I was homeless for 10 severe and very long years.
By that time, I had been arrested, jailed, in isolation, hospitalized for meningitis, neuro-syphilis and countless accidental overdoses. I’d be in a black-out, sleepwalking through traffic in the city. Crashing into street lights, blood pouring down my face. No idea who I was or how I had gotten there. Only to realize in the emergency room once the hysterical amnesia passed and I found that little baggie of crystal meth in my cigarette pack – …would it all come rushing back to me.
My name was Richard and I had nowhere to go and no one to go to.
Then I found LOFT.
I had heard that there was a housing program for homeless people living with HIV and addiction. I became a client of LOFT through McEwan’s Addiction Supportive Housing Program, known as ASH. In my first 9 months along with my support workers, I lived through an ongoing, abusive relationship. The trauma of a publicized involuntary “Intervention”. Growing confusion and disappointment about my drug use… Until, I made my own decision to seek treatment and finally experienced my first few months of sobriety.
During this time I believed myself incapable of accomplishing even minor tasks and most definitely major tasks… vitally important things like filling out necessary medical forms to access treatment and supports, adhering to my HIV medication regimen, engaging with doctors and with the courts in regard to the charges that I was up against… My ASH community support workers – either Ashley, Heather, and Mel – carried the weight of this load for me and advocated for me in situations I felt I couldn’t manage.
I freely accessed the supports offered by the ASH program and its outreach workers.
You see, I didn’t know how to do anything like this. I had no idea how to pay rent, buy food, how to stay sober or give myself a home and keep it safe and secure.
They came to my house twice a week, and guided me. From basic life skills like shopping and budgeting to social skills – How to let people in and how to keep people out. They ensured I fulfilled all of my commitments to the doctors and the courts. At first in their company and then finally, now, on my own.
Whether abstinent or in relapse, I always received the same level of care and support – without judgement – from McEwan House and the ASH program. When I finally did celebrate that first year of consecutive sobriety, my McEwan/ASH family was there to support and celebrate with my newly reunited biological family.
On July 5th 2015, I celebrated my 3rd year of continuous sobriety.
Today I celebrate a new-found community: with people in recovery, as a companion in a retirement home, a facilitator of a music program for seniors and a member of the MCC Toronto choir.
Through the programming at LOFT and their unwavering, unconditional support, I have learned to access my own power and abilities, benefiting from their commitment and the reconstruction of community. Beginning the journey of my own self-awareness. Learning to identify my own value, knowledge, my own dignity, promise and potential. LOFT was the vessel that connected me to my own power. And now, opportunities are limitless.