INSPIRING STORIES

The experience of homelessness is complex and often misunderstood. Each individual has a unique story.

Bill’s Story

Bill spent the greater part of his adult life calling an emergency shelter bed his home.

Bill spent the greater part of his adult life calling an emergency shelter bed his home. He spent his days surrounded by other individuals with their own struggles and did not have a connection to his community outside of the four walls of the emergency shelter. He became attuned to spending 12+ hours in an emergency department waiting room, as he often experienced seizures. Bill did not have friends, family, or other supports in his life to assist him with navigating the complex and overrun healthcare system in London, and as a result, his physical and mental health were deteriorating quickly. Each time Bill experienced a seizure, they became worse, causing him to “lose time.” Bill is a kind, gentle, and soft-spoken individual, who was often overlooked by the system. People often took advantage of Bill’s kind nature, leaving Bill to be exploited both emotionally and financially.

Rachel’s Story

Rachel would describe herself as “hardheaded, stubborn, and a loose cannon.”

Rachel would describe herself as “hardheaded, stubborn, and a loose cannon.” She spent most of her days in the downtown core of London looking for her “next hit,” as the threat of opiate withdrawal was always lingering over her head. Through the London Cares Housing Stability Program, Rachel has been supported through two tenancies, and she has battled and faced her addiction head on. She began abstaining from substance use and has become heavily involved in her local community church where she feels that she has the ability to give back to a community she was once ostracized from and has found peace and recovery through her faith.

Mark’s Story

For Mark, his definition of “stability” meant having access to three meals a day and knowing where he would be able to sleep at night.

Unfortunately for him, this experience was usually synonymous with being incarcerated, as Mark has experienced chronic and persistent homelessness for over 10 years. Each time Mark was released from custody, he was released to the street with no fixed address. Attempts to get into emergency shelter were rarely successful, as Mark was often labelled as someone who was “defiant” and “noncompliant,” which resulted in property bans and restriction from services, sometimes for up to 10 years at a time. Mark would often attend emergency rooms at hospitals for a place to keep warm for a few hours, but would quickly be escorted off the premises, as he “was not allowed to be there.” Mark would spend countless nights wandering the streets trying to find a safe place to be, which often resulted in a substantial increase in his substance use in order to stay awake to avoid harassment, violence, and his belongings being stolen.

Trevor’s Story

“Trevor” moved to Canada from out of the country. He had it all – a great job, a beautiful home, and family supports.

Trevor lost it all when he was arrested for driving under the influence. He lost his job, and in turn, he lost his house. He stated he began to drink more and more because he felt worthless and his family shunned him and left him with no supports at all. Trever tried the emergency shelters. He stated he was getting robbed all the time and beaten up, so he started staying under bridges and sleeping on park benches alone. Feeling lost and vulnerable, he would drink all night to try to stay awake so he would not get robbed in his sleep. This went on for over a year.

Brian’s Story

London Cares’ street outreach team used to encounter Brian nearly every shift, if not multiple times a shift.

Brian had a go-to spot in the community, and many business owners and community members in the area became familiar with Brian, as he always had a smile on his face and an interesting story to tell. Brian was in a wheelchair and would often find a shaded area in a parking lot to sleep. Brian did not have shelter at night, and he required access to an electrical outlet to charge his wheelchair battery. Brian’s wheelchair battery would often die, leaving him stranded. Staff would always make an effort to find Brian and get him a new battery or help him access a public location to use an outlet to charge his battery. Brian spent the summer months sleeping in various parking lots, as he was not a fan of emergency shelters and stated that they would be difficult to navigate in his wheelchair. Staff began to notice a significant decline in Brian’s health, as he became dehydrated and stopped eating.

Andrew’s Story

London Cares’ street outreach team first encountered Andrew a few years ago when he was living on the streets of London.

Andrew would often check-in with London Cares staff to see how the evening was going or just say a friendly, “Hello.” Andrew developed a strong relationship with staff conducting street outreach throughout the years.

Andrew got hit by a car one evening by an impaired driver and suffered some serious injuries. From then, Andrew was constantly in and out of the hospital. Once he was discharged from hospital back to the street, he would encounter one health complication after another. London Cares staff would often get calls from Andrew in the community, where he would be unable to walk or move independently.

Sarah’s Story

The London Cares Coordinated Informed Response street outreach team met Sarah, who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ2+ community.

Sarah had been living on the streets, sleeping rough and urban camping, for over five years. As the team got to know her and she began to trust outreach staff, Sarah shared stories about her life, which were heavily riddled with experiences of trauma and abuse. This young woman was living alone in a tent and was frequently in conflict with the law. She would set up and tear down her home daily, often losing important items that she kept on her person. The street outreach team would offer support to Sarah daily, whether it be medical, legal, housing, or basic needs supports. She would often decline, stating that she would lose all her belongings if she left to access supports.

Names have been changed, portrait images have been generated with AI, and personal details omitted to protect the privacy of individuals who chose to share their story. We hope that these stories shine a light on the tenacity, courage, and strength we are privileged to see every day.

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