Chuck survived addiction and an amputation to find his way home

Chuck, 61, grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. His days were filled with school, farm work and pumping gas at his family’s garage.

His first time working the oil rigs was during a semester break in Grade 10. “It was hard work,” he remembers. “But I was a barn kid so I could handle it.”

He spent two decades working on the rigs, even doing a stint overseas in North Africa. “It was fun,” he says. “Everyone was happy and making money.”

Chuck married in 1980 and had two sons. In 2001, he got a call that his sons, then 18-years-old and 16-years-old, had been arrested. It was a difficult time for Chuck and his wife and it took its toll on their relationship. They decided to separate.

One month later, she was killed in a car accident.

“It had only been a month,” Chuck remembers. “I didn’t know if it was over or not. After 14 years, I was suddenly just alone.”

Chuck worked for a while but eventually started using drugs to numb the torment. “I was just empty. My mind didn’t want any more pain.”

He ended up on the streets for six years. “I had a habit of putting a penny in my shoe for every day that I was up,” he says. “Sometimes I’d have six or seven pennies in my shoe because I never took them off.”

Chuck ended up getting an infection in his foot and his leg had to be amputated. After six months in hospital and now in a wheelchair, Calgary Alpha House Society referred him to Columbus Place, a building owned and managed by Bishop O’Byrne Housing Association (BOBHA). Both Alpha House and BOBHA are RESOLVE Partners.

Chuck has been at Columbus Place for four years and hasn’t used drugs since. “I still have dreams about it all the time,” he says. “I’m so upset when I wake up but then I look around and realize I’m home, safe.”

Chuck has a lot of friends at Columbus Place. “I care about them,” he says. “I put on two turkey suppers in the community room downstairs with money I got donated.”

Chuck appreciates the accessibility and security of his home. “I’ve got a lot going for me here. Home is the only chance a lot of us have and the agencies can support us from the time we go into the shelter through to the housing program.”

“When you’re out there in the streets you don’t know where you’ll be from one day to the next. But I survived it. I am here.”

Home is the only chance a lot of us have.