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I worked successfully as a chef and as a teacher. I worked for Movenpick and the Board of Trade. Then I taught commercial cooking at Central Tech, and after that, at George Brown College. I was at George Brown for 8 years, until 2012.
Then I had a mid-life crisis, I guess you could call it. I went to Barbados on vacation, and I stayed. I did pretty well, but a year and a half later I had enough of island living. So when I was given a job opportunity in Canada in 2014, I was happy to take it.
My job was with a company that wanted cafeteria food that was both nutritious and edible. When I took that cafeteria over, they had five deep fryers and little else. We got rid of the deep fryers and cooked from scratch. I was proud of what we cooked, it was a good job.
However, I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms, most likely from years of chopping food. I ignored it for too long. I’m a man, I don’t like doctors, I thought I could keep working through the pain.
I finally had to have surgery. The first surgery was set for May of 2015, the second surgery in July. I was under the impression that Employment Insurance would tide me over while I couldn’t work, but I was 48 hours short of the 600 hours required.
I depleted my savings, I lost the place I was living – and when I left the hospital from my second surgery, I was down to a suitcase, no money, and no place to go.
I lived on the street, sleeping outside in a park down by the lake. I don’t like asking for help, but after a week, I had enough. I still had stitches and bandaging. My wound wasn’t healing properly because I couldn’t keep it dry. That was pretty much the lowest I have ever been in my life.
So I went to a library and did some Internet searching. I ended up at the Intake and Referral Centre at Peter and Richmond Street. Half an hour later, they gave me a token to get to Good Shepherd. That was the 30th of July.
Good Shepherd took me in and fed me. The first night, I slept on a cot in the TV room. I didn’t mind because as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light. I was so tired.
I met with a Good Shepherd housing worker the next day. She found three places I might be able to afford. She called the first two, and she didn’t get an answer. She called the third, got an answer, and set up an appointment for me to go see the landlord. She gave me tokens. I went and looked at the place, and it was nice and clean, so I said yes.
I signed up for Ontario Works, and they helped with first and last month’s rent. Everything fell into place, and I moved into my place as of September 2015.
I was homeless for a whole month. I had never been homeless before.
Everybody here at Good Shepherd was helpful and friendly. It was great to have a food box to start out when I moved into my new place.
While I was staying here at Good Shepherd, I needed a late pass. One of my former students had opened her own doughnut store. She was celebrating her third year anniversary, and I was invited.
Her parents came up to me at the event, and said if I hadn’t been there to help her at school, this event would never have happened. So I was reminded I have done some good in my life, that I am able to help.