I was living in the Orwell Hotel in the Downtown Eastside for the last two years. I didn’t like it because my children could not visit me and the staff said my girlfriend wasn’t allowed to visit. It depressed me. It was no place to live. At the end of April I had enough and left even though I had nowhere else to go.
I have been sleeping on the street, in a tent in the Downtown Eastside, for the last two months. It was stressful and dangerous to sleep on the street. I was stuck out in the rain. I was soaking wet all the time and could not dry out. It makes you stink when you’re trying to go to work. And rats and racoons got into my tent. They dug around in my stuff, scratched at my sleeping bag and it woke me up. I moved away slowly so they wouldn’t bite me. And there was always a threat from gangs. I never knew if I was in their area. Sometimes I’d wake up and someone had robbed me, picked my pockets while I slept. It always feels dangerous and I can never relax.
Sleeping on the street is really bad for my health. The places I found I could set up my tent was always contaminated ground where no one else wants to be. Sleeping on the ground like that, I feel sick and more tired in the morning. The smell of sleeping in those industrial areas really makes you feel nauseous. And there are needles and broken glass, you can always get cut.
Being homeless means you never get proper nutrition. Who likes to go to work hungry and tired? Even those who are homeless and have been forced out find it hard even to go picking bottles. There are soup kitchens and people with good hearts hand out food. But a lot of times the food is rotten or just really not good.
On July 5th I got a job through Work BC. It was hard to get a job because I had to work with temp agencies every day in order to get money so I could eat. I couldn’t take a day off from temp work to get a permanent job. I was on assistance but I only got $235 a month. I couldn’t survive on that. I feel lucky to get the job I just started. My job is installing windows in highrises in the Metrotown area. I’m a carpenter and I’ve done pretty well everything so I feel confident I’m doing this job well. My co-workers enjoy my company. I like working there.
It was hard for me to go to work from the tent where I was staying in the Downtown Eastside. I had to sneak on the skytrain every morning. And I was going to work hungry and tired.
On July 11th I was walking to the skytrain after work when I saw the banners for the occupation at 5025 Imperial. The woman at the table outside came running after me and told me there was food and a room where I could sleep. I decided to accept her offer.
Staying in this place makes me feel better. I slept in on purpose this morning! Usually I have to get up early and stomp my feet and get my blood going. I have to pack up everything I own and roll up my tent so none of it gets taken by city workers while I’m at work. I have to carry everything with me to work. This morning I didn’t have to do that so I slept in. I left my stuff and locked my door and went to work. I didn’t have to lug my stuff to work and make space in the office to stash my bag; that’s embarrassing. It felt good to leave my stuff here.
If I get booted out or arrested I may lose my job. I will have to find a park bench to hide in or find government land to set up a camp. I have no time to find a place to rent. I have no phone. I’m just happy to have a place to stay for the time being.