Oliver had a steady job and was a proud single father for a long time. A few years ago, there were a series of sad events in Oliver’s life, all at the same time: his former partner fought for custody and he ended up losing the child he had raised, his mother died, and he witnessed a murder – an experience that left him traumatized. All of this took a significant toll on Oliver, and he struggled with severe depression. He says that drug abuse was the only way to numb the pain, and it was getting harder and harder to stop … to come back. And he became homeless.
On one occasion, he recalls being arrested. Although he begged the officer who arrested him to loosen the handcuffs, the officer closed them so tightly that they broke his arm. They left him handcuffed for 4 hours before someone noticed how badly his arm was swollen. He was released without anyone making sure that his arm received adequate treatment, and, due to his addiction, he never followed the proper treatment for his injury, which caused a long term injury.
After years of using drugs and not having a home, someone referred him to St Felix Centre. At the Centre, he found the support and compassion he needed to overcome his addiction; he got housed and even found a new job. Unfortunately, for people like Oliver – who have experienced years of sleeping on the streets and feeling abandoned – it takes a lot of time and support to feel comfortable again in a home and as part of a community, and Oliver had some trouble adapting to his new environment. To make matters worse, he fell off his bicycle and broke his arm in the same place as his old injury. He could no longer work because of the pain (he was fixing bicycles) and ended up on the street again.
But Oliver wanted to get out of the cycle of poverty, so he returned to St Felix Centre – a place that he knows will not turn their back on him. He is currently receiving the support he needs to recover. He says he understands that people can feel frightened and frustrated when they have to share spaces with people suffering from homelessness, mental illness and/or addiction, but he also understands that none of those individuals chose to be in that situation. “Some of us are ready to make some changes, and other people are not there yet; they need places like St Felix Centre … We need places like the St Felix Centre! I do not know what would happen to many of these people if the Centre did not exist. They would probably be dead very soon.”
We asked Oliver if there was anything else he wanted us to say for him, and he added: “Please, tell people not to give up on us. Give us a chance, because we need you. We know that sometimes we do not seem to deserve your patience and compassion, but we are only humans on a difficult journey. Please do not give up, give us the opportunity.”
We will never give up, Oliver… We are here for you.