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Visions Journal

I’ve Made It Through and You Can Too

Floyd Austin

Reprinted from the Families, Friends and Substance Abuse issue of Visions Journal, 2024, 19 (2), pp. 38-39

Floyd Austin, author of I’ve Made It Through and You Can Too

This narrative comes from an interview between Floyd and Nicole Johnston, from the Mood Disorders Association of BC, a branch of Lookout Housing and Health Society.

At age 10, Floyd and his family made a pivotal move to Canada. The transition came with its own set of difficulties. In this new country, he confronted the harsh realities of racial identity, bullying and isolation. His father's disapproval and his mother's inability to shield him left lasting emotional scars that would shape his future. 

One defining aspect of Floyd’s life was his ongoing battle with a severe sleeping disorder. He could only manage two hours of sleep, leaving him restless and awake throughout the night. This chronic sleeplessness played a big role in some of the choices he would make later on. 

As he matured, he started to rebel against his circumstances. He ventured into the late-night streets of Winnipeg, immersing himself in the city's nightlife. This journey led him to the fringes of society, where he looked for connections that often eluded him. He soon realized that, with his unique background and education, finding true acceptance in these circles was a daunting task. 

In pursuit of excitement and quick money, he got entangled in drug-related activities. However, he discovered that this lifestyle did not align with his true self. Despite the allure of drugs and easy cash, he felt like an outsider in a world that didn't fully understand him. 

His early work experiences were unremarkable. He toiled as a delivery person. During this time, he crossed paths with a woman who inspired him to strive for more in life. Unfortunately, their relationship faltered and he found himself on a path of self-destruction. In his relentless quest for self-improvement, he made numerous attempts at treatment and recovery. Yet, he found out that true recovery required a level of personal commitment that he struggled to find within himself. 

His journey eventually led him to relocate from Winnipeg to BC. This transition brought its own share of challenges. For about two decades, he experienced the hardships of couch surfing, never truly having a place to call his own. His time was marked by a series of temporary shelters, moving from one place to another and a perpetual feeling of not belonging. 

Despite the turmoil, he managed to find stability in his work as a recycling truck worker, enduring a four-hour daily commute to maintain the job. He continues in that role to this day. His determination to remain employed and his resilience in overcoming addiction showcased the inner strength that defined him. 

He has also navigated a complex family dynamic in BC after moving in with his traumatized sister, an elderly gentleman and that man’s son. 

Even with these seemingly insurmountable hardships, he’s shown unwavering resilience. He’s persevered through the darkest of times, battling addiction and societal expectations. Despite the odds stacked against him, he has strived for a better future, seeking connections and support, even when they’ve felt elusive. He once went to treatment though the Salvation Army, for example, but still lacked support afterwards. 

His story underscores the deeply personal nature of recovery, which is fraught with challenges and setbacks. Yet, through it all, his determination to rebuild his life serves as a powerful reminder that the human spirit can overcome even the most daunting circumstances. His experiences have shaped him, but they haven't defined him. His resilience and enduring hope shine through as a beacon of inspiration to all those who hear his story. 

Floyd has also provided some personal insights that might help others.

Here are some words of motivation I want to share with others about how complex homelessness is:

Life ain't simple: My own experiences have shown me homelessness is so much more than just lacking a place to crash for the night. It's a complicated web of challenges we need to unravel to make a difference. 

Show some heart: It's high time we looked past the stereotypes to see the people behind the labels. Homelessness doesn't define who we are; it's just a chapter in our lives. A little empathy and understanding can go a long way in making this journey less arduous. 

Hope's real: No matter how deep you find yourself in the abyss, there's always a glimmer of hope. My story is a testament to the fact that with determination and the right support, you can turn things around. Believing in yourself is the first step to rewriting your story. 

Full-on support: Homelessness isn't a battle that can be won alone. It's not just about providing shelter; it's about addressing the root causes—addiction, mental health, unemployment and unaffordable housing. We need comprehensive support systems to rebuild our lives. 
Inner grit matters: When you hit rock bottom, it's your inner strength that can pull you through. My journey was a constant reminder that even in the darkest of times, you possess the power to endure and overcome. 

It takes a village: Communities play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of those experiencing homelessness. My story wouldn't be the same without the friends and compassionate souls who offered their support. Being part of a caring community can be the turning point in someone's life. 

A challenging reality in BC: Finding support in BC has been an uphill battle for many individuals experiencing homelessness, myself included. The discouraging truth is that without a couch to sleep on at my sister's place, turning my life around would have been next to impossible. It's a stark reminder of the dire need for accessible and effective support systems. 

My path through homelessness has taught me that it's a multi-dimensional challenge involving not only the absence of shelter, but also a myriad of intertwined issues. To tackle homelessness effectively, we must provide holistic support. It's about recognizing the resilience and potential within each individual, understanding their unique journey and offering a helping hand to guide them towards a brighter future.

About the author

Floyd’s life has been a turbulent odyssey filled with trials and profound transformations. Born into a mixed-race family in England, his early years were marked by challenges that set the stage for a remarkable journey

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