Dennis’ Homeless Story for Homelessness Action Week 2018

October 30, 2018

Dennis, 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 – Hi! I’m Nancy. I’m with Diverse Organization Providing Education + Regional Services. We’re here asking people some questions for the Homelessness Action Week. We want them to tell us their stories.

Nancy – What’s your name?

Dennis – Dennis

Nancy – Do you have any nicknames?

Dennis – No

Nancy – How old are you?

Dennis – 43

Nancy – Where’s your hometown?

Dennis – Port Burwell, Ontario

Nancy – What city do you mostly stay in?

Dennis – Surrey

Nancy – Are you homeless?

Dennis – Yes in a tent

Nancy – How did that start?

Dennis – Back in Ontario I was working, living on a pot farm…working there and me and the boss came to a head and I had to leave the farm and we became homeless…we came out here hoping to have a better go at it and it’s been a rough go

Nancy – How Long Have You been Homeless?

Dennis – About 2 years now

Nancy – Tell us about your journey? What did you do before you came here?

Dennis – I was married for 14 years….my wife cheated on me and I left home…I moved back to my mom’s house and met Zoe my partner and we got into drugs…lost my kids when my wife took them…we really got into drugs then…we came out here…we were clean when we came out here…and we got back into drugs and we’re trying to get off of them again.

Nancy – What do you notice about this city?

Dennis – Was a lot of help for the homeless, seems like it got taken away when the Modulars came up.. A lot of programs are closed

Nancy – How hard is it to be homeless?

Dennis – One of the hardest things I’ve done in life

Nancy – Do you feel safe on the streets?

Dennis – No, not at all…things can just change like that (snaps fingers) January I got stabbed in the back for no reason. I was watching a fight and the guy got knocked out ..and he came at me with a knife…and I got stabbed in the back and punctured my lung

Nancy – Do you have any family?

Dennis – None that I talk to

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

Dennis – It sucks…I wish I wasn’t homeless

Nancy – How do you do you make money?

Dennis – When I was on the strip, in a tent I would work for my neighbor…I kept people away from his tent.

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

Dennis – Be with my common law partner, we color and talk and wait for the next day to go by.

Nancy – How did you feed yourself every day?

Dennis – Through the Front Room, they used to serve lunch and dinner and on weekends there are church organizations that come down on the strip to feed people.

Nancy – Does sleeping where you are make it hard to get a job?

Dennis – Yes

Nancy – Does it make it hard to keep a job?

Dennis – Yes

Nancy – Are you on welfare?

Dennis – Yes I am

Nancy – Have they been helping you find a place to live?

Dennis – No

Nancy – What do you look forward to each day?

Dennis – Spending another day with my woman, my wife

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

Dennis – Not having any security, not having a door to lock behind you

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

Dennis – Being homeless, people think you ate a thief, you’re lowlife

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

Dennis – Wondering where you are going to lay your head next at night…where you are going to eat?

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

Dennis – Yes … there’s a big group of us that socialize all the time and we’re like a family

Nancy – Help each other out?

Dennis – Yeah

Nancy – Tell us something nobody knows about you?

Dennis – I love my cats

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

Dennis – That we’re all thieves, we’re all lowlifes

Nancy – What do you miss most?

Dennis – My kids

Nancy – What needs to be done for the homeless?

Dennis – More affordable housing

Nancy – What about Programs?

Dennis – Yeah we need more programs…they took a lot of programs away…there’s no drop in centres…there’s nowhere for homeless to go at night time…or the cold…or the rain

Nancy – What about during the day?

Dennis – There’s nothing during the day either…if you’re not in the shelter, you’re on the streets..there’s no food for people…on the streets now…there’s nothing.

Nancy – What would have changed your life?

Dennis – Probably if I didn’t send my kids to my ex wife for a weekend and she didn’t bring them back…my life would probably be a lot better

Nancy – What would help you overcome your challenges?

Dennis – More programs to help us with what we need

Nancy – What do you need?

Dennis – I need a doctor…I need to get off drugs…programs to help us with drugs

Nancy – What is your drug of choice?

Dennis – Heroin…it’s been a struggle on and off…on Methadone right now but it doesn’t seem to work.

Nancy – How do you manage your addiction?

Dennis – It’s a chore everyday

Nancy – What do the drugs give you? What do they do for you?

Dennis – They numb all the pain…make it easier to go on every day.

Nancy – What is the highlight of the day?

Dennis – Going to bed, knowing that we made it through the day

Nancy – What are some stressful situations that you encounter every day?

Dennis – People look at you, no matter where you go…you are a pariah and you’re walk into a store…people follow you around…even though I don’t steal anything…you always got security following you…that’s very stressful

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

Dennis – There’s no staying safe in a tent. Constantly sick or catching cold or something..end up with pneumonia

Nancy – Do you have any beliefs you live by?

Dennis – I believe in not stealing and being honest.

Nancy – What is the best part of your day?

Dennis – Waking up beside my partner

Nancy – Do people really want to solve homelessness?

Dennis – Some people yes and some people I don’t think they even care…they just try to push us under the rug at times …like we’re not there…like let’s hide them…they’re not seen…they’re not there.

Nancy – What does the future look like?

Dennis – I plan on one day going back to Ontario

Nancy – What are your hopes and wishes for you?

Dennis – Things will be better eventually..I’ll have a house, and roof over my head…I can cook…I miss cooking

Nancy – Where do you keep your stuff?

Dennis – We didn’t have any stuff…it always got stolen.

Nancy – What was your last steady job?

Dennis – Working on a Pot Farm in Ontario..I worked there for 3 years

Nancy – How long ago was it?

Dennis – 3 years ago

Nancy – How long had it been since you slept in a bed that was not in a shelter?

Dennis – 1.5 years

Nancy – Do you have any kids?

Dennis – I have 3 sons and a grandson

Nancy – In one sentence, can you sum up your current situation?

Dennis – It’s better than it was

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

Dennis – Please help us out? We’re all hurting here. We need help.

Nancy – Any final thoughts?

Dennis – We’re people…we need help

Nancy – Thank you Dennis for sharing your story with us…You’ve got some good stuff to say

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