Richard’s shoes were donated to him by the shelter. He wears size 14 shoes which are difficult to find.
What is your biggest struggle with poverty on a daily basis?
“That would be just trying to cope with everything.”
“I’ve had flat feet all my life. But, I developed pain in my foot way back when I was in the air force. There was a cyst on my foot. The surgery was to be a simple one but the doctor made an error. A big error. I required further surgery and my foot has never been the same.”
“The air force kicked me out for being a “sexual deviate”. Do you know what that term meant? It meant I was a homosexual. They had me undergo peer counselling. It was different times back then.”
“When I returned from the military, my mother had passed away. I had to deal with that on top of it all. Not being allowed to attend my own mother’s funeral. Can you imagine?”
“After the air force, I worked at one of the big three automotive companies. I was hit in the right hip by an industrial magnet. My safety helmet and glasses flew off and I struck a beam. It was all hush-hush. The company stood to lose a million dollars in workman’s comp premiums if the accident was reported.”
“In 1972, I went through a bad divorce. My wife left me, taking with her all five kids. She moved out West. I have six great grand-children now. It’s lonely. I talk to them when I can. And, whenever I see little children, I talk to them. Makes me feel better.”
“2014 was a bad year. My sister and my best friend died. My son returned home to live with me on Sept. 2, 2014. He died the following March.”
“Because he died at home, I called 911 for help. When the authorities came, the police deemed my place unsafe. I was scrutinized and called a “hoarder”. I was a flea market vendor so I stored a lot of things in my home. A social worker and a police officer from the COAST program paid me a visit. I refused a fire marshal entry to my home. They took my stuff- enough of it anyways to call my home “safe”- and it set me back $6,000. $5,000 worth of items and $1,000 to pay the cost for removal. Plus, I had to pay for my son’s funeral.”
“I still live in my house. Yes, I own a house. It’s a very small place but it’s a house nonetheless. I can’t cook anymore because of my memory and because I’m easily distracted. I’m 78 years old. I used a hot plate for a while but once smoke developed in my home. So, I stopped that, too.”
“I’m depressed. Everything happens to me (Richard said this with a chuckle). My big fridge quit. My hot water tank quit. My stove won’t work anymore. And, the transmission went on my washing machine. I use cold water to wash up now. That’s all I have.”
What would you like people to know about living in poverty?
“Let people know that they have to realize there’s help out there. There’s agencies like this one that will give you clothing. Don’t be so proud to not ask for help. It does people good to help you too.”
“I’m 78 now. I cope by keeping myself busy. I attend New Song Church. I come to this centre. There’s friendship and comradery here. I donate things I have from my home. I’ve donated over 150 pairs of socks. Plus, 75 sport shirts and 75 dress shirts.”
“We have to help each other.”