For thirty years, James struggled with manic depression and alcoholism. He’d take odd jobs to make ends meet, but when they became scarce he’d lose his housing and hit the hostels. Eventually, James succumbed to battle fatigue and, unable to fight anymore, ended up on the streets.
Fast forward to today: James now has a warm home and is an active member in his community. He volunteers twice a week at local charities doing maintenance work. One year ago, James was helped off the street by an outreach initiative and referred to us here at Homes First. He has had a permanent home ever since.
With a roof over his head, James is able to focus on tackling his other issues again. Having just celebrated his sixtieth birthday last month, James can attest that it’s never too late to start over. He now receives treatment for his manic depression and has support for his substance use. He meets weekly with two psychiatrists and a social worker.
Having lived rough for so long has taken its toll. James can no longer work and receives financial help from the Ontario Disability Support Program. Yet as he enters his senior years, he isn’t ready to sit idle.
“If I can’t go work for cash, I can pay back with volunteer work,” he says. He decided to join our Hearts and Hands Volunteer Program, an integrated two-way initiative connecting our residents with volunteer opportunities and matching community members with opportunities at Homes First.
James met with Sharon, a volunteer herself who helps our residents find volunteer opportunities. “She helped me find the type of work I was looking for. My line is maintenance, so I do that better.”
With Hearts and Hands, James was able to find volunteer positions with the Yonge Street Mission and Habitat for Humanity. While James had to retire early, volunteering has given him a renewed sense of purpose and pride.