I met D at the Operation Nightwatch mobile van site in St John’s. Like many of the Nightwatch guests, D is a very friendly and generous person and he was willing to give me a glimpse of his personal story.
He grew up in Washington state, the eldest of seven children and found himself bringing them up when his mother checked out. A spell in the army followed and when he left in his early 20’s he married and had a family with four children. As he grew up he expected a normal 9-5 life but life had other ideas and today he finds himself in a different situation. We discussed several topics and he has some interesting perspectives I’ve shared below.
How did you end up on the street? When his marriage broke up it led to a breakdown with his wife taking their kids. This type of life event appears to be a common trigger on the path to homelessness and it reminds me that we could all be a single life event away from poverty.
What is a typical day for you? He is fortunate to live in temporary accommodation and pays his rent by doing odd jobs for the owner through the day. His day usually starts at 5am when he hits the streets looking for cans in order to collect the deposit. He will typically spend 3-4 hours each day searching for them.
As you reflect back on your life, do you consider yourself unlucky? “We make our own luck through the decisions we take and I made some bad ones. I had opportunities and didn’t take them.” D is clear he is responsible and accepts the outcomes. Given where he has ended up, I found this very inspiring.
Tell me about the sense of community in the homeless world. “We’ve seen each other in need. I will help others and they will help me. If I needed a coat, they would give me their coat”. D talked about this in a matter of fact way, describing it as nothing special. I asked him if he agreed that the less you have the more generous you are, he did. This got me thinking about the other side of the coin. Is it true the more we have, the more concerned we are about losing it?
As I reflect back on this discussion, I could easily understand D being full of resentment about the cards life has dealt him and in fact the opposite is true. I sense a strong positive sense of life flowing through him.