Kingston Artist Shares Her Experience with Homelessness

It’s not every day someone gets to write an article about a person they admire so deeply or believe in so much. But Jaida Dubois has been known to have that effect on people.

The 33-year-old artist is modest and calm. But her captivating artwork is both moving and inspiring in louder ways than her voice tends to amplify. The southeastern Ontario native is a storyteller through painted landscapes. A survivor of traumas, an entrepreneur, Jaida is a captivating young woman who is still realising her own potential.

Stricken with a litany of health problems often medicated through coping mechanisms that age her further, Jaida is still finding herself. As she reconciles her youth, puts her tragedies to rest, and prepares to chart a new course of life, love and fulfillment, her artwork keeps her grounded.

Her paintings tell stories of anger, isolation, morbid fascinations, and sometimes defeat. Under the moniker of Delirium Productions, Jaida is still struggling to find her audience. Producing custom art that feels delicate, subversive, and emotive, her business joins a plethora of others suffering in an era dominated by online retailers and social distancing.

Right now, Jaida is in a healthier place than she was not all that long ago. Her mentality is positive. Her physical strength is returning. And her desire for a brighter future, filled with adventurous experiences has risen to the surface. Often occupying the role of quiet wander and reclusive confidante to those that know her best, Jaida has taken a new approach to existing in an era when so many give up.

But to know and appreciate her journey is to realise how far she has come.

Homeless in downtown Kingston, Ontario, Jaida was a troubled youth reliant on a boyfriend to help steer the course to security.

“It was rocky,” she explained. “I spent a lot of time staying with friends. My boyfriend at that time was emotionally dependent on me, and vice versa. Before that, it was a string of romantic failures and significant abuse.”

Jaida admits that what led to her being housing compromised was not merely failings of a system or a loved one, but an unfortunate part of her personal growth.

She said, “I was a jackass of a teenager. I skipped school a lot, and never finished high school. I never dealt well with my parents, and another factor only made things worse.”

Jaida added, “I was also pregnant, and had a miscarriage during that time. I spent a lot of time in restaurant bathrooms, cleaning myself up. I dealt with the physical and emotional pain of that loss in public restrooms, with only a backpack of regrets.”

When asked how her family responded to her absence, and the tragedies of her rebellion, Jaida painted an honest picture upon a humbled canvas.

“No one really knew what was happening at that time. It was mid-summer, so I was out of school. I had no cellphone, and I didn’t have a lot of friends I was close enough with to be vulnerable around,” Jaida said. “All of a sudden, I was sleeping on a rock at Confederation Park, then in hotel stairwells when it rained. During the day I was wandering princess street trying to find bathrooms.”

“Eventually, I caved and called my grandmother to come get me and my boyfriend. I swallowed my pride and my guilt. I hoped that reconnecting with family would encourage me to straighten up. Admittedly, my negative experiences could have been worse,” she said.

“My homelessness was very temporary, even if the scars of that experience are permanent. A shelter is no replacement for a home. A Denny’s bathroom is not where a young woman should experience such a significant loss, all alone. All I can really say is that homelessness was an experience that helped shape me in many small ways.”

As is so often the case when the success stories of youth homelessness are retold, the reconnection with a patient family member is often a primary factor in that recovery. Jaida always had the gifts and talents to be successful. But the guidance offered by a stranger or family that was not her own was not enough to propel her to a future success. Eventually, as rebellion and angst superseded emotional attachment, it took the trials and tribulations of a stay on the streets of Kingston to put life into perspective.

With a caring grandmother ready for the challenge of emotional realignment, Jaida’s life would change for the better. Even in spite of reoccurring pitfalls, she still accredits her grandmother Barbara for so much of her long-term mental and physical sustainability.

With all of that said, Jaida admits that a lot of emotional damage has been caused by some of her choices. And a lot of mental and physical anguish still creeps in to her day-to-day existence.

“Everyday life can be a bit frustrating at times,” she admitted.

“I wouldn’t really say art helps me cope with life. Especially when I get a creative block. Art definitely helps me feel more complete. But nothing can replace an afternoon on my horse. Everything just melts away, none of my issues exist for just a little while,” Jaida said.

An avid animal lover, Jaida can’t help but gush openly about how much her animals have helped decorate her life. Still, even with a space for creativity, the love of animals and friends, and a supportive family who have largely reintegrated into her adulthood, Jaida still doesn’t feel housing secure.

“Kingston is an expensive place to live. Right now, I’m paying my whole monthly income on rent alone,” she said. “This makes everything else so much harder. For the time being, I need to get more creative. When I sell something, it helps. But at this stage, it’s just not enough to pay the bills.”

“I’m so lucky to have a family to help me with some things like groceries. It wasn’t always that way,” she added.

Recapping her recent involvement with the “Streetfriends” outreach initiative in nearby Brockville, Ontario, and her portfolio of pieces curated for album covers and benefit compilations, Jaida wishes to do more than create in order to live. She also wants to make the world better for people like her.

“Putting my talents to work to reach my own potential, my hope is for Delirium Productions to help others, too,” she said. “Thinking back on my experiences, I admit it was Hell given the circumstance. But I think it made me a bit stronger. I will never look down on those in need. And everyone has a story to tell, and a talent hidden beneath the surface.”

Everyone has their own sunset to ride off into, and something that makes life melt away for them. Sometimes, it just takes the love of a friend, a grandmother, an animal, or an author to help to guide the way.

Author’s Note: For me, Jaida was that girl in the back of my class that I used to write poetry for. All I wanted was to impress her, and make her feel beautiful. Looking at her today, she has never been more captivating. All of her scars tell a story. And all of her stories paint a picture. I’ve waited a long time to write about her, and I could not be more proud of the person she has become.

I never doubted she could be anything, because to me she was already everything. Unfortunately for some, it just takes a while longer to realise our own potential. And I am so thankful that she goes to sleep each night never feeling alone like she did in the stairwells and the restrooms, as she thought her world was falling apart.

Follow Delirium Productions on Facebook.

Leigh Zachary Bursey

Leigh Bursey


Leigh Bursey is a 33-year-old three-term City Councillor in Brockville, Ontario. Leigh is a director for Brockville Pride, and a member of the Canadian National Alliance to End Rural and Remote Homelessness lived experience working group. He is also Executive Director of Tiny Home Alliance Canada. Leigh is an author, musician (with his group Project Mantra), talk show host, activist, and a pro wrestler. Leigh is a former homeless youth, a punk rocker and a public speaker.

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