I was entrusted with stories of his past and how they impacted his present. Stevie longed for community and bravely pursued it at PNC. Sometimes it meant plunking himself down in a chair in the little office and pouring out the pain. Other-times it meant staggering in and falling asleep on the couch in the corner. Stevie discovered that PNC was a safe place to be.

Over time I came to be known as “Stevie’s Erinn”. He would walk into PNC and yell, “where’s my Erinn?”- I can still hear his voice. Often-times he would find me, ask for a token and what’s for lunch. Most times though he would check in and ask how I was, always determined to make me smile. Stevie became fiercely protective of me. And I in turn, of him. Our relationship wasn’t easy and on occasion admittedly, infuriating. Most of all though it was marked by love and respect.

Today was my first day back in the PNC drop-in after a time of sabbatical. One of our interim staff handed me a black coat while we stood in the office. It was Stevie’s, given to PNC in order to remember. I held it in my hands, smelled it and cried. What a gift.

I was so pleased to be welcomed home today by my many friends in Parkdale. And in a way I felt welcomed by Stevie.

It’s good to be back.