Day 190 - Colin (1st person I approached)
July 09, 2014 - Colin was standing outside a grocery store I was heading into to get stuff for dinner. I walked past thinking that if he was still there when I had done my shopping, I’d ask him to chat. Fortunately, I thought better of that and turned around and went back and asked him to chaat before getting groceries. I told him my name, and we talked our names being the same. When I told him what I was doing and asked if he would chat with me, he smiled and said “Sure!”
Colin was born here in Vancouver.
“I was born at what used to be Grace Hospital, now it’s the British Columbia (BC) Children’s Hospital,“ he said.
“We lived off of Main Street, at 13th Avenue. Then when I was about two and a half, we moved to Beach Grove, out in Tsawwassen. It was a great area to grow up, with the beach and Boundary Bay being so close,” Colin said. The family moved to Crescent Park, in South Surrey (BC).
“I started to play Rugby when I was in school, around the age of thirteen,” he said.
“I went to school in order to be able to play rugby. I became pretty good at it and ended up playing on five teams. I played at school, locally, provincially and on the Canada under 19’s squad as well. I know to look at me now you wouldn’t believe it, but I weighed about 45 pounds more when I played, and it was all muscle,” he said.
When Colin graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Canadian Army.
“My parents are both Scottish. My mother’s family moved here when she was a toddler. My Dad and my grandfather and great grandfather before him have all served time in the military in Scotland. It’s just what was expected of the men in our family. I was in the infantry based at Rocky Mountain in Kamloops. After doing my three years of service, I came back to Vancouver,” said Colin. A buddy of Colin’s got him a job working in construction.
“I did that for about ten years,” he said. ”I had always had an interest in cooking and an opportunity came up for me to work in a restaurant. So I would do that in the evenings and work the construction job in the daytime.” Eventually Colin worked his way up in the kitchen and became a full-time cook.
“I did that for the next twenty odd years. I’ve ran the kitchen in four restaurants as Head Chef. A couple of years ago, a friend was opening a restaurant on Bowen Island and I went to work for him. I lasted there for about a year. There’s not much you can do on Bowen Island after 10pm. Everything shuts down. It was a little too quiet for me, so I came back to Vancouver,” he said.
Colin is the youngest of three children.
“One of my sister's lives in Ottawa. She’s married and has three children. We don’t keep in touch though. You know, you get into your own life and get busy. My oldest sister was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. Dad died when I was twenty one, so Mom moved to 100 Mile House to help my brother-in-law look after their kids. My Mom took it real hard when my sister died.”
He was sharing a house with a couple of friends and working sixteen hours a day in another restaurant.
“My room mates had a party one night. The landlord lived downstairs and she flipped out and evicted us. I thought it would be easy to find another place, so didn’t really look that much. Plus working so many hours, it was hard to go look at places. At the end of the month, I didn’t have anywhere to go. I thought ‘Ok, fuck it, I’ll sleep in the park until I find a place.’ I like being outdoors and three years in the infantry teaches you how to survive in rougher conditions,” said Colin.
“That was two and a half years ago. I’m still homeless. I have my regular place that I sleep at and then I go back each evening. I’ve got good gear, so I don’t get wet when it rains. No one bothers me. One time there was someone else in my spot and I told him it was mine and he moved on. There’s a code of respect amongst the homeless.”
Colin doesn’t have a job.
“Yeah, I’d say alcohol has definitely been an issue for me. I haven’t done drugs in at least fifteen years. I’m not on any social assistance or welfare. So I collect bottles,“ he says as he gestures to a shopping buggy that is near by. There's a couple of backpacks hanging off the sides of the buggy and a large clear plastic bag inside, half full of empty pop bottles and beer cans.
“I work about six hours a day doing that. I can pull in about $40 or $50 a day during the week and about $70 on weekends,” he says. Colin has a regular routine, he has a place in Kitsilano that he goes to daily to shower and look after himself. He does his laundry there as well.
We talk a little about how people treat him as he’s pushing his shopping buggy around.
“People are for the most part polite. There’s always going to be one or two that turn their noses up as I go by. But I just mind my own business. I usually work in the same neighbourhood and some of the people I see regularly say hello and good morning. I’m always aware of being pleasant and respectful. I don’t make a mess or yell and scream at people. I think there’s a lot of people who are only one or two paycheques away from being homeless. It can be tough but I do ok,” says Colin. I ask him how old he is.
“I just turned 46, in May. I took myself out for a nice dinner. And a fews drinks.” #notastranger