James obtained his shoes from the Red Apple discount store downtown. His girlfriend was “after him” for months to buy a new pair of shoes. The laces were still fine but the soles were “no good”. With a laugh, he tells me he had “holes in my soles!”
What is your biggest struggle with poverty on a daily basis?
“Shelter is my biggest struggle. I moved here from Nova Scotia with nothing but addictions. My girlfriend and I were homeless. The waiting list was too long to get into a methadone program back home because there were only three doctors in the city involved in the program.”
“I’m telling ya, we both would be in boxes underground by now if we hadn’t moved to Ontario. We spend five or six months living at a shelter. They were awesome there. They helped us find housing. We’ve been renting a house now for one month.”
What would you like people to know about living in poverty?
“Tell people that it hurts your mind. It affects your soul. Sometimes, I would feel I was better off being a junkie because back then, I could shower everyday. I couldn’t shower daily at the shelter. Do you know what that does to a person? To not feel clean? And, I couldn’t get lunch there, only supper and breakfast. I needed lunch to keep me going for my job. I’m not blaming the shelter though. They were incredible. It’s just that I’d go to work without any lunch.”
“I had a job doing asphalt. I worked hard and I loved it. But, I’m laid off now. See! (He showed me his paperwork. A box was checked off for “Shortage Of Work”.) I’m not going to let that discourage me. I know I’ll find another job. I have to. I have a place now and need to pay rent.”
“Talking to counsellors at the shelter kept my hopes up. Joanne helped us find housing. It made a world of difference being around supportive people. And, being at the shelter provided me with an address so I was able to receive mail. That’s important to a person. To have an address. Things will work out. This is temporary. We’re above ground. We’re alive!”