– From our Winter Newsletter, 2014 –
Matthew’s Journey Out of Homelessness and Addiction Was Only Possible Because of You. Less than a year ago, Matthew was living on the streets of Hamilton. Now he has his own apartment, job, and has sees his son every week.
His story beings in Vancouver, where he was living with an addiction to hard drugs that slowly tore his family apart. After he kept ‘messing up’, Matthew’s wife left him and moved to Hamilton with their son. Matthew followed; but so did his addiction.
He moved in with a friend, but he too had an addiction and they eventually lost their apartment. That was this summer, when Matthew started ‘sleeping rough’ on the street.
‘Sleeping rough’ refers to sleeping outside in shelter unsuitable for a human being. Almost 400 people sleep rough every night in Hamilton. Under bridges, in bank foyers, in alleys near heat ventilation–anywhere warm and (a little) private.
“I lived outside 6 months last year,” Matthew says. “I stayed in a tent encampment, I guess you’d call it. We were right downtown, but no one seemed to care.”
As you can imagine, winters like this last one are especially dangerous for rough sleepers. There are fewer warm places to stay, and the threat of bodily harm (or worse) from the cold is very real. It also places added strains on shelters.
“We’ve been full to capacity this winter,” says Amy Joseph-Ralph, manager at Mission Services’ Men’s Services Emergency Shelter. “On top of very low temperatures, the cold alerts have been much longer this year. They’re usually only 1 or 2 nights. This season they’ve lasted as long as 5 or 6 days.”
The extreme temperatures forced Matthew to abandon the tent encampment and seek warmth and food that you help to provide at Mission Services’ Emergency Shelter.
That decision is bearing still more fruit in the new perspective Matthew has found since coming to the shelter and meeting the volunteers and staff! Matthew now wants to start a pre-treatment program to end his addiction.
“I have an 8-year-old son, and I’m still his hero believe it or not!” he laughs. “I really want to get it right this time so I can be the good kind of hero.”
Even though he’s been beaten down at many different turns, Matthew sounds determined and hopeful. “This is the safest place I’ve ever been to. I really feel supported by staff. They have faith in me and never treat me differently.” He adds, “I can do this now.”
Matthew is already going through our Core Addiction Program and hasn’t used for several months now. He will also get to see more of his son very soon.
“I’m enjoying the program, and soon I will have my own apartment and get to see my son four days a week. It’s hard to believe–but it really is happening. I’m excited and nervous. It’s a great feeling. I owe it to so many people who’ve helped me. Thank you.”