On Friday, July 22nd around 7pm, Charity Guys Justin Robertson, Aidan Henry and Darragh Grove-White began a special project called “Dinner With A Stranger” where we take out a person who is experiencing poverty first hand for dinner and hear their story. The goal behind it is to shed light on the stigma associated with homelessness, mental illness and poverty in Victoria. We said that if this project only changes one person’s perspective and elicits more compassion, then in our world it was a success. And it was; we gained a lot of insight.
We were incredibly fortunate to have encountered “Christopher”, a 34-year-old living on the streets for nearly 20 years. Christopher isn’t a drug addict, he doesn’t have a mental illness, but he does have a very interesting story. Christopher lived in Toronto and ran away when he was 14 from home. His father died of an aneurism and within a very short period of time, a number of other close family members died of unrelated causes. His mother became unstable and he had nowhere else to go and no other family, so he ran away.
Christopher has been across the country by hitch hiking many times and had some great stories to tell us, some funny, some pretty scary. He credits his beautiful, good-natured dog Sephera for staying out of trouble because she reminds him regularly with her wagging-tail of affection that she cares about him and that he is counted on. He points out that “If I go to jail, no one will be there to take care of her- she counts on me… She and I are going to be together until one of us dies”. He got her when she was six weeks old; she’s now four and a half.
We asked him what resources he has found most useful around Victoria and he found Cool Aid Society has been very helpful for him. One of the challenges he has is Sephera “hates junkies”, and to avoid unnecessary confrontations with others, Cool Aid Society meets his and her needs because his options are limited, and is not able to go to Our Place. Cool Aid Society offers temporary work contracts if they are available and other services that are regularly utilized and much needed for those living on the streets, including warm clothes and more.
We asked Christopher what his dream was and he said he would love to apprentice with a carpenter. He loves working with his hands and finds it gratifying when he builds. He has done quite a bit in the past but says “it’s hard finding a person willing to take you on as more than just a laborer”. If you know of anyone needing a hard worker in construction, we’d be happy to pass the message along.
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as we enjoyed our dinner with Christopher!
Until next time,
-The Charity Guys