I Just Want To Be Loved
You will be surprised what many men say is the hardest part of being homeless. It’s not the hunger pangs or lack of shelter.
This Christmas, under the tree and out of view, rests an elder homeless man with everything he owns. Alone, he is exposed to Mother Nature, so he doubles up on sleeping bags, thermal socks and winter coats.
He is also exposed to the threat of violence, a fear that keeps him awake most nights. There is no such thing as a good night's rest.
Homeless and hungry, when asked what he dreams of more than anything, the man will tell you it’s to be loved.
He had other dreams. He wanted to get married, have kids and a dog. Instead he had a career-ending motor vehicle accident.
Driving a transport, he rounded a bend and happened upon a stalled car. In an unavoidable instant, two vehicles became one, one person died, and one life was forever changed.
Today in his pocket he carries a news clipping of the accident, in his heart immense sadness and loss, and in his head the image of the day everything changed. An image that he relives over and over.
When he visits Haven Toronto, a downtown drop-in centre where he has been going almost daily for a decade, he makes a point to say "Hi" to staff, and especially to Waska, the centre's rescue dog.
"I had a dog like her when I was growing up," he says with a smile. "I love dogs. I'd love to have one." Then he turns quiet.
It's hard enough to look after yourself when you're homeless without having to care for a pet. And while Haven Toronto reduces barriers to health care, housing and food security for men in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, homelessness makes everything harder. So he goes it alone for now, knowing it could be forever. Knowing he just wants to be loved.
And why not; he’s only human.