March 01, 2015 - Joshua (4th person I approached)
The first two people I approached both agreed to chat with me, but unfortunately didn’t want their picture taken. The third person made it clear he did not even want to talk. I noticed Joshua walking around the park in front of the bus depot at the Pacific Central Station, at Main and Terminal streets. He was walking slowly and almost looked like he was pacing around, while waiting for someone. As the saying goes, we can’t judge a book by the cover. We can’t make determinations about the book jacket either.
Joshua has an extremely gentle handshake, so much so I even commented on it. He gave me a big smile. He was like a visual contradiction. His clothing was rather dirty, but he himself, was clean. Almost like an actor wearing a costume. His beard was neatly trimmed around his mouth and chin. His face was clean. He had on nice glasses. Joshua was very well spoken, giving measured and thoughtful responses during our chat. He wore gloves throughout the conversation.
“I was born here in Vancouver, at Vancouver General Hospital,” he told me, as we make our way to sit down at a nearby picnic table. Joshua was given up for adoption when he was 18 months old.
“I was in foster care before that. I lived in that home, with my adoptive family until I was six years old. Then I was removed," he said.
"There were some horrible things happening there,” was all he would say.
“I lived in lots of different foster homes until I was fourteen. Then I went into group homes.” Joshua aged out of group homes wen he was eighteen. ‘Aging out’ is when someone no longer qualifies for the same resources as a young person living in care.
Joshua didn’t do well in school.
“I couldn’t relate to the schooling system. It made no sense to me. They weren’t teaching me anything that I could use. I spent my time just hanging out and wandering around,” he said. He left school in Grade six.
“I still lived in the group homes when I left school. Then I stayed in shelters.”
“I started working as a labourer. In construction. I did that off and on, throughout my twenties. Or for some of the time anyway,” said Joshua.
“I’ve got schizophrenia. I was diagnosed in my early twenties. That really saved my life. Being diagnosed. It meant I got a little more money because of the disability. I didn’t get much more, but it meant it was almost enough to live on. Just enough,” he said.
“I’m on medication. I go for an injection once a month. I guess it helps me. It must because I fell okay. But it has side effects. One of the worst is the amount of time that I sleep. Usually by 4pm I’m ready to go to sleep, and I sleep right through until the next morning. I guess the upside is that time passes by that way,” he said.
“My life changed completely when I became a parent,” Joshua said. He had been in a relationship with a young women for three years. They had spoken about having children. It seemed that Joshua wanted a child more than his girlfriend, based on what he told me.
“She said she was okay with it. Then she got pregnant. When our son was born, she wasn't ready. She didn’t want to be a parent,” he said quietly.
“It made me look at everything in my life completely differently. How I was living, what I was doing, my childhood. Everything changed. It made me much more aware of the trouble I was having in my own life,” he told me. Their son was put up for adoption.
“Through the process of having my son adopted, I was able to find out about my own birth parents. I managed to track my father down. He still lived here in Vancouver. What shocked me was how much our lives were similar. He was in the same economic state I was. Exactly the same income. But he had more difficulty managing his own life. I ended up helping him and paying for things to assist him,” said Joshua.
“He was pretty twisted. I think both of my parents were. I don’t know who was more twisted, my mother or my father. They were both twisted though.” Joshua also learned that he had five other siblings.
“I’ve met a few of them, but not everyone,” he said.
Joshua told me that he was permitted to see his son once a year.
“I haven’t made any contact for the last two years. It scares me. I’m afraid to contact the adoption people and then have them contact the adoptive parents. He's with his own, new family. It’s just too uncomfortable. So I haven’t seen him for two years. It just scares me.” I got the sense that Joshua maybe felt it was best that he not see his son. For both of them.
“Technically I’m not homeless, but the housing I’ve got is so disgusting that I don’t stay there,” he said, shaking his head. Joshua chooses instead to sleep at a local shelter in East Vancouver.
“They kick you out during the day. I’m not allowed back inside until after 4pm. And I go to bed, then sleep right through until they kick me out again at 7am,” he told me.
“I spend my days outside. I don’t panhandle. I personally think it’s wrong. I’m too ashamed to do it, so I don’t. I don’t steal, I don’t drink. I end up here in parks surrounded by all the bums. But not with them,” he says.
I ask if he spends all of his day wandering around. Joshua ponders this for a moment.
“I guess that would be a reasonable graph of my days. Yes, I spend my days just wandering around. Until 4pm then I can go and sleep.”
I took his photo and showed him the picture. Such a gentle soul. Again, we shook hands, Joshua giving a soft and delicate handshake. It reminded me of the handshake of a young child. I stood up to walk away and thanked Joshua for chatting with me. As I was walking away, I turned to look back. Joshua was slowly walking behind me, his eyes to the ground. He looked like he was pacing, maybe waiting for someone, or something. #notastranger