And my life thereafter ...
Reprinted from "Housing and Homelessness" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (1), p. 25
I've been on and off the streets for eight years. Street life is emotional. It breaks my heart to see very young kids (12 to 14 years old) starting to use hard drugs.
When I first came to be on the streets, I was 19 years old (I'm now 26). I was doing drugs such as LSD, pot and alcohol, and my parents tried to help me stop. But I didn't listen to their rules. So I went to live on the streets.
And I should tell you - I have a mental disorder. At age eight I was put on medication for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and ever since have struggled with ADD, addiction, depression, anxiety, psychosis - you name it.
On the streets of Vancouver, I was introduced to crystal meth, which was very fun at first. After a while meth lost its appeal, but by that time, drugs had a powerful grip on me.
Lots of other people I knew would get me to do drugs with them for free, because I was a fun person to be around when I was high. Sometimes they'd get me to get high with them because they knew that if they shared with me when I had no drugs, I'd be more likely to share with them when they had none.
When I was using drugs, I'd stay up for days at a time. I'd do different things to get my drugs: panhandle, dumpster dive, watch over other people's stuff while they were busy. Most of the time I'd get the drugs I was looking for by 'streetcombing' for objects I could trade.
There was more to being homeless than just the drugs. There were gangs, violence and other things like that. I've had a couple of close calls with death. I've had other street people pull weapons on me - guns, canes, swords and knives. Sometimes I'd witness situations that were very dangerous and disturbing - like a person getting beaten up by a group of people.
And some of the personal relationships I forged led to me getting hurt. I've been manipulated by people I thought were my friends, but who turned into enemies I didn't want in my life any more. To this day, it's hard for me to trust new people.
Right now I'm living in the South Hills Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre1 in Kamloops, working toward placement in a family home. I lived on my own for a while, but was too lonely and would go looking for social contact and usually end up in trouble again. But I've been sober for almost a year. I volunteer at an organic garden and at the SPCA. And I have hope that my life will get better and better.
About the author
Vance moved to Kelowna to escape the drug scene in Vancouver. He's working toward a better life and healing his relationship with his parents.
- South Hills: www.interiorhealth.ca