Douglas’ Homeless Story for Homelessness Action Week 2018

October 7, 2018

Douglas, a member of Diverse Organization Providing Education and Regional Services (DOPERS) in Langley shares his homeless experiences during an interview for Homelessness Action Week

Oct. 7-13 is Homelessness Action Week in British Columbia

Please scroll down to read full transcript of the video!


Nancy – Hi! I’m Nancy. I’m with Diverse Organization Providing Education + Regional Services. We’re here interviewing people regarding the homelessness action week. We’re getting their stories.

Nancy – So we are here with this fine young man today. What is your name sir?

Douglas – My name is Douglas.

Nancy – Do you have a nickname?

Douglas – Everybody calls me Dutch

Nancy – How old are you?

Douglas – 43

Nancy – Where is your hometown?

Douglas – Windsor, Ontario originally

Nancy – Where do you stay the most?

Douglas – Aldergrove now, although I’ve stayed in Surrey and Langley

Nancy – Are you homeless?

Douglas – Not at this time being but I have been for about 15-20 years off and on, in and out of jails….and homeless a lot…couch surfing more but done the tenting and all that.

Nancy – How did you become homeless?

Douglas – For many years it was addiction really…back then there wasn’t so much people touching base…with stuff that you needed…root problems…and I was doing dope all the time…so I was in and out of jail…living on the street…lot of years…

Nancy – How Long?

Douglas – I’m 43 now …a good 15 -20 years…that I was either incarcerated or bouncing around cities…couches…even one time I ran a recovery house for a little bit…stayed clean but there were…but it fell through…I had to do it on my own…

Nancy – Can you tell us about your journey?  What did you do before you got to this point?

Douglas – Everything off the books, everything I could think of..from stealing cars…I was a prolific car thief..the was the majority of my charges…but nothing major or violent…any thing I could do…work under the table…work for these temporary agencies…make what money you can…paid by day. Yeah, people do what they got to do to survive.

Nancy – What do you notice about this city?

Douglas – Langley? It’s got its fair share of problems just like every other city Vancouver …a quote unquote East End of every town and city I’ve lived in. Right? There’s always a pocket of people that are in the same position.

Nancy – How did you end up living on the streets?

Douglas – Being young and dumb…too confident from 19 to 35ish…started figuring things out for myself…but it was mostly addiction…throwing people in jail who steal chocolate bars…you go in and you are doing time with long time offenders .. you’re learning nothing but doing more crime when you are getting out…so basically jail is an institution..and it would continue from then on..

Nancy – How hard is it to be homeless?

Douglas – You go without running water, without sewage, without showers, without electricity, without a safety net…you know like is tough…it is really tough…but you get one sense of individual being, not being taxed to death or being controlled…it’s a hit and miss…people like to feel independent and do their own thing and being able to do their own thing but nowadays it’s illegal, can’t camp anywhere without being moved on for a week or so..

Nancy – Where do you live right now?

Douglas – Aldergrove

Nancy – Do you feel safe while living on the streets?

Douglas – Myself, yeah for myself but I had a pretty low disregard if things hit the fan… but no I wasn’t afraid of anything throughout that time. After a few high speed chases and collisions…you just sort of get numb to all of that.

Nancy – Do you have any family?

Douglas – Yep, yep…for a long time we didn’t speak…but that was part of the way I went the way that I went at a young age. I realized that…I learned a few things in past few years

Nancy – How would you describe your feelings about being homeless?

Douglas – You got to do what you got to do to survive and live. I had a tent with a little pathway with flowers growing on each side on it…I had an inverter, tractor battery…I played video games in my tent…really can be not that big of a deal long as you are not leaving garbage and all that…The owner let me stay there for about 4 months after he found me. Independence is nice ..not having to pay bills, not having taxes, not having ….there’s a lot to be said for living off the grid.

Nancy – How did you do you make money?

Douglas – I was into the harder drugs… cars, fraud…any which way….you’re being asked to survive, to eat, to drink, to have to use to pay something at a store, restaurant…it’s costing money to do anything normal nowadays…being off the grid, being around people who are there to live and enjoy life…it’s kind of hard to explain’s a different world…there is a lot of suffering…but in that suffering…a lot of people find unity.

Nancy – How did you feed yourself?

Douglas – There’s always churches and free food…if you were really starving enough you go into Vancouver…you’d have 8 or 9 soup kitchens running at any given time….you could stuff yourself full and then come out back to Surrey and last another 3-4 days doing  whatever it is you do…always food available.

Nancy – What do you do every day to get by?

Douglas – Right now with the health conditions I have…not very much.  Basically wait til I have time with my daughter or my family on weekends. I work at a couple people places doing backyard landscaping…working on a shed …for under the table work.

Nancy – Are you on welfare?

Douglas – Yep Disability

Nancy – Did they help you find a place to live?

Douglas – Not really, no…they don’t find…they will give you a piece of paper…Here’s where to look on the Internet.. .Look here, Look there…and that’s about it…but they’re not really …there’s no branch that helps people find a place to live.

Nancy – What do you look forward to each day? What keeps you going?

Douglas – Watching my kids grow up…family…trying to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes I did. Mostly my kids, my daughter.

Nancy – What is the hardest part of living in an tent?

Douglas – I made it really convenient and easy …I had video games and everything in it. The hardest part is being uprooted and moved…right? You get a little pad going, you’re not causing any other problems, living garbage behind which a lot of camps do… I get it. Hardest part of being homeless is mostly people not understanding why people are homeless.

Nancy – What is the biggest roadblock to finding shelter,  to finding housing?

Douglas – Transportation is a big one…also there’s not very many people helping people look for places except pointing in the direction of where the cheap income level housing is…usually they are all full up..and there’s lists waiting….people just get tired of waiting…just end up getting a tent, finding a quiet spot and like, camping…away from all the noise.

Nancy – What is the most challenging part of the day?

Douglas – Just getting by, making money. Challenging part of the day is not feeling accepted….it was just walking around, living life..and not being one of…being looked as…you know because of my history, my record. Nobody really wanted to give me a hand.

Nancy – Did you stay in a homeless camp?

Douglas – Oh yeah…few times

Nancy – Was it safer?

Douglas – In a homeless camp, unless you were suicidal and went after somebody who had friends there or whatever…they’d turn on you but the camaraderie is so thick…that you wouldn’t go to one of those camps if you weren’t liked by even not one of them…you just wouldn’t go there. Not a safe place if you are not liked.

Nancy – Are you connected with other homeless in this area?

Douglas – Aldergrove, Langley, Surrey…yeah..I’ve known homeless people for many many years…and still do.

Nancy – Do you feel there is a sense of community within the homeless population? Do you help each other out with tips, ideas?

Douglas – Loyalty…we stick together as far as people who do.

Nancy – Tell us something no one knows about you…something people wouldn’t know?

Douglas – When I was a young teenager, was sent to a home up in Lumby and preaching at a pulpit…for about a year and a half…so I could almost recite the Bible except for some of the psalms but I know my religion but most people would never believe that I’m religious…not many people know.

Nancy – What’s the worst perception people have of the homeless?

Douglas – Everybody’s the same…that’s the biggest problem…Everybody has a story…everybody coming from a different angle…people coming into jail with mental problems when they shut down Riverview…a lot of these mental places that are designed for them.. A lot of them were coming into jail…you know I felt bad…these are people who are getting picked on by the unit. Guys that shouldn’t be in there…should be getting mental help…I get why they go to the streets…if there is no mental help, addictions awareness or help for them….where they are reaching out and getting these people…it just interblends with people who have depression…it’s a bad mix.

Nancy – What do you miss most?

Douglas – Being a kid…not having to worry about these adult things…problems…just being carefree

Nancy – What needs to be done for the homeless? What do the homeless need?

Douglas – People need to be empathetic for where they come from…their backgrounds and identity where they are coming from…if they are depressed, if they have mental problems and give people help

Nancy – What about programs for Homeless?  Places for them to go during the day…for homeless people?

Douglas – Where could come and talk.. People on call if you wanted to look for work, employment, do your resume ..kind of intermixing with just a calmer atmosphere…come chill with they wanted…without having to be moved along or shoved along or shuffled along or told they were loitering…can’t really congregate…so I mean…it’s kind of a Catch 22…you want in the middle of town but people don’t want that.

Nancy – What would have changed your life?

Douglass – What would have changed my life is knowing earlier why I was going on to the path I was going to…lot of it stems from my was my ego.

Nancy – What would help you overcome your challenges?

Douglas – Right now I am getting as much help as I can..right now I am dealing with health issues…with hypertension….I was pretty well dying last year…and this year is all about recovery…I’m breathing well now so now my biggest thing is staying alive…I want to watch my daughter grow up a little longer…I never really realized life could be better and has been.

Nancy – What is your drug of choice?

Douglas – Back then, it was everything. I’ve done everything from Up – there’s speed, cocaine, heroin and injecting, to snorting it to smoking…now I just smoke pot. You get 25 years of scars from all that…you learn…you tend to be once bitten, twice shy….I’ve been chewed on for 25 years…I think I’ve had enough but I do smoke my weed

Nancy – What did they do for you?

Douglas – Depends on what drug…heroin is a depressant, mellows you out…helps you forget…people have some painful history. Cocaine is an upper…it just speeds you up…depending how you did it…smoking it, snorting it…do different things…it depends…one’s an upper…one’s a downer…Speed is just energy…people tend to stay up for 7 days straight on it…start going squirrelly

Nancy – What is the highlight of the day for you?

Douglas – Now? Seeing my daughter.

Nancy- What are some stressful situations that you encounter on a daily basis?

Douglas – Other people…opinions that are so far off…you don’t want to be rude but you’re stuck listening to it but it’s just verbal diarrhea…aside from that I don’t let things stress me out anymore.

Nancy – Thinking back to when you were staying in a tent or even couch surfing, how did you get food, water, shower, do your laundry?

Douglas – People get to their bottom…you get hungry, that’s a pain … really really feel…everything is so yeah…they steal…they busk…they ask people for change at the bus…

Nancy – How did you keep safe?

Douglas -Don’t be in areas that are dangerous

Nancy – Do you have any beliefs you live by?

Douglas – Yes I do…quite a few…couldn’t even touch base on that.

Nancy – Do you think people really want to solve the homelessness ?

Douglas – Of course, everybody… they want to end suffering.

Nancy – What does the future look like?

Douglas – For the amount of time, I have left with my’s better than all those years going through all that…25 years of jail time…being homeless…all of that

Nancy – What are your hopes and wishes for yourself?

Douglas – I want to leave this life without any debts to my kids…just for my children and family to be happy

Nancy – Where do you keep your stuff, your belongings?

Douglas – Right now I have my stuff…but back then…13 different places…some people do circuits…I’d stop at 4 or 5 different places…all over the place…have stuff everywhere…with people you trust…you’re sort of spread out.

Nancy – Whats was your last steady job?

Douglas – Over at the temporary agency…Labor Unlimited…pay by day

Nancy – How long ago was it?

Douglas – I got really sick last year, so probably a year before that. 2 years ago, 2.5 years ago.

Nancy – In conclusion,  One sentence to sum up your current situation?

Douglas – A work in progress

Nancy – If you could tell your story to Premier Horgan or Prime Minister Trudeau, what would you say?

Douglas – It’s been a hell of a long mile, long run….there should be a little bit more empathy and a little bit more touching base with people in programs about recovery and that…homelessness issue..they are going to have to address the addiction issue and separate people who are depressed from people who have mental instabilities..issues that need to be addressed and packing everybody into one side of town is not the greatest idea…would be better to have few people that are in low rent housing in different communities…lot of work to do

Nancy – Any final thoughts?

Doug – Don’t judge everybody by the cover…a lot of people have gone through a lot…and people don’t see that…it’s easy to judge a guy sitting in a ditch and think he couldn’t make it…there are a lot of free thinkers out there who want to do their own thing.

Nancy – Thank you so much for telling your story

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