Janet and husband get a door instead of a zipper

  • Janet, Calgary Alpha House Society
Janet wasn’t sure how much longer she and her sick husband would survive living in a tent. A basement suite returned their dignity — and their lives.

A nylon flap and a zipper were all that separated Janet and her husband from the ruthless —32 degree Calgary winter. Janet’s husband had just been released from hospital following a stroke and 10-day coma. His two-month hospital stay cost them their jobs and their home. As a result, he was forced to finish recovering on the floor of a tent in a park.

The couple lived in the tent for a year and half, waking up at 5 a.m. every day, drenched from the icicles that melted through the flimsy fabric while they’d been sleeping. Their clothes would dry after 12 hours of collecting bottles, only to become soaked again overnight. They wore the same clothes day after day, in a constant cycle of wet, dry, wet, dry.

Janet’s husband would occasionally spend the night in a shelter while she stayed in the tent with their dog, but she wasn’t sure how much longer he could live without a home. After eight months on Calgary Alpha House Society’s waiting list, they were finally moved into a basement suite. Her case workers also helped her get a job.

“Being able to cook instead of eating fast food in a tent really makes a difference. He’s so much healthier now,” she says. “We have a door instead of a zipper. We got some of our dignity back.”

Janet says that getting the basement suite not only changed her life, but also probably saved her husband’s. “I don’t know if he’d still be alive today if we hadn’t found a home.”

We have a door instead of a zipper. We got some of our dignity back.