Day 294 - Scott (1st person I approached)
October 21, 2014 - I was walking home through Chinatown after meeting with a friend for coffee and a catch-up. I was planning to go home and doing some work, and then heading out later in the day to meet today’s story. Then I saw Scott. He was sitting on a milk crate outside a convenience store, playing his guitar. There wasn’t anyone standing there listening. No one was even walking by, and he just continued playing, regardless. When I explained to Scott what I was doing, and asked him to chat, there was no hesitation whatsoever, about sharing his story. I sat on the sidewalk next to Scott and we chatted.
Scott was born in the St Johns area, in the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has one younger brother, and two half brothers.
“My parents divorced when I was about ten and my father (had two more children). They each have a different mother,” he said. When his parent's divorced, Scott moved to the Fort Richmond area in the south end of Winnipeg with his mother.
“I went to elementary school and then high school. I found school boring, it didn’t stimulate me. I got bored and was restless. When I was fourteen, I got diagnosed as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). They put me on Ritalin. That’s like the cocaine of prescription drugs. I felt wired and uncomfortable all the time on that shit,” he said.
“They never looked at what caused the symptoms of boredom and restlessness, just put me on medication. No questions.” Scott had started smoking cigarettes and pot when he was around eleven years old.
"My mother had been in another relationship but it didn't end well. She kicked me out of the house. No males allowed. I went to live with my father," he told me.
“When I was seventeen, I snorted what I thought was cocaine. It was heroin. For pretty much the next twenty five years, I was hooked on alcohol and drugs,” he said.
“I came out to BC (British Columbia) and go into a band. We went on the road touring all over the place, and I did that for years,” he said. His drug use became a little episodic.
“I did go back to Winnipeg for a while, and I got married. I have a daughter, she’s thirteen now,” he said. The marriage ended after twelve years, and Scott made his way out to BC again.
“I kept slipping and using again. Then I’d stop for a bit, then use again. I was dating a girl who had lived on Salt Spring Island for a while and she told me she wanted to go back and live there. I was all over that. One of the most amazing places. But you know, all nuts roll down hill, and only those who grab a hold and stay on for the ride can survive. You don't choose Salt Spring, it chooses you. It’s an incredibly sacred and spiritual place,” he said. Scott tells me his understanding is that the island has a number of burial sites of First Nations people.
“It’s all special and sacred land.” A young man walks past and Scott and he say hello to each other by name.
“I managed to contract hepatitis through intravenous drug use. My using became more about maintaing my health than anything else. When you’re an addict, if you don’t continue to use, you get drug sick. Stopping cold turkey is not healthy. My heroin habit helped me quit alcohol,” he said. Scott had moved back to Vancouver.
“I spent some time being clean, then slipping. I knew I was going to die if I didn’t give it up. I got myself into the Triage Shelter. It’s run by RainCity Housing. You get your own room, the door doesn’t lock, but it’s your own room. They helped me to get clean,” he said. (*Fact Check - see link below.) Scott has been clean and sober for the last six months.
A young well-dressed couple walked towards us. Scott asks if they can spare any change. The man doesn’t seem to see or hear us. The young woman appears the same, but turns as she goes into the store and politely says she doesn’t have any change. They come out of the store a couple of minutes later. We are invisible.
“Because of the hepatitis, it’s important for me to do what I can to eat good food, and be as healthy as I can. It was recommended that I take all these vitamins and supplements, which is great. They only gave me $40 to cover that for I don’t know how long. I’m trying to get into longer-term housing right now,” he said.
“I’ve got a room in an SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotel in the DTES (Downtown East Side, the poorest neighbourhood in Canada). I spent quite a while homeless. I’ve got a lot of friends that I could stay with, but then you’re beholden to them and at their whim. I want my own room at least,” he says.
“I have a friend who lives in ‘social housing’ as it’s called, over on the east side (of town). It’s supposed to allow him to feel independent while he rebuilds his life. If I go over to visit him, I can’t just use the intercom and he buzzes me in. He has to come down to the front door, and let me in. I then have to check in with a staff member at a desk there. I have to show two pieces of ID (identification) and sign in. Then we can go to his apartment. If I wanted to step out for a cigarette, and leave the building, I have to go through all that again. That’s how I visit my friend in his ‘home?’ That’s not social, or living freely, that’s like living in a prison,” he says, shaking his head.
“I talk to my daughter every day. There was a couple of years that she was pretty pissed off, and wouldn't talk to me. We’re good now,” he says smiling.
“I sit here and play my guitar because I can. I try to make some extra money for food. Everything I do now is for my health. I’d rather play my guitar for a little extra cash than just beg for money,” he says. Scott is hoping to get a place in a shelter or housing unit in the suburbs, somewhere like Coquitlam, away from the downtown area.
“There’s too many of my ghosts and demons walking past me every day down here.”
*Fact Check - Triage Shelter - http://bit.ly/ZNoIHL