Chuck – University of Toronto Campus

 

CHUCK

Chuck is a man in his thirties. He spent six years living in Kazakhstan as an English teacher. Since his return to Canada he is unemployed and homeless. He is currently staying at Gatewick Shelter. He lived with his brother before becoming homeless. When I met him, he was a college student. He is homeless because is unemployed since he came back to Canada and he is presently investing all his income in higher education.

F: What is the worst part about being homeless?

Chuck: “It’s like there are two negative things about (being homeless). First of all, the negative thing you would think first, is not the one is actually worst about it.  The fact that I don’t have a kitchen with my stuff and I cannot watch my clothes… these stuff is annoying but you still can get around it. There are ways that you can have free laundry, free food, ten meals a day, if you want to. So the first thing that really comes to mind is the fact that you know you can tell anyone (about being homeless). If you tell them: “ Listen now, I am homeless, I need a place to stay… could you help me please?”.  As soon the word “homeless” comes to your mouth they shut it down (and think)“I knew there was something (weird) about that guy!” So is the immediate right off, you know:? “Goodbye: next?”. (…)

There is a social part. If I am sitting with my classmates at a bar, but I have to be “home” by eleven. If I am not coming before eleven I have to go the hallway and I have to wait (at the shelter) and to sit there.  And they are all sitting there, some of them work, I guess. Some of them work very crappy job, some others I don’t know if they have a social life. I mean, my class mate (at the Film School), they have one day of work a week. They make 300 $ in that single day and whenever they need to go out they have a social certain and they live with their parents, they can do it, they are ok. Then there is other people who never go out, or they do it in rare occasion… But when I am out, I have to leave. So that is what is more trivial, just the fact that there is always inconveniences and I cannot tell them why (faking the voice of a colleague): “Why you are leaving? Is only eleven”. That’s what is more negative about it. I the shelter where I was staying we have to come back at 10 pm. This keeps all the crack heads out. Also the fact that you have to be there with all this people who are there for no good reason, because they are crack heads, math heads. Like my roommate he is schizophrenic and smokes math. One day he throw a lamp on me… [he tell the story of his schizophrenic roommate].

The place where I am staying now is better, all the beds are on the floor. It’s better for climate control: in the other places there is somebody opening the windows or closing it, and is either boiling or freezing. Here is more ventilated and under control. And is cleaner. There, if somebody complaints that there is a guy next to me who smells , they (the stuff) can come and say: “Hey, go and take a shower!?”. While in the place I was staying before, it wasn’t like that they would have answered: ”Fuck you, fuck you up”.

F: How long have you been at Gatewick Shelter? Have you been moving around different shelters? Have you been to Scott Mission?

“I have been to Gatewick three nights. To Scott Mission: Yes, but just for a meal… that place is full of ex-coms (people who used to be in jail)”

F: How your experience has changed your view of homelessness and of homeless people?

My view on a lot of things has changed. I have realized that ignorance is bliss. There is no way to talk the sense to them. Unless something happens that make them no ignorant. Like, before they are all “restaurant and fancy life” and then suddenly they have to mop the floor, and is not their choice.

So, unemployment is not just not they are not being capable, is that people who are unemployed not willing to take jobs that are around. A lot of guys at Gateway that I am with,  they used to be business man, computer programmers and different kind of thing. And the way is set up here in Canada is that they won’t believe you,  if you are in your age and you are looking for a job, “You say I have quit my old job and I would like to try something new” they say: “No, we would rather like you to be homeless than starting something new, because you are too old”.  You only have to follow the steps. If you take Political Science at one Canadian University, this is what they teach you:  this is how people have to be guided through their life doing one specialisation in just one thing.

Unless you are 19 years old, then is almost impossible (to start a new job). Then they say “why your résumé say this and this … they are not like: this guy comes from a different place and he needs something to do”. You know, that’s not the way of how it works.  Is rather like “Next!”. These people are completely detached from the humanity of the worker. You know, a lot of people would rather not work than being subjected to these kind of casting audition where you come and say: “I do this”. These people are there just to serve a lesson. As homeless person the reason that you exist is as a lesson to other people.

F: Is this what you have learnt (about homelessness)?

“This are the negatives. They are dirty, stinky, they don’t take care of themselves.  You know is not always that. Sometimes is not, is just that you have to be on a certain place at a certain time. It takes half an hour to get here, half an hour to get back. You have to sign up. Wait. By the time you have made your laundry, the whole day is gone.  Sometimes you need to do other things and you don’t feel like.The reason why they stink is because they don’t have a shower available every time they feel like. If there was a shower now I would do shower, but is not there. Sometime I had to skip class, because I couldn’t go to class like that. So I had to wait to take a shower and miss the class.”

F: Where are you studying? University of Toronto?

No, film production. So these are the negatives, but there are positive things.  Before being a homeless, I have been on the verge of being homeless for a long time. I was staying at my brother place but when he was gone but when he came back he told me I could not stay there anymore. So I said, I am going to one of those places – I was not sure to be able to sleep outside – I was afraid to get robbed. That didn’t happen. But this is how I felt like when I was firstly arrived in Toronto. When I have firstly realized I was homeless, I said this is amazing! I don’t have to do anything! I can just seat over here. There is nothing holding me down. Nothing like: “Can I spend today more money than I have earned? How close I am to my retirement?” Nothing. Just do whatever you want. So, in a way, this has an appeal to some people.

(…) It’s actually an adventurous life. So people say, I can have that, or rather keep going, keep going, keep going. And they keep people stigmatized and stereotyped them, but this make even more difficult to get out from that situation.  Honestly, people judge you … So you have to lie. I tell them that I have an address. When they ask me where I live, I say  to my brother’s place. It’s a lie, but if you don’t lie they are going to hire you.

They say: “You should have saved  some money. But how can you save you earn if 20 dollars a month? They just don’t know the situation (…) It’s so easy to say. The reality is that if you are staying in a shelter and you are surrounded by other homeless people and having breakfast with them, then you think: I can go and hand out other resumes and get the same answer every time (…)

It’s so much tougher than just having this specific resume that you hand in. Is that you have to get through all this steps. For instance, you want to work in construction, because you don’t have any other choice and you don’t have money. So that’s what you have to do: you go panhandling for one day, so that you have enough money to buy some boots and then you can go for your first day of job. The first day you go, they always send you out. Then if you are not good at it, they will never send you out again. If you are good at it and work there for a few days, you get your first pay cheque (…) then, what are you going to do?

You have been bored and you get your first hand of dollars. Some people would say: “Obviously, you keep going ”. Oh no, wait a minute. This is going against human nature, if you had nothing before you want some social life. You have been working hard, and now you just wanna be free. And you keep doing this every time. And after three months you want to try something new, so you quit realize that “Oh, shit I don’t have any money”. Is not just like “Go get a job!”. So is just that people who magically got their job that is far above the minimum wage, that allow them to pay the rent with a single pay-cheque (…) so they say: “I got a job, why don’t you get a job?”

There are two kind of homeless people: there are homeless people who are too bad for the society and then there are those who are too good, that are too nice, too smart. That drives you nut if you know what is going on at the high level of society, among the elites of the elite. If you are like “So you should just get a job mopping the floor?!”. Then I am: “Wait a second: don’t you realize that the mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford) that I saw five years ago smoking cocaine in an illegal underground club right before he became the mayor?” If you want to be able to make the decision you need this huge amount of money.  (…)I could not find a job cleaning right now, I am working on a comedy.

F: Have you ever found yourself in the situation of doing panhandling?

“No, but I have been close. I just cannot do it. So, some of this guys are the most nice and down to earth people because they have been liberated from a job” [from a frame of mind… ] “yes, so they can just say and think whatever they want” [but they are put aside] Yes, because, they are free. Freedom is something that is preached and lived by a selected few. If you think at colonialism like Home rule and India, where they use to have the colonial power to control there. And then after Gandhi they left and gave India home rule. They said, you own the country, is yours but in fact the kept doing the same thing.They just say you are free. ”It is written of the main Chart of Human rights, so is true”. It is not true.  I don’t know which human you are talking about… speak for yourself! Maybe this true is for those who have written the Chart of Freedom. Stephen Harper (N.d.r. Canadian Prime Minister) enjoys this rights, but I don’t know about the others.

F: So it’s a lie?

“Yes, one that you have to keep saying. People in power, they have found a way. They all have learned it from before, it was already done during the French revolution, in Scotland when they were fighting against England. All those things about freedom and liberty have been around for long time and time again. So this started annoying those who were in power. So they say: “Ok, we will just pretend…” And they started just to agree to what the People were saying: “We deserve liberty, everyone is free!”. But in fact they continue doing what they  had always been doing which is controlling everyone. And giving it (the power) to their children and their wife, because they started marry together. They are like a different breed of people. And this is the same for homeless people. Homeless people are like different breed of people. People look at them like they have some defective genes of there is something that is messed out but that’s not what it is at all.

F: Do you think there is a community or just homeless individuals?

“You become part of a community. There is a culture. A sub-culture. It’s the most marginalized groups of people. Is something perpetrating, something  that people don’t talk about. The System use people like an example: “ this is what happen unless you comply” and this is what they exist .(…)Some people in homelessness they find a community they would not find otherwise. That’s why they stay homeless.(…)Toronto is a city of stranger. In the past people were mad because there was a king that would have visited the villagers and told them: “Who is the smartest kid?” He wanted  to take the most talented kids with him to the capital. And at the same time, the untalented people were saying: “This is so unfair, who can we take over?” So they have found a way: money. Because everybody can handle money: all you have to know is math. All you have to do it is “That’s more than that: so I want this and I don’t want that”. This came to a point where people were not anymore nice to each other. (…)Is city of stranger where unless you have a certain amount of financial standing. Then people are nice and friendly to each other. Otherwise there is no sense of common shared humanity (…)Some people in homelessness they find a community they would not find otherwise. That’s why they stay homeless.

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RON – University Settlement

RON

Ron , about 45 years old,  has been homeless and addicted to drugs for most of his life. He has spent time in and out of  jail since turning 12. By age 17 he had begun the downward spiral of drug addiction. Ron has struggled with voices that led him to the point of complete mental instability, until he found himself on the brink of committing a homicide. Nowadays Ron has a room of his own after many years spent in the shelter system. He is homeless for problem with the law, addiction, and unemployment.

R: “(homeless)People, who lost their housing, do get  help, from agencies, from shelters, it depends a lot on them, depends how much they want it, how much they can want it. But eventually they do get help. Sometimes is quick for some people, sometimes is long for other people, sometimes is extensively long for others people, like me. 16 years without having my own place, my very own place. I mean nobody is there except me, my very own, ok? This has been actually chosen by God, the name of the street is actually the name of the person who inspired me to do art three years ago. And the apartment number end in 1827, take the 8 out and 127 is my birthday: January 27th. The 8 stands for my 8th bird which I was looking after who just passed away on me.”

F:  “You, got all the signs for that…”

R: “Yes, this are all the signs and this is the apartment I have got.”

F: ”In which way the way society land not homeless people looks at you have stopped you to reach  this goal of becoming free and feel yourself?”

R: “Yeah. Me, I have never care about what people think and people say. What I care is what I think or say, where my mind and my heart is at, is all that matters to me. What God has planned for me is all that matters. I have made bad things but I am a good person. I have made many bad things but I am not a bad person, there is a difference. I have walked in darkness, but I am not a child of the darkness, I was just meant to walk in the darkness.  I have suffered many thing for a reason, to make me who I am now.  I have reached both extremes to one end to the other, to the highest heights to the very lowest depths (…)”

F: “So, you don’t care about other people?”

R: “People do see that reality, what I have been through, they do see and realize that many artists in life have been considered really crazy or mad man. Early in life they were considered genius, then later on they become mad man, or nut, or crazy, or insane. My analysis of it is that higher intelligences they go easily to crazy, if they are really closed to be genius, they may be considered mad men. Do you know why I know that? Because I have been a genius, but I have also been a wise old man, I have reached the highest extent of intelligence that you can possibly reach. By age 15, I have used more than 1/10 of my brain, ok? I have all different parts of my brain working at the same time… one day my head was walking on the street and I thought my brain was going to explode.”

F: “Who told you that you were insane after that?”

R: “Oh, I knew, this happened over a 25 years period. When I was at the end of myself, when my strength was drained out, I was driven crazy by voices, I was warned down, worn out, disconnected with my own heart, no access to my brain, no access to my thinking, on the verge of committing suicide or mass murder. Guess what? I hang it there because I knew I could do it. Another reason is that I didn’t want to hurt innocent people, but yet I wanted to kill one million people but I also didn’t want to kill one million people. So, I was dealing with a war inside my head, I was at war with voices, with evil spirit, and I was at war with my own self and my mind. This all happened within me.  I was on the point of making that decision where there is no looking back, I would ended up kill like you take a chocolate bar. And then it would have been who is next, who is next, who is next… This is how far I have gone it was.  All I had to do was to take one more decision. And do you know what slowed me down? I didn’t want to hurt any innocent people. So I needed a very strategic plan. But I couldn’t leave the drugs long enough to think to a very strategic plan. This delayed me, so later on this made me realize something that was very import for my own process of beating that, beating the voices. What I was realized it was that I was not here to hurt people, but to help people, and so I realized that I could not kill one million people, not even one. And by doing so, then I would have destroyed my own life.”

F: “Maybe you can help one million people instead…”

R. “Yeah, Instead that hurting or killing people, helping them is better, and it has more enjoyment. And I have realized that. But then I was again in that war within myself because in that moment I was in no shape to help anybody not even my own self. I couldn’t even take care of myself. I couldn’t even pick up the phone to call my own family. I couldn’t make to a dentist, to a doctor. I did laundry once in a year. This it was how powerful my addiction was.”

(silence)

F: “It’s amazing that you are here now, to share this…”

R: “Yeah… Somebody told me to believe in myself, I started believe that I am gonna win. I have got a sign one day,  In the Welfare building there was a sign with the picture of a black kid, that said I would have got through this. I have realized that it was a sign for me and I said “What happen if I point this to my head?”. Once I have pointed to my head, I have started to believe it, I would have got through it. And then I have started to become stronger.”

“One day at the alcoholics clinic a lady told me “Hold up!”. “What do you mean?” I have answered – That’s was how far I was in my mind – “Pull up!”. “What do you mean?”. “Just what I have said. Pull up! Pull the fuck up! Get it together!” And I said “I will try…” She: “ good, that’s all I needed to hear!”. On that day, I couldn’t put two things together, I couldn’t grasp thing I was on a downward fall,. in a place of torment and torture, I was already there. Falling, and falling, and falling the further down as you can go. The first fall I was to hell, the second fall I went to the abyss, in the lake of Huron Rose (?), with torture all day and night. So I had a taste of everything, a taste of hell, a taste of heaven, a taste of kingdom.  I have walked in light, I have walked in darkness. I had a dream in which I have seen the Holy Spirit, the angels where flying around, in have seen out of my body, I have seen the Devil face to face.  I have walked the stair to the heaven and then I have walked the stairs to hell.

I was on a party, I was on all kind of different drugs: beer, liqueur, triple pill acid, cocaine, ash, joint, pipes, amid everything. And as this force come over me I have seen my life flashing from my eyes, and I even knew how  my life was before, but I knew there was something wrong.  And for every scene of my life there was an emotion, and the emotion were skipping from track to track as I have seen every single emotion of my life and for every scene I have seen my emotion skipped to another track (…)And as I left the party I have walked down from the third floor and I gave a look to their staircase and I have seen that there were two set of stairs, one going up to heaven, the other going down to hell. And in that moment I have seen my energy going up to heaven  and in that precise moment I felt great hopeless and helpless. And I then heard a voice in my head saying that I was going down the stairs, right to hell. So, like I said I have walked the stairs to heaven, and I have walked the stair to hell. And when I was going down I have heard a voice saying, “oh God, Help me!”.Just when I have said that, my best friend came down the stairs and told me: “Where are you going?” At first I said: “My time is up, I have to go”. “What are you talking about? ” “I don’t know, all I know is that my time is up and I have to go. I have to go, Johnny!” “Hey, what do you say, you are scaring me!” “Well, I am scared by myself, is just coming out from my mouth, it ain’t me sane, Johnny” “ You are freaking me out!” “I am freaking me out! Something is making me say this and it’s ain’t me ”. This was real, it was really happening and I said “Johnny, whatever you do, do not let me out of your sight”. (…)Jhonny: “so let’s go back to the party! ” ”I cannot,  Jhonny. This powerful force is taking me down the stairs and I cannot do nothing to stop it. It’s scaring the shit out of me! And this force made me punch him in the head, but as I punch him in the head, I realize that he is my only hope and I cannot punch him in the head.(…) I didn’t figure it out till years later than it was actually that night that was flushing in front of my eyes and it was  trying to take me that night down the stairs to the hell.”

“This staff happened all my life… Do you have a light, guys?”

What I have learnt because I am so spiritually connected is that the spirits want to take advantages on me. All my life they took advantage of me. Even just being human: humans took advantage of me. When you are in the spirit world, the bad spirits take advantage of you, by meaning that, I mean you are vulnerable.  When somebody gets enough closer to God, as I have, they attack. But you know what, this doesn’t stop me because I know I am more powerful than them.

F: “How is the city doing in terms of providing answers to homeless people problems? ”

“THEY ARE DOING FUCK OFF! The way I see, you have all this subsidized building going on and they gave them to all this foreigners who have not been a fucking day of their life homeless. You have Canadians,  who have been homeless, drugatics, alcoholics (someone from the people talking in the corridor says  “DISABILITY!”) for years and years and years – like me, 16 years – and I have got my housing just now. I had my keys Friday. It took 10 years before they  even found me. Before they found me and they tried to help me, I have spent 2 years with three different workers. And now there are people who get their housing in just few weeks, or months. Gone!

Now listen me: 3 years ago I have left the street, I was driven crazy by voices, I was driven nuts, I was driven insane. Worn out by drugs. No access to my fucking thinking, on the verge of suicide or mass murder. One thousand was my lowest goal and one million of kills was my highest goal. Ok?

They put me on ODSP disability pension for mental illness – not mental illness actually –  I have been under spiritual attack until 2011 and I have beaten them every fucking time.

The weakest that I possibly was,  I had hallucinations that made me see dead bodies and they were make me think that they were setting me up for murder, they were torture me and torment me day and night. I was at the end of myself as well – and they still couldn’t fucking beat me!”

F: “How did you went through this?”

R: “I went through this and I have survived. In that period I have lost my mother, my life with my soul mate, my life with my daughter, I have lost my cousins, I have lost my father and then I have lost my niece on my last birthday. And I am still here. (…) By age 12 I was a mastermind, by age 13 I was a genius,  by age 14 I was considered wise as a very old man, by 15 I was considered 100 years ahead of my lifetime. I was progressing at a very fast and rapid pace.  By the age of 17 I have lost it all.  I even made it to heaven, I have I walked on waters. I have walked in Jesus footsteps, I was another level beyond the disciples. I was a shepherd. By 17 I fell from grace, darkness, depression, suicidal. Do you know what is self-destruction? Everything I knew wiped out, gone! (before )I was on top of life, I could solve the problem with the blink of an eye. I became like Jesus… All gone. Now, I understand the whole thing. I have been to the whole process, I was to the highest point I was in heaven, holy, in a state of grace. When I fell from that I was in hell. Then I got reborn. In Toronto I was on crack and cocaine for 4 and half years, a sign come from a side of the road: “Trust in God”. One month and half later, I am in a service at church. On First week, I get rid of my drugs, second week I got healed, third week I was guided from the Holy Spirit to raise my own soul from hell.”

F: “Have you had any special person helping you during this process?”

R: “No one, God  only help me. They may have helped me in other ways, yes. I have got signs all the time, I hear voices of angels and of evil as well. Just signs, just beliefs, just angels all around us. The right message at the right time to carry me, to guide me through it all. One day a guy told me:” believe in yourself!”. Another lady, who was an alcoholic, told me: “Pull up!”

One day when I was about to lose my mind, when I was hearing the voices, they said: “Fuck this, fuck that, I am gonna kill them all – FUCK IT ALL- fuck the drugs, fuck the pipe, fuck the people, fuck police, fuck the pope, fuck the government, fuck the money, fuck the drugs, FUCK IT ALL!!!” When I went to sleep I wanted to kill someone, that was the condition in which I was in that day. Then I looked up to the bulletin board and there was a message from God, to me right, to my face. It said: “Use it or lose it!”.

That was all to me, that was the day. I started slowly to turn it around. I had to fight to turn it around. I was frightened but I was loosed, I have started to think how I am gonna use it. I had to figure out how I can use my fucking brain when I cannot access it. I could access my own thinking, how could I use my brain?I had a very limited memory. Crazy nutt insane, disconnected with my heart.  That was the condition in which I was.”

F: “Have you received medical treatment for that?”

R: “No. I have figured it out the whole thing. They were trying to make me thing that I was set up for murder. I have realized after 2 or 3 years that nothing happened, so I asked myself why this is happened? I realize I was driven crazy, I realize I was driven nutts by voices (…)”

F: “Have you been sleeping for all that period outside, in Downtown?”

R: “Oh yeah, sleeping under bridges, smoking crack cocaine… And I didn’t give a flying fuck. I wanted to commit a mass murder and I was on the point to make a last decision. After that there is no turning back, and trust me I was not just thinking I was really saying that. After you reach 100% crazy, you go to nutts, and after you reach 100% nutts, guess what it happens? The fire trap. And then there almost no way back from it. And I was really close to the fire trap where I would have been full of RAGE, not just hatred, not just fucking angry, but full of rage. Rage enough to kill somebody in few second (…)I was hearing from 3 to 10 times every minute, almost every minute in very hours, everywhere I went. South and North, East and West. Hallyways, washrooms, restrooms, churches, kids, elderlies, blind people. All of them . They could even see me. I just heard the same comment coming out of their mouth. Do you know what they were saying? “That’s where he gets the guns, that’s where he gets the?”Everything was based on FEARS. Because fears paralyze it, they were trying to paralyze me with fears to make me believe that I was set up for murder. On the top of that being paranoid for smoking crack and on intense of high with all that fear. And then they played an instrumental game, trying to make me thing that they just shot somebody and the police where coming and they were going to take my fingerprints and to set me up and give me life (?). (…) And all this paranoia started for smoking into crack.

F: “Was there any safe place where you felt out of this hell?”

R: “There was nowhere.”

F. “So, things started to change when you made the choice to change?”

R.: “I made the choice to fight them, but I didn’t know the way out of it. This is what I have learnt: when I want something it manifests itself through my spirit and through other people spirit and through their spirit to them and then it compasses what I wanna do. When I want to fight it and win it, that’s when I start to fight. But then I have to figure out how to get out of it. Once I figure out how to get out of it, I start to get out of it. Even if my brain didn’t work,  I had to force my brain to get out of it even it. I realize why they were not trying to set up, they were trying to make me believe they were trying to set me up and I have realized it was a cover up to make me lose my mind and actually commit murder. Perfect, eh?That’s an ability that I have: put things together and see the picture and when I see a picture and I can paint it for you so that you can see it the way I see it.

The deepest part about it is that I believe it was coming from that person’s mouths. Why? So I finally come to the conclusion that all those people fucking deserved to die for what they were doing to me, tormenting me. But it was anybody at all. It was the evil voices in my head. It was crack and cocaine. They were trying to make me think that it was coming from everybody so that I would have killed them. But I didn’t want to kill innocent people , so I would have gone out to kill people to realize later on that they were all innocent because it was in my head. It would have been too late. It wasn’t until I had 100% control my head that I have realized that. I didn’t want to believe it until I was out of it. Did you record that?

FROM SHELTER TO HOMES: Street to homes.

After all that, in the street, 4 years ago I went to the shelters for 7 month, I was on ODSP, and I didn’t get any housing. My name was put on the list in 2007, I think (… ). I don’t what kind of bullshit, but something happened and my file was not on the list. (…) “Street to homes” told they had got to reopen my file.  But one day I have met the manager of Street to homes, and I said: “You are going to get me housing right? You are going to give me the half way program, right away, right?”. Two weeks later I got a call that  the housing connection actually went through the apartment. (…)

F: “And now this Friday you finally got the key…”

R: “Yes, I have to get my furniture, but they still fucked up.  (…) Once I have spent the Welfare cheque (for community start-up) on drugs. Not purposely. That’s what the addiction was. I fucked up, not for me. They said, they would have taken care of it. Then they asked for the half month rent. And I said: “What are you talking about?”. “You were supposed to have money for the half month rent” “No, I thought you were going to take care of that…” (…) They assumed that I still had my cheque and I could afford to pay it. He screwed up majorly now. On the top of that, I need four tokens. “Why?”.  because I have spent the cheque on drugs. “I need  2 tokens to get the furniture and 2 tokens for tomorrow to access my bank account. “We can’t do that. We can only give you two. We can’t help if you have spent all your money on drugs”. And I said, “Listen me, carefully. You are street to homes, right? You deal with homeless people, right? You deal with homeless people with addiction, right? You – of all people –  should know and understand more than anybody else who are the people you are dealing with, people who fucked up! Not intentionally, not purposely, but shit happens because of addiction with alcohol or drugs. You guys should know that and understand that more than anybody and obviously you don’t understand that because you refuse me two more tokens, right? So there is a Lack of understanding and lack of care!(…)You guys fucked up! You of all the people should care and not judge me.(…) It is my problem but it was not my intent, and I had no control when I was high and I had no forethought plan that’s what addiction does. My memory was bad, I thought  I was 100% under control and I was wrong. I have fucked up! Now, you know what is going to happen here. I will tell all of this to the Toronto Star and I say fuck your apartment, Fuck your housing! I go straight to the street, take this 2 tokens, I am gonna spend my money on my fucking smokes. Thanks for your help and see you later. And I have walked out. This was Six years ago in street to home…”

(…) My own bedroom apartment, I have the key now and it wasn’t until 10 years later that they found me on the street. While some of the people who were in the same wood, they went out of the wood in a week or a month, gone! They got housing. A couple of months later, I have never heard from them. I called the Welfare building and I said, what happened? “We forgot about you.”“You have forgot about me, that’s what I thought.”then she realized what she said and changed her statement: “No, I was sick”.

“You told me you forgot about me, you cannot change it and say that you were sick. So cut the bullshit!”

Then I have spent 2 years going back and forth, to drop inns in the morning and in the afternoon. “Oh she is busy with the client”, that’s what they told me…  “She is full for today”. This is what they told me for three years, two different workers, same bullshit on and on and on. Here more people have gone with their lives six years ago, and I had to stay hallucinating, seeing bodies and hearing voices, being tormented and tortured.  And then I tried to go the shelters, after having tried to beat the voices all by my own.  And they tried to offer me help.  I don’t want your fucking help. Because I have to deal with my addiction, with my voices 7/24 and I don’t have YOU to rely on 7/24. I have ME.  Are you going to be there at 4 o’clock in the morning? At 5 pm in the evening? Are you going to be there 7/24? No, I don’t think so. So, I said I have to rely on myself for an answer. And I have all my entire life, I don’t need your help. I do want to find myself stronger so I said Goodnight and thanks for your help. This is my choice, this is the way I believe this had to happen. Others people need your help but I don’t. I am not other people. I am different, my help is from God and angels, ok? I don’t need you.

I have angels all over the world. I was shown that, I was shown that  85% people have good heart,ok?  50% of those 85% have money, the other 50% have don’t have money. But those who have money are only willing to help those who need only if they demonstrate they deserve it and their judgement is 100% correct whether they deserve it or not. In order to deserve it they must have the right attitude, the right approach. If they don’t have it, that’s it that’s how the people see it.(…)

F: “Every person has a different a different story and a particular case, can you identify what is generally the best way to help?”

“I was killing myself and I knew it and I am not afraid of nothing anymore because I know everything I do as a purpose. I am on journey. My journey is my journey not yours. And now that I have been completing the whole circle I have any more fear. I have been on both extremes to the very hands, then I went through hell. Now I am rebuilding the bigger puzzle of why I have lost everything, why I went through all of that, why I have been excluded, why I have not been helped. Why I Have been this and that… Now I realize the whole picture and see it all. I was meant to gone through it. On one hand I was like Jesus.  Jesus is the stronger man alive so I was very strong to walk in his footstep. On the other man I was the weakest human being, very vulnerable. This side nobody could touch me, this other side everybody could abuse me. This side, I have heard the voices of angels, I have walked in light; this side I have heard the voice of evil, I have walked in darkness. I have been to both extremes to the very ends. I have been to heaven, I have seen its gates, I have made it there virtually. Then I went to hell of great filth. Then I didn’t go to hell but I went through hell. I had the vision of monster with 50 layers teeth, and I have seen my spirit in front of them and voices in my head said I was into the realm of death. I was the younger offender of  17-18 years old. My friend called the police and saved my life. In there I couldn’t jump in front of a car, I had a HIT list of 26 people to kill in Canada and worldwide, and I had written down an order… who whose first, the second, and who was the last. Very serious stuff. When I was 9 I tried to kill my uncle, when I was 15 I have tried to kill my manager. I have found a knife in my hand and then I said I want to quit and have left the knife and I quit. This is are my claws, you see. I could kill like this, in one second, cutting the neck. Anyways…I have got the sign, coming out of Saint Paul street, and said “Trust in GoD”. One month and half later I get to the top of the hill in the woods and I got this strong sense that I was going back. I had the sense that I was going to end it.  I put the pipe on the altar, it was not an actual church but a building and the minister told me, “What do you want me to do with that?” and  I said “Just get rid of it”, he said ok.  Then I walked away and I had another craving temptation the second week after that. We were given a message to pray and to give thanks. I had the holy spirit but I had no money and this cause me to grab this little hockey stick and I had the thought to put this on my locker, then I had another thought… Maybe I will give it to some kids. I have found a kid on the way to the church, I have looked at his face and his eye and he knew I had something for him. I reached my bag and I said “this is for you”. That was my kid, through the holy spirit, God guided me and I gave it to him.”

“Then the fourth week, I have spoken tongues. When people do it on their own, they are talking mumbo-jumbo .  That’s bullshit, nonsense. They make everybody else to assume and believe they are talking tongues, they are brainwashing themselves and other doing mumbo-jumbo but is not real. This time it was on my own, through the Holy Spirit. My head went straight like this, and my eyes rolled and tears were coming out from my eyes and I drop in front of the altar, I don’t  know if  that day I knew I was reborn or recreated but I have figured it out.”

“And then on the fifth week (…) I felt I have never did drugs for my whole life and I said wow, I have got a new brain, I am a new child. An adult body with a new brain. “But I am also alive”! The first thing the Devil would do when something good happen is trying discourage you. But I shook  it off my head and I said I will be alright. I have still had some sense from my old self but I still had some common sense from my experiences. So I said I will be alright. Anyways, it was that night, I stood up for the whole week and I was guided to spin around the circle – you get dizzy after a minute and fall down – I was thought by the Holy Spirit how to do that and I could go one hour straight and then walk normally. I could run along the street like that, like a tornado and walk normally.”

F: “How do you feel now that you are getting  a house? Tonight will you sleep there?”

R: “Yeah, I feel I am still battling with myself, battling with my mind, my own addiction, but I don’t mind. Yeah, I can sleep there if I want but I think I won’t … why? I don’t know. Just new, I don’t know. I get furniture, I got some food now. I have no tv, no cable, no phone. I got cigarette, I got food… I should stay there for the night. I got everything. One bedroom, kitchen, bathroom. Finally.

And there is another story behind that It was meant to be by God. The name of the street has the same name of the guy who inspired me three years ago to paint at the Maxwell Meighen. That man was painting with pieces of twisted clinex. When I see him, I got inspired. I was amazed, I was impressed I was like wow! If you could paint that with that. And I am an artist, I have been drawing since I was 9. And I was like wow! You can actually paint that with that. Imagine what I could paint with a brush.

They take me around. I don’t want a roaming house, a shared accommodation. I want a bachelor apartment. They will reimburse you from the ODSP. I don’t like that, why can I pay with a cheque? (…) They said: “If you don’t like that you can go to for meals to the Godshephard. If you don’t like that you can go to the Gateway”.

F: “Is Gateway a shelter better than the others?”

R: “Yes, it is better than the rest. For each shelter different atmosphere, different groups of people, different types. On the same kind of people, like homeless people, but there are different groups, do you know what I mean? Seaton House has more drugatics and alcoholics, more schizophrenia, blindness, mental illness, stuff like that.  You have everything there. It’s the biggest in town. Then you have Maxwell Meighen: drugs and alcoholics, but less. More people who just smoke marijuana and some people who just do nothing. Then, Gateway is a lot  less “–atics” and less drugs around the place than the Maxwell Meighen. It’s lot safer than the others. So I have started at the first place, then I went to the second place, and It was like taking a step forward. And then when I went to the Gateway  I was like taking a step forward, and I didn’t plan it that way. He plan it that way.”

He makes us think it is our own thinking, but is Him to put the thought in our minds to get us where he want us to go, to get us to do what he wants, , to get us to meet  who he wants, , to get us to say what he wants. Bu the Beauty of all, he makes us feel we are the one to do it. He is really the one in control, but people don’t see that.

F: “So he is in control of everything?”

R: “Yes, everything is planned and laid down. We are who we are because our mother and father, We are who we are also for their mother and father, we are also who we are for their mother and father, and so on and so forth. Do you know how much work Jesus and the Angels had to do since the beginning of times connecting couples, so that every single person he wants born because their DNA’s match, exists? That’s a lot of work. He had to pay attention to everything they do, everywhere they go.”

F: “One last question, Any of those place where you have been so far feels like home to you (shelters, parks…)?”

R: “No, I don’t even know how feels like to be at home anymore. I have lost the sense of home, I have lost my family, I don’t even call my brother for 15 years; I don’t even called my sister for six years. The only reason I have seen here six years ago is because she visited me in the jail. I was in and out of jail since I was 12, young offenders, but the whole think about it? This has not stopped the power of God. All the stuff I have been through, all the staff I have done, was part of his plan. Without the jail, without the street, without the connection with people, without the drugs, I wouldn’t be who I am. Without all that negativity, I wouldn’t have a positivity. There is a balance for everything.”

Ron: “From my experience, from all the shelters I have been to in Toronto and all the Out of The Cold program, which is a church that provide shelter one night a week, provide supper, breakfast, whatever… Every Thursday, Every Thursday, every Friday, every Friday. This burns you down, because you go from one church to another every single night, especially if you are bringing a luggage. And the government do not see this and do not want to open anymore shelters, right? More shelter for people, especially for woman, because there are enough. They think they have enough space, but they don’t.”

“My analysis on the shelter, is that there are all homeless people are people who lost their apartment, and  there are as well decent people who go to the shelter from a break on the street and there are trying to get a home. So (the shelter) it is like a half way from the street to getting a home. And then there is the other side of the coin, there is people who lose their apartment and go to the shelter because they don’t want to go to the street. Sometimes they stay too long and if they don’t get help they need, then they end up to the street. Because their addiction is taken even further from the shelters too the street, you know, and maybe eventually they come back to the shelters and they try to get a place. It depends from the person choices, it depends how deep they are with their addiction. What stage they are at in their life, you know what I mean? It’s all kind of difference.”

F: “So are the shelters parts of the solution to homelessness?”

R: “Is it part of a solution it’s important in a big way. The shelters helps people to get themselves together so that they get housing,  and people who lost their housing can go to the shelter instead of going to the street and if they are on a snowball effect with issues that they have and they are going on a downward spiral with their drug addiction then they may end up on the street too. So it is the middle ground from being on the street is a necessity what the world does need but they need more of it. More shelters.

Now 100% of shelters are full. Out of the Cold (which starts in november) it’s always full when they open. when they close and they are always full when they open. This tells you what?  that a lot of people are on the street but they don’t want to be on the street . and if it is summertime and they don’t want to put up with the rules and regulations, so they wait until winter and they choose to go to Out of the Cold because they don’t feel in same environment. You see the same staff, walls people, you don’t want that. They prefer to change.”

F: “People like that?”

R: “They want a change every day… some people like that. It’s because they got adapted to it, and now that’s all they know, they don’t know anything else. They don’t want to be there, they like that routine. But with that routine, staying outside, and going to Out of the Cold during the winter going to different churches every night, in and out. Carrying that entire luggage to different churches every night, even though they adapted to it, they are used to it. They get over the fact of who much it involves. With that way of life there is no help for housing for them unless they go to different agencies or some people from an agency find them and it’s a lot of work for them to find everybody. It would be easy if when they go to the out of the cold program they said “Listen, do you want housing?” But they don’t do that. I mean other agencies that help through housing should go to those places and say: “Listen, do you want housing? So come tomorrow morning. But they don’t do that.” It’s basically, you find out about those places only if you hear from somebody else talking, words of mouth. I didn’t hear from none of the agencies until 8 years later. I have never heard a thing from them. I didn’t even know where to find these places (…)”

F: “Do you find a community in the shelters and places like that?”

R: “Yeah, in every shelter there is different way of doing things. (…)Some places have less –atics or have not at all. it’s like people who go to work and then get back to find an housing, depends what the person wants, where they stands in their life. Some people say is up to the person and they can change their life every time they want… well yes and no. Sometimes their addiction it’s stronger of what they want. The shelters do help people, but people have to be willing to help themselves, they have to be in the right place within themselves to want that help. When you are afraid, discouraged, there is a lot of stuff that’s keep people rocked up in it.”

F: “Out of the city there are still places where you can meet people and fell in a community out of the established system?”

R: “Even outside you have people you can connect with, friends. Sometimes they are not your friend. is coming out from the fact not everybody is buddy with everybody. Sometime it’s just you get along as long you have money and drugs. For some people who have drug addiction is one party, a party which never ends, and when they decide to walk away from that party, the party life, they are mainly in these conditions, on the street or in the shelter until they find that they finally had enough and an organization kicks in addiction. If I need to do something now I can do it, this don’t mean I am truly free now, but I will.”

F: “Where would you like to go where you would be fully free?”

“If you are truly free doesn’t have to mean where I am. Flying from evil and spirit again, being on the top of the world, getting high on drugs, don’t having to worry about where you sleep at night. Worrying about nothing.  That’s free. What you gonna sleep, get food, that’s living life, being free, when you do that, He takes care of it. Don’t having to worry about nothing of it and leaving that behind, just like Jesus did.  Even if I am without a home, and I don’t worry about where I eat, shower and so on, that’s free but is not  free because the addiction is still there. Is kind of free but is not free. It’s a different type of free. I am still working towards. I don’t care about one apartment but I care about my heart, my soul and the Spirit. The power of the spirit is being capable of everything and nothing is impossible. To be empowered by god and by the Holy Spirit. People think they have no clue about  how he manifests and how beautiful and marble but I have actually walked in the spirit and realized its full potential and see that nothing is impossible. And when you know that, then you realize that everything is possible and no matter what you wanna do, you can do it. What you wanna accomplish, you can accomplish. The ability to solve problem with the blink of an eye, that’s powerful. To have the ability (…) to be called 100 years ahead of your life time, that’s powerful. “

ART AND MONEY

Ron is an artist. He has been selling his paintings on the street for years. We are having a engaged discussion about art with Hossein at the Tim Horton next to the Grange, after they asked us to leave the shelter.

F: “So, Ron, What would you like to say to those who are just passing by and do not see your art?”

R: “There are people who like art, people who don’t, whatever. What I don’t like is how wealthy people they walk down by me and they don’t even pay attention. They MAY take a glance, ok? Here is the thing that gets me: when a person is alive and they are selling their art. A lot of wealthy people with money don’t even give me the time a day (to appreciate it). One in a 100% or 1000% may say that’s beautiful… But then you see artist like Picasso (… )after he is dead and gone and all of a sudden this rich people want all his painting and when he was alive they never gave me the fucking time of a day… How do I know that? Because I am a street artist and I see that. If they can’t give me the time a day when I am alive then they don’t deserve it to have my paintings when I am dead and gone. Because when I was out there and I was hungry and thirsty and I needed money for a coffee, they didn’t gave me the time a day, what gives them the right If I become famous, when I am dead and gone? Just because they have a million dollar? And they cannot even say “You know what, that’s pretty good” “good job! Or Something!”– one on 1000 would say that! So what gives them the right? Just because they have money?

“I will tell you why: IGNORANTS at its bests! So, with that respect, I think I deserve a piece of pie while I am alive. They want to invest in me when I am gone, but they will have to invest while I am still alive. Because my prices will go up to the roof… and they will have to give the money to me.”

“They don’t want to give me money because my prices are low- it’s street art. But when they go to a store and they see something with a high price, then they see something that cost 600 dollars, they forgot they saw art for 30 dollars and, all of the sudden, “ this is beautiful!”.  Just because is in their price range. So, if that’s the analogy of it all, then I just need to raise my prices and eventually I will be of interest to them. Because my prices will go up to the roof, but not until I will get a little bit better. I have got these marks, I want the average person who is coming from the same walk of life, like me, to have it. Most of my painting are below 100 bucks but sometimes I had to down my prices even below. If one painting  worth 40 but someone says I have just 20 dollars, “sssshhhh, take it!”

“One day an artist told me: “You get 300 hundreds for that.” Then a guy came to me:  “Is that for sale?” Give me at least 100, one third of its value!” “I will give you 20 bucks, because I really love it and really appreciate it.” “No way,  I will drop to 80…to 60….get 2 for 40 at the least!” “It’s my girlfriend money… so I will give you just 20 bucks.” And he got it.  He made me sign my phone number on the back of the painting. The next day I receive a call from the lady who found the painting, because the guy forgot it on a street car. She owns an artstore on Queen. I would like to return on the painting but she said she would like to expose it on her artstore for about a week but she never called me back… I didn’t care because I had already sold the painting!”

HOSSEIN:  “That was a message of you. You get the value of the art part. Art for art. The money that he gave you is what he could afford.  Art is of who give value to it. That is the best message. Everything happen for a reason. (…)If you want to be rich you have to think rich”.  Rich people, they do what they told them (…)  They would pay 1000 dollar for this story… “this person was homeless and then he became this and this and that.” That’s rich people mentality.

RON: “Living in a shelter and staff like that, I cannot expose in a gallery(… )But It’s the story behind it. People love somebody who could come back hard and strong from something that was devastating… I know that I am that person. Some artist were considered mad man because they were highly intelligent when they were younger, but then they have been considered crazy (…) and the reason because this happened is because of balance. Everything has a balance. If you go up, eventually you have to come down. (…)I think people who are artist, now they know why a person become famous…. Become they go crazy or nutts, and this happened because when they were young they were highly intelligent”.

CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!

STAFF: “No picture, sir. Or we could get in trouble. They shut this building down!!!”

R: “He understand that”

F: “ of course!”

STAFF: “Come on, guys finish up and go”

R: “3 more second. “

F: “Ron look at me, I can send all of this to you! You need to have the picture of your art”

STAFF: “I am getting complaints about different things and I don’t like it. Come on!”

“(…)I want to be able to prove it, being capable of doing what I am capable of. .. someone can write a book about my life! Are you going to here next Sunday?”

LATER AT TIM HORTON’S:

HOSSEIN:”Art is a gift that has been given to you and you give this gift to others as a gift, after you are gifted you give as a gift the money that you can have. Mainly art is a gift that is given to you and you give back. So this is a revolution compared to money.  Artist was gifted to himself. To me this is the value of art. From somebody who does it, to somebody who evaluate it.  This is the value of the art. You cannot price it, the price is when somebody appreciate and recognize it and then see the feelings that the art gives. This is my understanding.

Ron: “My name is Raponzo the Sunshine King. My first painting I sold didn’t come until I gave away two of my paintings. And I believe this was a moment, in which I opened the door, I broke the eyes and I was all on my way. I had three of the same paintings and I gave 2 away, one to a friend of mine, the second one to my fisiotherapist . But, the same night, I have sold the last one for 40 bucks to a native guy, and it was because of that.. I am partly native too, I am irish native French . I break the ice. I don’t think it was a coincidence – but a message- that a native guy bought my art.  Also about that was the number 3, and that also had some meaning. I think there is something poetic about the three sides of it. (…) There were three sizes, the large and the small version, then the one that I have sold is the middle version. Balance in between both.”

H: “Everything in this world, only when it is in balance makes sense. Everything that is unbalanced has something wrong.”