Chris was getting released from the hospital and had nowhere to go. He had heard about Larry’s Place but no beds were readily available.
“I was waiting for a couple months,” says Chris, “they just didn’t have the space.”
He called Larry’s Place almost every day to inquire about an available spot.
He was afraid to go back to the shelters in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie or in southern Ontario. He did not feel safe.
Chris is now proud to say he is sober but he is a recovering addict. He has been sober for over two years.
“Even though I have been sober for a long time, the homelessness takes a lot out of you.”
At the peak of his addiction, he was using crystal meth. Traumatic life experiences brought him to that point. He didn't choose to become addicted to crystal meth or to become homeless.
“A lot of people choose it (homelessness) because it’s easier, but a lot of f—-ing people don’t,” he said.
He has experimented with other drugs and alcohol but it wasn’t the same high that crystal meth gave him.
Crystal meth helped him create temporary happiness and dull the pain he was experiencing.
“When I wanted to get high, I wanted to feel up and not depressed,” he said.
Like other people's stories, Chris's started from personal trauma.
He has lived homeless in other cities across Canada, too.
He has seen a partner commit suicide, lost custody of a child, and has been physically assaulted while staying in shelters across our country.
A previous shelter experience includes being housed in a room with 40 other men, having his personal belongings stolen and being stabbed with dirty needles.
He has had to have someone remove the broken tips of dirty needles lodged in his skin from these assaults.
“I can’t even imagine going back,” says Chris, “You never forget the face of someone who stabs you with a used needle just because they want to.”
“When I was really heavily using, and sleeping outside, it wasn't for just a short time…once I was outside for seven months."
“I get the stigma. I lived it. But we (homeless people) are all not the same,” Chris said. “I put so much energy into not looking like I am homeless.”
“People wouldn’t look at me and think I was a junkie.”
Chris was informed when he got to Larry’s Place that it was only available for a month.
“I had no idea about the shelter, I thought it was a whole totally different type of place, this is a nice shelter, you have a nice roof over your head, you have people who you can semi-trust”
One issue Chris pointed to was a lack of any long-term things for people in the shelter and of resources for men.
He said the system is broken and that vulnerable people need help. They need the government to provide suitable resources for recovery and stability.
Chris said he knows that his journey for the rest of his life is his responsibility.
He has learned to hold himself accountable for his past behaviour. He understands that his actions have directly and indirectly hurt others.
Chris says that when you are in that spiral and using drugs, it’s difficult to pull yourself out. It’s hard to have rational thoughts when all of the contributing factors are also wreaking havoc on your mental health.
Access to resources available through sparse government funding have helped him understand how to do this.
Larry’s Place has helped provide him with some necessary support to help stabilize his life.
Brentwood Recovery Home, a detox centre in Windsor, Ontario also played an integral part. The program focuses on teaching an addict what they do to other people.
“Brentwood is one of the hardest rehabs in Canada and I have done it seven times," he said. "It is the hardest program but it teaches you that you have no excuses and it teaches you responsibility for your actions.”
He believes that years of using hard drugs have worsened symptoms of schizophrenia or meth-induced psychosis.
“I never knew that was the cost of shooting drugs for all that time,” he said.
Now that he knows the consequences of his drug abuse, he feels that he would have tried to cope differently.
“If I knew it would cause this to me, I would have never used. It’s scary. Very scary.”
He also says that “In the deepest part of my addiction, nobody would actually believe the stories that I have.”
Chris has great plans for his future. He will be leaving Larry’s Place shortly and will be supported by shelter staff and move on to second-stage housing.
He is returning to school for a second career in a field that excites him. He also plans on getting his driver's license, something that he has always wanted to do.
“Larry’s Place has been such a good place and they have an amazing staff…they have such a great team, and nobody really knows that.”
Chris has nothing but kind words about his experience at Larry’s Place.
He is grateful for the shelter helping him, not only for providing a roof but also for the other services they offer.
He is excited that they have helped with a basic service such as getting his birth certificate back after it had been stolen at a previous shelter.
“If I ever need anything, to better my situation, the staff at Larry’s Place is at my disposal, they will do whatever they need to do, especially to help you keep sober.”