Allan, a resident at the men’s shelter, had a good life. He was married, had 3 children, a good job, and a nice home. After retiring, and separating from his wife, Allan could not support himself. Combined with an addiction, his financial difficulties mounted. Two of his children lived far away, and he found himself estranged from his other son, leaving him alone, facing homelessness.
Over the past year, Allan has been in and out of the hospital for various health concerns, and then at the end of the year broke his foot. Due to his long hospital visits, and financial difficulties, Allan entered the Hamilton shelter system. Before coming to Mission Services’ Men’s Emergency Shelter, Allan had stayed at a few different shelters in Hamilton. “In a way I was lucky because I had a chance to try out others for comparison. To me this is the best, in my opinion. If I’m going to be in a shelter, this is where I want to be,” said Allan with a smile.
“This place has been really good for me,” he continued, “I think the staff is fantastic. I’m comfortable here, but I know I can’t stay here forever, nor do I want to…I’m just trying to get through some situations. Once this gets straightened out, they can let someone else come in here. But in the meantime, this place is doing me a world of good.”
“I’m grateful for what I’ve had in life. I look around at some of the people here, I don’t know all their stories, but I can tell they’ve had it pretty tough. In retrospect, I haven’t [had it as tough] compared to them. So I am grateful,” he said adamantly. “When it’s 20 below, I’ve got a roof over my head and some pretty good food…. You have to be grateful!”
Allan’s view on gratefulness and appreciation for life is clear. “For just about anybody, look at your own situation, but then look around and see that your life might be a lot better than a lot of other people. We tend to take things for granted and we can’t do that. You never know what’s going to happen to you or a member of your family.”
Despite his positive outlook, Allan’s story reminds us of a hard truth: homelessness can happen to anyone. A good job, family, and nice home do not protect one from life’s unpredictability. A turn in the economy, the ever-increasing cost of housing in Hamilton, a difficult job market, or an unexpected disaster, could lead to you, or someone close to you experiencing homelessness. And once there, these issues continue, making it difficult to get back on your feet, or end the cycle of poverty.
That is why we need you. With homelessness in Hamilton on the rise, budget cuts to important services for vulnerable populations, and life’s unpredictable turns, helping those in need before they reach the point of crisis is more vital than ever.
Allan provided a final encouraging word: “Every day can be a gift and you make it a gift. If you can, help somebody. There are a lot of people out there who need help, and if you can do it, it will make you feel good. Also, you’ll have done something positive.”