Colin lived on the street for 15 years prior to finding housing at Aurora on the Park, a HomeSpace building in Sunnyside. He has been living there for three years now.
It was just him and his three kids after his wife passed in 1995. He raised them for a few years before legal trouble led to their separation.
“But I didn’t give up,” Colin says. “As soon as I started getting help from the government through AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped), I could settle down. I got into housing like this here.” He gestures around his one-bedroom apartment.
Colin has made the room his home; the wall behind him is graced with a beautifully woven blanket and a dream catcher hangs at its center. It’s a small apartment, but clean. There’s a window letting in sunshine. There are family pictures on the nightstand, desk and bookshelves.
“I stuck with it,” he says. “And I stuck with my kids.”
“They’re grown up now,” he adds.
The oldest is 31. Two of Colin’s kids are still living in Calgary. One is working in BC. He talks with them all frequently.
And he has grandkids now. “I see them every week,” he says proudly. He shows me a picture of his daughter, her husband and their kids. His granddaughter just turned four. “And they aren’t far away you know; they’re in Calgary and just a phone call away.”
Coincidentally, a phone call interrupts as his son, Shane, is calling.
Colin always enjoyed having friends over but was evicted from rentals more than once before living on the street.
“Now I have my own place, once my friends knew where I lived, they know they’re allowed to come and sleep, come and eat. Not all the time, but sometimes.”
“And I don’t have to be outside, camping out in the snow, starving.”
Colin has had two much-needed surgeries since moving in with HomeSpace, a hip surgery and a knee surgery. “I couldn’t walk before. Now I can walk. So I’ve been doing okay.”
Colin is grateful not just for his home but the Alpha House staff that run the housing program in the building. “If there was no staff here, we’d be on our own and it wouldn’t be like this. Some people can’t manage themselves. They can’t clean their house, they can’t do things for themselves, and that’s where the staff that work here step in and support us. It’s really good here. They take care of you, that’s the part I really like.”