Gary’s Homeless Story for Homelessness Action Week 2018

October 7, 2018

Gary, a member of Diverse Organization Providing Education and Regional Services (DOPERS) in Surrey  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 – I’m Nancy. I’m with Diverse Organization Providing Education + Regional Services. We are here to do interviews for the Homelessness Awareness Week. I’m here to interview this gentleman.

Nancy – What’s your name?

Gary – Gary

Nancy – Hi Gary, Do you have a Nickname?

Gary – No, I just go by my real name.

Nancy – How old are you?

Gary – 45

Nancy – Where did you come from? Where’s your Hometown?

Gary – I was born in Calgary. Spent most of my youth in Calgary…then I moved out to BC late 20s, early 30s.

Nancy – What city do you mostly stay in?

Gary – Here in Surrey mostly.

Nancy – Are you homeless?

Gary – Yes, unfortunately.

Nancy – How did that happen?

Gary – Well it was rather bizarre circumstances which I thought was very unfair. I was living at Towers…I was there for almost 5 years and because owing $45 and I had taken in another homeless man I knew from here in Surrey  but I guess the type of people he hung around with..more of a stereotypical thing…they didn’t like the girls the guy was hanging out with…because of the way they chose to live their kind of affected me staying at…so I ended going…they took me to a meditation which they didn’t tell me…how to fight or give me any ideas how to fight this order for them to go and…they applied for an order for a sheriff to remove me from the building…eventually one day…just after we got the disability payment…the sheriff came knocking on the door..they took everything I owned from the apartment and put it out in the parking lot of the building I lived in…told me that I couldn’t no longer go to that building for owing $45 and taking in a homeless guy that I knew here from Surrey. So that’s pretty much how I ended up getting kicked out.

Nancy – How Long Have You been Homeless?

Gary – Going on 5 months now.

Nancy – What did you do before you came here?

Gary – I worked through quite a few of the temp agencies…I worked jobs from Walmart…I started there as a truck unloader…unloading the big semi trucks that come into Walmart…then I got moved to ICS which is Inventory Control…and I learned how to count inventory at to use a telxon gun…one of those walkie stackers…had odd jobs working at Walmart..I worked at the bottle depot for a while…mostly I worked a year or so Security…and just a lot of odd jobs..

Nancy – How hard is it to be homeless?

Gary – It really sucks…It gets hard…it plays on your self plays on your…it doesn’t help…sometimes I get the feeling…that there is a lot of what I perceive to be a lot of cold hearted people when it comes to people being homeless… and having to be in a real difficult know I was taken advantage of …I’m going through this big law suit issue because of injuries that were deliberately caused but it’s been my fifth year now fighting these guys to get the settlement money that they agreed to pay for damages but it’s been one excuse after another…and then with the..I find it to be a lot of heartlessness when it comes to people understanding or caring about people that are in a homeless situation…lot less willing to  .you know lend a hand or tried to help somebody.

Nancy – Where do you live right now?

Gary – I’m staying at one of the homeless shelters…it’s not bad but I’m starting to not like it there because…there is a lot of power tripping between guys over…it just makes it really uncomfortable to … Should be able to feel like it is somewhat at home…even though it is a homeless shelter…you should be able to feel comfortable going and where you sleep at least feel comfortable about the environment…Nothing wrong with the staff…the staff aren’t the problem..they’re very good…they’re very kind…they do what they can to help…I guess it’s some people…spent a lot of years being homeless and have attitude because of whatever reason but…it’s just difficult for a guy like me to…haven’t been homeless all that long…not used to this kind of life.. This kind of crash course in really looking at things that you do I guess.

Nancy – Do you feel safe on the streets?

Gary –  I do in the sense that…I get along with pretty much anybody.  I have an attitude of I try to see the good in everybody so I don’t feel uncomfortable being on the street because I can get along with just about anybody…it’s still an environment which can be scary ..sometimes you just don’t know what is going to happen.

Nancy – Do you have any family?

Gary – Not here in Vancouver. I have family in Sparwood and some family in Blairmore…not really keeping on touch with them as much as I should be ..because my cell phone that I had bought got stolen…so kind of stuck

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

Gary – Well it hurts you know, it’s kind of a hard..hard on the self esteem….you don’t really realize…it makes it even harder when you know that you think you can reach out to  people on the street and stuff like that…there’s organizations that care about homelessness…about the people that are homeless but as for the average person that’s just walking the street or walking down the street …they wouldn’t give you the time of day… It’s hard to realize how cold some people really are when it comes to homelessness…people who are having a hard time in life…

Nancy – How do you do you make money?

Gary – If I can do the odd job and stuff like that…I look around…sometimes I go right to…like the stores and restaurants, ask them if I could wash their windows, do something to earn some extra money but I have to do what I have to do…sometimes….I go around to cut lawns or do odd jobs…some days it’s just…I don’t have any luck with that…so I have to resort to….

Nancy –  Is that how you get money to feed yourself?

Gary – Yep

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

Gary – Well because of the emotional pain and stuff that I have be involved in…I’ve been resorting to using heroin quite a bit to numb the pain to mask the amount of hurt that I have to go through every day.

Nancy – Does sleeping where you are and the way you do make it hard for you to get a job?

Gary – Yeah…a lot of people, if you don’t have..just a few months ago, I had my wallet stolen out of the kitchen I was living in…a guy who I thought was my friend took my wallet and all my ID,  my BCID, my Care Card with my picture and stuff and it makes it even hard to go to the employment agency….the temporary employment agency because they won’t employ you unless you have some form of picture ID so now with my wallet getting stolen…it’s made it even harder for me to go to the temp agency to work because it’s not that I am lazy or too fat to want to work…it’s just the way it is… Temp Agencies have to have some way of recognizing, writing you the cheque…there should be some ways to get past that ….when it comes to people in homeless situations and stuff like that ..they want to work but they are verifying who you are from the shelter that you are in or whatever to be able to still be able to get some kind of employment so you can …so you don’t have to resort to crime to support your drug habits or whatever.

Nancy – Are you on welfare?

Gary – I’m on PWD..yeah

Nancy – Did Social Services help you find a place to live?

Gary – There’s not as much effort put into finding housing as some of these others…the shelter that I have been staying at.. They put more of an effort to helping me finding housing and filling out applications for that new modular housing that just opened up this year…the shelters put more efforts into helping you find housing than social services does.

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

Gary – Well lately the only thing that has been keeping me going is using the heroin…. I basically started having problems with my girl and started a spiral effect for me…I’ve been feeling pretty depressed and down to a point where I even thought about taking my life because of the fact that sometimes I feel I got nowhere to turn…you know …you can only express so much before it starts to turn internally…it’s pretty hard sometimes.

Nancy – Have you spent any time living in an tent?

Gary – Well that was the next choice before…there used to be the tent city right on this main street here …out here…but that would have been my next choice…when I just so happen when I got kicked out of the apartment I was living in…and a lot of it was by…I honestly know it was by force…that it just made it..that would have been my next choice… And they went and took the tent ciry away and put they put people in the new modular housing…which was a good thing because it was getting pretty chaotic on the main street….and they did do a good thing putting all those people who were in those tents in housing…more suitable places for them to live…rather than living out of a tent.

Nancy – What is the biggest roadblock to finding shelter?

Gary – I guess for me is finding a shelter that is more private where you have your own space kind of thing instead of being in a situation where you are…it’s like a dorm….where there are guys all on bunkbeds. For me it’s trying to find a shelter that is designed to allow you to have your own…more your own space so when you are having those difficult times and stuff you can go and take that time out you need or whatever to …get your space away from whatever bothering you.

Nancy – What are your roadblocks to finding housing?

Gary – I guess not enough access to computers, not enough…some of it is the price range that we’re entitled to for housing…there’s not a lot of places …we’re only allowed a maximum of $375 for shelter…there’s not a lot of places that you can find affordable housing for a single guy for that low of a housing …now it’s just getting even harder…because people…they want to know your whole life history when it comes to moving into a place…you got to go through the third degree to find a place that’s comfortable for you to live.

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

Gary – At night I guess…being alone. I guess the self esteem thing is really a big thing because I have a heart of gold…when it comes to…if I was in a situation of financial security I would bend over backwards to help…to help the next guy…just because I want to encourage you to go for your
..reach for your dreams…and go for your goals…it just doesn’t seem that way with some people

Nancy – Are you connected to other homeless people in this area?

Gary – Well I developed friendships…some of the homeless people I guess in my opinion are closer friendships than I have with family and relatives because the feelings are more genuine and real…so yeah I have some pretty good friendships with some of the homeless people

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

Gary – I see a lot more where one of the homeless people find out something where they feel will be a benefit to the rest of the people that they hang out with…in shelters, they will come back and tell you that this is going on or they will put up a notice saying to go to this place or whatever…there is a lot more awareness as far as  community things that are going on…that with the homeless people than what you would think.

Nancy – Tell us something about you that nobody else knows?

Gary – At the blink of an eye, your whole life can change…you can be used to living a luxurious life and having a comfortable lifestyle…at the blink of an eye…everything can change.

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

Gary – I think most of these people don’t have an understanding of what’s it’s like to be homeless…they don’t realize how difficult it is for people that end up in this type of situation to…how much of a struggle it is to think that you’re…to think that you can rely on your community for help.

Nancy – What do you miss most?

Gary – Well my kids, my girl…to know that a lot of this stuff is done to hurt me…that’s where it really hits me the hardest…because these are people that I love and care about who turn around and stab me in the back…put me in a situation I’d didnt have to be in…it’s hard…because these are people that I love and care about.

Nancy – What needs to be done for the homeless?

Gary – More fundraising…more fundraising events, more housing awareness…more community support….rather than shunning us and looking at us as some kind of disease or  some kind of virus…instead of focusing more on the cure…instead of being part of the cause…

Nancy – Are there programs for Homeless Places for people to go during the day?

Gary – There are certain shelters that you can go but there aren’t enough of these places…places like …they used to have the Front Room…where the homeless people could go during the TV, make phone calls for jobs and housing and stuff like that…but it seems like there’s not enough resources to have situations where the homeless can go and use the resources…access computers to look for housing or employment.

Nancy – What would have changed your life?

Gary – I guess not being stabbed in the back..actually the people that I love and cared about…actually believing in me enough to know that…in a financially secure situation whether I know you or not…I’d go the extra mile and make sure that there was no homelessness…there was no children suffering…women being hurt, men being hurt…the focus is prevention for a lot of these situations.

Nancy – What is your drug of choice?

Gary – Well right now it’s heroin…that’s what I used the most.

Nancy – How do you manage your addiction?

Gary – Right now because it’s lack of belief..I have … If I can’t get a job through the employment agency I have to resort to ….in order to support my addiction.

Nancy – What do the drugs do for you?

Gary – They kind of mask …they mask the pain both emotionally and …I have a degenerative disc disease that causes a lot of lower back issues…I find that if I don’t use a certain amount of the drug..I can’t sleep…I’m constantly in pain…both emotionally and physically.

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

Gary – It would be to be able to have a home again…to be able to be with my girl and my kids.  To have the people that owe me for the settlement to finally come to realize the …all their excuses..all their lies…All their backstabbing tactics that they use as a stall tactic is only going to turn around and bite them on the ass because it’s just going to mean that I am going to have to resort to more legal issues to ensure that the settlement is paid

Nancy – Where do you go for food, water, shelter, laundry?

Gary – A lot of it I have to rely on the kindness of the shelter that I am staying at right now…how I get my laundry done…thankfully they provide 3 meals a day…they’re good people. You know I’m tired of people saying.. making all these false promises..only to be end up kicked in the face…I can only handle having my heart broken so many times before I get concerned as to how far they are going to push me.

Nancy – How do you keep healthy? How do you keep safe?

Gary – I do lot of walking…If I had access to the gym…I’d be going to the gym…I’d like to stay fairly healthy…

Nancy – Do you have any beliefs you live by?

Gary – The only belief I hold strongest to is Love. You know I try to love and care about the next guy as I can…with the lack of support and lack of belief in who I am …it does make it rather hard for me to rely and trust certain people because they’re repeatedly telling you they are going to do this and going to do that…and it turns out to be a slap in the makes it more difficult to believe in the people you love and care about.

Nancy – Do people really want to solve the homelessness issue?

Gary – I don’t think there is as much focus as there should be…as far as solving the problems because I think a lot of it has to do…looking at the root of what the problem is before it becomes a homeless issue…and putting enough belief and love in your brothers and sisters…

Nancy – What does the future look like? What are your hopes and wishes for you?

Gary – My hopes are even though I have been kicked down repeatedly as much as I have…to be able to take my settlement money that I am going to get and open up … I want to open up an entertainment company where we have little guy dancers, dance teams,  all the way up to youth dance teams, the adult dance teams…to show people that it is through the love and respect for…that I have for everyone…that I want to be able to sing about it and do shows about it…to reinforce how important love for your fellow man, your sisters, your brothers…how important that really is…to revive that and to push that back out into the community where I think will be more of a focus to …how important love really is in general..

Nancy – Where do you keep your belongings?

Gary – What little stuff I have is at the shelter I am staying at.

Nancy – What was your last steady job?

Gary – My last steady job would be working for a Telemarketing company …I was just doing surveys on the phone.

Nancy – How long ago was that?

Gary – It was a couple of years ago.

Nancy – When was the last time they slept in a bed that was not in a shelter?

Gary – About 5 months ago

Nancy – Do you have any kids?

Gary – Two sons, three daughters…all kids I really’s really hard…to be put in this situation…and not be able to see my kids…it’s really hard for me.

Nancy – Can you give us one sentence that would sum up your current situation?

Gary – It really sucks, this situation

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

Gary – I would tell them..tell them that before you go judging people…I guess it would be to..actually take the time to sit and talk with the people before you make your political decisions…that if you don’t understand how difficult it is to be constantly hurt and betrayed…it’s hard to trust people who are in a secure situations because my beliefs and what I intend to do with the company I want to create is going to make a difference. I think it’s more personal awareness …knowing and walking a mile in the other person’s shoes before they judge.

Nancy – Do you have final thoughts?

Gary – It’s pretty tough…I’m really having a difficult time because of this settlement and being in this situation…it’s really hard for me.

Nancy – What would you like to see happen?

Gary – I would like for the woman that I know that I love and care about to actually…for the settlement to finally come …for them to live up for their honor and their heart and actually pay the settlement so that I can live up to my word and my heart and make happen what I think I know would make a difference for a lot of people.

Nancy – Thank you for sharing Gary…really appreciate

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