Homelessness Action Week 2015: October 11 to 17
This year, for our annual Homelessness Action Week story series, we will introduce you to four individuals who have experienced homelessness, or have been at risk for homelessness, and with the support, resources and stability of supportive housing and some wonderful people, found a way to move on with their lives.
Whether they moved into a great new job (Kathy), went through addictions treatment (Shelly), reconciled an abusive past (Gary) or found that perfect living situation (Kris), they all found that with some friendly encouragement they were ready to realize their goals and change their lives.
So, please come back to our site daily to read their amazing and inspirational stories. Today, we present Kris's story.
When he was just 13 years old, Kris went down to the kitchen to find a letter with his father’s name on it. When he opened it, he slowly realized it was in his mother’s handwriting. She was telling her husband that she was leaving him and their three children. One week later, his father died in a car crash. Kris was devastated.
These two major events would be the touchstones of Kris’s life.
When he was just 15 years old, he checked himself into the London Psychiatric Hospital because of depression. After that, he was in and out of prison more than 20 times throughout his adult life. Now, in his 50s, he has faced his demons and he is living in stable housing, working with a jewellery maker, and has become a local success story for turning his life around.
As an artist, Gary was a great candidate for Vancouver Native Housing Society’s Skwachàys Artists’ Lodge where he spent three years until the spring of 2015. As a resident artist, he worked with the lodge’s architect to design one of Vancouver’s most beautiful residences.
Gary’s life is now peaceful, but it wasn’t always the case. Gary’s father, a Métis from Buffalo Narrows (a small village six hours north of Saskatoon), was an angry man who drank and was violent to his wife and five children.
In addition to this violence, as a young boy, Gary endured years of sexual abuse and trauma that led to feelings of neglect and unworthiness that would take years to unravel. When he became an adult, he used alcohol to mask his pain.
When Kathy and her young son with disabilities were at risk of homelessness and needed help, she turned to the YWCA’s Single Mothers’ Support Services and affordable housing program. She eventually returned to school to become a community support worker and now gives back through her work.
It was a long struggle, however. At 21, Kathy left Hungary, which at the time was a communist country with few of the goods and fineries of the West. She and her first husband decided to move to Canada where they might have a better life in 1986.
While she doesn’t consider herself the adventurous type, Kathy realizes that she needed to be strong and resilient after she moved, and that these strengths have led her to where she is now.
As an advocate for women who face issues with addictions, Shelly is an inspiration, because she’s walked the talk. Five years ago, she kicked her addictions with drugs and alcohol to go back to school and rebuild her life.
Having lived in foster care, to dealing with sexual trauma from a young age and addiction issues as a young adult, then becoming homeless and subsequently living in single room occupancy hotels for many years, she has pushed through many struggles to find her place in the world.
By the age of six, Shelly had been placed in 26 different foster homes. She lived in a home for Aboriginal children with 18 other kids for many years, all of whom had experienced their own share of trauma.