Column: Creating a home & new stories of caring

Paul has never strayed very far from his roots in the Tri-Cities.

Paul has never strayed very far from his roots in the Tri-Cities.

At an early age, he discovered the allure of drugs and friends with similar tastes. At age 10, he was smoking marijuana. And by 19, he was into hard drugs and partying all night.

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He found steady work as a painter and was soon able to purchase a house and truck. But addiction snuck up on him and gradually took over his life.

When a rooming house he was managing was overrun by other addicts, he retreated to the Coquitlam River and set up housekeeping for several years in a tent where he would be left alone. But although he was aware of the harms he was causing to himself, he was unable to stop using drugs — by now, he was using heroin. To feed himself, he resorted to stealing from local supermarkets and at one point was caught and sentenced to a year’s probation.

Rock bottom occurred when Paul was hospitalized for minor surgery that became life-threatening due to the effects on his body of the chronic use of drugs and alcohol.

But timing was on his side: The homeless shelter and transitional housing facility had just opened at 3030 Gordon Ave. in Coquitlam and a social worker at the hospital introduced Paul to the manager. Now, Paul is living in a transitional suite and he has reconnected with his family, regained control of his life and is developing a new sense of home at the shelter. 

What does “home” mean to you?

To most of us it is more than a physical space, a roof over our head. It is a place of safety, warmth and security, a place where we hang our hats and keep our memories, a place for family.

Imagine, just for a minute, how you would live without a home. How would you make it to work each day? Or find work? Where would your children do their homework? Where would you sleep? And what about your belongings, things that are necessary and important to you — where would you keep them? 

At 3030 Gordon Ave., people from the street are provided the opportunity and support to find “home” once again. Nights of safety and warmth, hot food and clean clothes, and above all someone actually showing them care and respect, can be transformative for persons who have been living on the street. It provides the foundation for a person to rediscover their courage and restore their lives. From a Tri-Cities outreach worker, Sometimes, all we need to do is plant a seed and something a lot more powerful makes it grow and prosper.

--Sandy Burpee is co-chair of the Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group and a longtime advocate for homeless people.

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STORIES FROM THE STREET OCT. 19

• Want to know more? Attend “Stories from the Street,” an evening of music and stories told by people with experiences of life on the street on Wednesday, October 19, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Coquitlam Public Library’s City Centre branch, 1169 Pinetree Way. Learn how you can help create new stories at 3030 Gordon Ave., where stories of healing and hope begin. The evening is free, but advance registration is required as space is limited. Please leave a message on the library’s registration line, 604-937-4155.

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