Month: October 2014

Free Radical.

Hey, you'd look this haggard and p?ssed off too after 10 days without a good night's sleep. Video from the Save The Out Of The Cold Protest, held October 27th, 2014 at Kitchener City Hall
Hey, you’d look this haggard and p?ssed off too after 10 days without a good night’s sleep. Video from the Save The Out Of The Cold Protest, held October 27th, 2014 at Kitchener City Hall

What a lousy 10 days this has been!

It all started when my CouchSurfing.org hosts for both Kitchener and Elmira had to back out of hosting me for the last two weeks of October. The former was not specific except to say a “situation came up” while the latter required a repair in the basement where a cot was set up for me to stay. When a hosting problem like this happens while I am in the tri-city area (Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge), I call a couple I know in Cambridge that has agreed in the past to host me. This time around, they were not able to assist, and I didn’t hold it against them. Stuff happens.

I still have a problem, though. I needed a place to stay from October 19th to the end of the month. I didn’t have any money to stay at a hotel, nor did I want to use the remaining days I had at The House of Friendship in case I needed them for winter days around -30 C  (-22 F). I needed to find a way to get through 12 days of being outside with no place to go.

I remembered my past discussions with those in the social services sector and also great comments from a few followers of my blog, and from there compiled a plan. I would take a series of bus-naps between 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. that get me some sleep, and from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. I would keep myself busy. After 6:00 a.m. I would take a few more naps on the bus and the local libraries to round things out, then conduct a job search later in the morning. Dressed for the weather, and carrying around some clean clothes and an older laptop, I began the task at hand.

The first day was not too difficult, but after the second day I began to feel the initial effects of not having a normal sleep cycle. While my body was getting some kind of rest, I was not sleeping deep enough to enter a REM period, so I started becoming foggy-headed. I also had trouble trying to keep myself occupied with a book and a radio between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and that would have been a problem had I not found a 24-hour Tim Horton’s and a 24-hour McDonald’s with Wi-Fi to surf the Internet and watch YouTube programming. I highly recommend The Four Horsemen and the Top 10’s of…well, anything, from WatchMojo in case you want to stay up all night.

After the third night, I began to experience nosebleeds, which was a mystery. I was eating properly (well, as properly as being outdoors can allow) and was taking a vitamin supplement to cover any nutritional holes. It was only when I realized the air was drier in the fall season and I was spending more time breathing outdoor air did things make sense. Drinking more water stopped the nosebleeds and the cracking of skin around my hands. That wasn’t the end of my problems, though.

After the fifth night, I experienced what might have been a hallucination resulting from sleep deprivation. On a 7C bus bound for Conestoga Mall, I noted we were slowing down to pick up an elderly man at a stop and he was using a walker. Because I was sitting in an area meant for expectant women, the elderly and those with physical disabilities, I made my way to the rear of the bus while wondering why I found it so hard to keep my balance in the process. I never saw the elderly man board the bus. It dawned on me that not only was there no man waiting for the bus, the bus never slowed down at that stop to pick up anyone.

After the sixth night, my body decided this lack of REM sleep thing had gone on far enough and I began to lapse into deeper sleeping patterns that produced dream sleep. Great — except it was happening outside of the scheduled bus and library naps. It was happening during my job search, while waiting for the bus, while using a restroom, etc. Fortunately that was only a temporary aberration and the deep sleeping patterns soon returned to the scheduled nap times.

I ran into other homeless people who also used the buses for napping like I did. Most of the conversations I had with them were enjoyable, though one who believed Ebola was a man-made weapon of mass destruction made me very nervous. One anti-poverty activist invited me to attend a “Save The Out Of The Cold Program” protest at Kitchener City Hall on October 27th. At this point I was very tired, more than a little p?ssed off, and in need of a good shower, so not only was I more than happy to take part in the protest that marched from Kitchener City Hall to the main branch of the Kitchener Public Library, I even gave a few speeches.

The march and venting of steam proved quite cathartic. Even though I still have a few more days of this to endure before heading to Toronto — where I will have a place to stay and a bed to sleep in for a while — it gave me my second wind.

Let’s hope Friedrich Nietzsche was bang-on about things not killing you making you stronger.

David.

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An Article Of Faith.

A picture taken of the Life For The Nations building in Cambridge, Ontario, a combination soup kitchen and church that does so much for those living in poverty.
A picture taken of the Life For The Nations building in Cambridge, Ontario, a combination soup kitchen and church that does so much for those living in poverty.

I’m just two articles into my new format for my blog, and I’ve already received a few comments about the change in style and tone. Some even suggested I should have faith and keep trying no matter what and not let things bring me down.

I chuckle whenever people tell me to have faith, since I’ve never been a religious person in the past. I’ve never understood the concept of faith, or believing in something regardless of the facts. My conclusions of what is, is come from observation and experimentation and has served me well in my information technology career of 20 years (which now seems like it was just a dream). I can’t believe in something unless I have reason (the assumed opposite of faith) to do so. For example, if someone has behaved like a jerk in the past and now claims to have changed their ways, their past behaviour is going to weigh heavily against them unless they start showing examples they have changed. I’m all for giving people a second chance, but I’ve also mentioned in past posts on this blog that I am a deeds speak person. In other words, show me.

A couple of friends in Cambridge who I’ve couch-surfed at suggested I visit a place called Life For The Nations to not only have a place to go to on those days I don’t, but also to see the power of faith in action. Run by Pastors Peter, Sonia, and Maria, and assisted by the hardest working bunch of people I’ve ever seen in my life, Life For The Nations provides assistance for those living in poverty in the form of a clean soup kitchen, compassionate counselling, and other programs to help get people back on track. It just so happens that my visit coincided with an Oktoberfest feast, of which I was invited to join in. During the meal I had a chance to talk to a few people about their situation and some of them were train wrecks, but coming to places like Life For The Nations helped them cope a little better with their situation. I also attended a religious service which was interesting in the fact that I haven’t attended one since I was a kid. I even sang, quite badly, but no one cared and, in addition to having a good talk with the pastors, it made me feel a little better about my own situation.

I’m still not sure if I got a clear understanding about faith, but I did learn that it’s not just about having faith, it’s about the good that can come from faith. Were it not for places like Life For the Nations, the people I spoke to over a meal would have less choices available to them.

For now, that’s good enough for me.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Friendly Advice?

Stock image on Workopolis article. Image and article linked by this post belong to Workopolis and the author of this article.

I moved to Kitchener nearly a year ago because I could no longer afford the Toronto apartment I lived in for 24 years. Kitchener was also chosen because family members and friends  told me it had more employment opportunities than Toronto. Based on my past difficulties in finding a job in Toronto, and having good reason to trust the advice given, I packed my things and took a chance. If you have been following my blog for the past year, you know things did not work out as planned. For those of you who are not regular readers, this post attempted to analyze what went wrong during my time in the Waterloo Region, but that in itself might not have been the end of the story. According to the following article, if  indeed accurate, it might have been better to stay in Toronto after working out a living arrangement with a friend or family member there.

When applying this article to the Waterloo Region, Waterloo rules, Kitchener was found wanting, and Cambridge is a dive. If, as musically stated in the Meatloaf song, two out of three ain’t bad, than one out of three ain’t good. The article also stated that Toronto, while not Waterloo, was a better choice over Kitchener. My success in finding more work (albeit part-time) in Toronto than in the combined tri-city area seems to support that finding.

I’m not faulting anyone for giving me advice that did not match what I experienced during my job search in the tri-city area. No one twisted my arm to leave Toronto and I was the one that made the final choice to move. Having said this, maybe I should have done a more thorough and independent review on my own, rather than let Kitchener’s puff-up by others sway me. Perhaps it all depends on the type of employment Kitchener was supposed to have better opportunities in.

Chalk it all up as a painfully disappointing learning experience, I guess……

Thanks for reading!

David

Welcome To The Dark Ages

Outside Upper Waterloo Square at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission given to use provided credit is given to the author.
Outside Upper Waterloo Square at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission given to use provided credit is given to the author.

Just as historians struggled to agree on when the Dark Ages began, I am unsure when the Dark Ages era of my life started. Perhaps it was when I lost my apartment back in October of 2013 after a lengthy period of unemployment. Maybe it was when I became a couchsurfer in April 2014 because I could not find work in Kitchener, Ontario. Perhaps that moment began when a friend of mine told me she could not host me any more in August 2014. I’m still unsure even at this moment of writing. I guess I’ll say it started the day I decided not to log on to Facebook any more.

I was at the logon prompt of Facebook, ready to sign in, when I realized I didn’t want to. I asked myself what was the point anymore in doing so. I was a person of no fixed address, no full time job, and half the people on my Facebook friends list couldn’t care less. I stopped playing the social games because I was too busy pleading with others to host me and help me (for all the good that did me).

So, I decided I was done with it. I wasn’t going to delete my page, since I’ve already deleted a previous Facebook page before only to recreate it again. I was going to change the Email field and then scramble the password so I could never log on again, not even ask for a password reset. So, after doing just that, I posted a goodbye to my friends and logged off for the last time. I made sure I could not log again on through my Chromebook and my smartphone.

I look back over my life and asked myself how on earth did I get to this point. I went to college and graduated at the top third of my graduation year, never did drugs or abused alcohol, never been arrested, have no criminal record, and was a good friend and family member. I was responsible enough to helm a successful 20 year career in the Information Technology field and handle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software and hardware. I was not fired from my last job. Despite all this, I’m unemployed, without a home, and am borderline homeless on the doorstep of winter.

This is indeed my version of the Dark Ages. No progress, no hope, no future. I even said my sister the day before that this is probably how things are going to be until my last day of my life. What a depressing thought, but it is in my case an actual reality. This is it, and as good as it will ever get.

It is for this reason why I changed my blog’s purpose from one that used to showcase my job-search to something that allows me to share with you, my readers, how I’m coping with this new phase of my life. Some days will be good ones, and some will be bad. Pretty much like regular everyday life, I suppose, just without income and a home.

Thanks for reading!

David

Outsider

A picture taken from the apartment of a friend I was staying with as part of my couchsurfing in search of work. I am moving out on October 15th, 2014. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.
A picture taken from the apartment of a friend I was staying with as part of my couchsurfing in search of work. I am moving out on October 15th, 2014. Picture taken by David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

The friend I’ve been staying with has been keeping me up-to-date on her moving plans. On September 30th, 2014, she informed me that I need to move out by October 15th, or a little over 2 weeks from this post date.

Since she first told me of her plans to move, I’ve asked other friends and family members if I could stay with them for short periods after my friend moves to her new location. Unfortunately, with the move date moved up by two weeks (it was originally set for the end of October, 2014), I realize that I’m not going to find enough people to guarantee a place to sleep each night, even with the Couchsurfing option I wrote about in a previous post. In short, I’ll be homeless.

This is not the first time I’ve faced being homeless. I’ve been homeless before, as I hinted at in a previous post. It wasn’t for very long: I only stayed at the House of Friendship men’s shelter in Kitchener, Ontario for a few days. I won’t go into the events that led to that point, but I’ll stress that it was an unavoidable situation. Let me tell you what it was like.

From 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. I had to find something to occupy my time since I was not allowed to remain at the shelter during the day. There’s only so many parks, malls, libraries and coffee shops I could visit before it got old. I didn’t have my phone and laptop with me (you do not bring those things to a men’s shelter if you know what’s good for you). What belongings I did have were locked away in a storage box by my bed, in a room shared with two other men.

Time passed so slowly the day felt more like a week. I had no idea where to go or what to do, except for things I made up to do on the fly. I couldn’t conduct a job search. I mean, what was the point? I had no phone or address. In fact, I couldn’t really do anything to progress forward in my life. Everything was on hold. I felt like I was trapped in a state of existence that operated outside of reality.

Now I could be facing those days again, and I have a list of questions to answer. Would I go back to a shelter? If not, where would I stay in-between friends and family members? How would I constructively use my time? Where would I go to sleep? Could I conduct a job search?

The first time I faced homelessness, I didn’t have any experience on the subject, so I struggled to cope with it. This time around, however, I not only have a little experience, but I’ve been researching the subject of homelessness while looking for a place to stay. I’ve read a few sites run by people who are homeless, such as The Homeless Guy, and Humble Harve’s Homeless Handbook. I know what the acronym TABS (To Avoid Being Seen when scouting for a place to sleep)  and the term bus-napping (taking a nap on the bus or subway) mean. I learned how a gym membership can serve as a base of operations to store your belongings and get cleaned up.

This does not make homelessness something easy, just easier than the first time. It will still be a challenge and this winter will introduce elements I did not encounter during my first time. At least I prepared for this as best as I could and that other people are aware of my situation.

I’ll try to have my laptop and smartphone with me so I can write about it as well on this blog.

Thanks for reading!

David