John’s Story – In His Own Words

John is a tenant with Bishop O’Byrne Housing Association (BOBHA), one of RESOLVE’s Partners, and graciously offered to share his story with us.

My name is John F. Kirk. I’m 66-years-old and grew up in Barrie, Ontario. When I was 17, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces, Army Reserve. Beer was available in our barracks for a nickel a can and, thus, I picked up the habit of drinking.

It was difficult for me to keep a full-time job because of my drinking. I started working casual day labour jobs and living at a hostel for men. I never earned enough money to get a proper home so I lived in parks during the summer and couch surfed in the winter.

Drinking was causing me major problems. I was homeless on and off over the years, living in fields or parks. I began panhandling so I could eat and buy a few beers.

Homelessness was something I knew I could overcome if I could just stop drinking.

Health problems

In 2006, I moved to Calgary to be closer to my son and daughter. I was drinking fairly heavily but I had a good job and was making enough to pay my rent. Then one day, out of nowhere, I had a brain aneurysm. I spent three months in a physiotherapy program and, thus, lost my apartment. Again, I found myself homeless.

I found residence at a three-month alcohol recovery program where I met Julie, a HomeBase caseworker, who helped me apply for AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) since I was no longer able to work because of my aneurysm. Julie also helped me find a home at Columbus Place, one of Bishop O’Byrne Housing Association (BOBHA)’s affordable and supported apartment buildings.

If it weren’t for them, I would have been forced to go back to the street.

A safe place to call home

Columbus Place gives me the security that I would never find on the street. No one deserves to live on the street. It is very volatile out there and most people turn to drugs and alcohol just to cope with the violence.

Affordable and supported housing is a necessity to help those who are suffering from addictions, mental illness or both. A home is necessary so we do not freeze to death or get assaulted while trying to survive sleeping in a park, alley, or dumpster.

Now that I am a senior, my only income is my pension. It is less than $1,200 a month. My rent is $765 per month. That leaves only $435 to live on each month. (Editor’s note: BOBHA will be able to reduce John’s rent, as well as the rents of other Columbus Place tenants, when the mortgage is paid down through the RESOLVE Campaign. Visit here to help make this a reality.)

If it wasn’t for the home I have here at Columbus Place, I would be back on the streets trying to survive. And believe me, I wouldn’t survive for long.

– John F. Kirk