Even with a walking cane and heavy limp, Richer’s attitude outshines his adversity. He survived a car accident over a year ago but is still grappling with a difficult recovery. He travelled to Toronto in search of better housing options while attending rehabilitation. His French accent remains the only clue that he’s not local to the area, but at Scarborough Shelter, Richer’s adamant that he’s found a “great sense of community, where people are really nice”.
Richer was previously housed at a different shelter where he was the victim of repeated theft. Since transitioning to Homes First six months ago, he feels safe and supported. “I really like it here. People help me out.”
In his first week of settling in, he decided to give the art program a try. He wholeheartedly credits the program volunteer, who is one of last year’s Wanda’s Art Awards recipients, for peaking his interest. “I never did art before. Danika helped me out and got me involved and surprisingly I really loved it. Before, I never believed that I could do it – but now I don’t think I’ll ever stop.” Richer attends the weekly instruction with keen attention to the guidance provided in class. Outside of class, he allows an unbridled imagination to dictate his hand.
He’s never quite sure what the final product will look like but he enjoys the space this artistic practice creates, both structurally and psychologically. “The art program helps me cope because you get into your own little world, you feel calm, and you can forget about everything and just enjoy the moment. It’s incredible.”
This newfound expression has also provided him with additional confidence and a greater sense of self-esteem. Richer maintains that the program has changed and empowered him. This strength is evident when he proudly poses for a photo with his painting.
Richard isn’t completely sure what medium he’ll pursue since they each have their merits, but right now he enjoys the aesthetic of sketching with charcoal. When asked what he would do with the WAA bursary, his response is simple: “Any supplies to further my art – papers, pencils, erasers and a sketchpad. But I’m just truly, truly grateful to be nominated.”
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