Their Shoes #30

I met Ken as he reached for the chocolate chip croissants at the shelter. Enthralled by his conversation, I forgot to ask where he received his shoes, as in posts #1-29.

What is your biggest struggle with poverty on a daily basis?

“It’s seeing that anyone else who is struggling with poverty is okay. I want to help people out any way that I can. I’m on Ontario Works right now. Soon, I’ll be on Disability. But, I’m bright. I took courses from my living room—over the internet—from universities in New Zealand and China, as well as the University of Windsor and St. Clair College. I’ve learned nine trades so far. I’ve got the tickets to prove it, including explosive and detonation tickets. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I like to help others out with their situations.”

“I started second stage housing—a tent city—in Maple Ridge, B.C. after a homeless shelter closed. It was supposed to be a peer program. To support each other. There were 40 tents and 80 campers at the end of Cliff Avenue. This was  also to protest the lack of affordable housing. It’s known as ‘Anita Place’. Named after my wife who had passed away. She was found upside down in a clothing donation box. She’d been trying to retrieve a jacket and blanket for another homeless person.”

What would you like people to know about living in poverty?

“Let me give you a scenario how easily it can happen to a family. A man works full-time. A 9-5 job. The man comes home and drinks a bit . Then, the drinking gets more and more frequent. He ends up missing work because of his drinking addiction. Soon, he loses his job. The family has to go on welfare. A lot of poverty-stricken families start because of addictions. The mental stress leads to arguments between the couple. The relationship they had where they depended on each other fades. The addict needs to be fixed in order for the family to crawl out of that hole. The arguing becomes intense. In the first ten minutes of any argument, the bond of trust and love is crushed. The family has lost half of its dignity. The man leaves the family. The woman can’t make ends meet without her breadwinner. The couple end up losing their kids. It could be temporary. They need to know they have to fix the situation in order to re-gain custody of them. A decision has to be made: is the addiction a higher need or are the children? The man gets in trouble with the law. He’s lost all of his dignity. He has mental health issues. Now, the decision has to be made to try to regain the love and trust of the family unit before hitting rock-bottom or the couple will both end up on the street. The man and the wife will continue to struggle until they realize what they had, where they went wrong, and then they must climb that ladder together to get out of the hole. Or they hit rock-bottom.”

“Did this happen to me? A similar scenario…my wife was working as an advocate with the Salvation Army for six years and I was a trucker. Until I started using crack cocaine. I knew enough not to drive at the same time so that job was put up on the shelf. But, yes, there are similarities.”

“I ended up back in Ontario because my three daughters are here. I’m very proud of them. They all graduated from grade 12 and are doing well. Had further schooling, have jobs, and one of them is married now. Three daughters: ages 30, 31 and 32. I don’t live with any of them. I’m sort of a rolling stone; a rock ‘n roll guy. I don’t stay in any place for too long. I come into this shelter to see if I can help anyone. Help’s there if you’re looking for it.”

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