Homelessness isn't a choice.
Most of the men who come to Maison du Père bring with them a painful past, full of violence, poverty and abandonment. These experiences drove them to isolation. For others, a series of unfortunate events (job loss, divorce, depression) caused them to lose their footing.
Homelessness is a combination of factors specific to each person, but it is also a choice we make as a society. Poverty, lack of public housing and difficulty accessing healthcare and social services are often elements that trigger or aggravate the problem.
One thing is certain: all of these men are alone, with neither a social nor family network to help.
This is why Maison du Père exists…
Representative, doors and window
Passionate about sports, cinema and photography
Jean-Guy, 74 years old
I was born in Montreal. There are three children in our family.
I’m 74 years old and I have two grown kids: a son who’s 51 and a daughter who’s 48. I have a Secondary School Diploma, but I’m more self-taught. I’ve taken all kinds of courses. I’m someone who is very curious and loves to learn. I’ve been to all the museums in Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and all over the place. I love learning all the time and I often listen to news reports.
I worked my whole life. I was a sales rep, selling doors and windows. I had four houses. I’ve been married and divorced three times. I married an American and spent three years in Florida. I’ve travelled all over the world. I’ve even been to Africa.
I’m also really into sports and I love movies and reading. I like pretty much everything. I just really love life. I can’t sit around doing nothing. I always have to do something. I have to get out every day for some fresh air, go for a walk, get some exercise. I still go to the gym, even at my age. I’m an alcoholic, but I haven’t touched the stuff for 20 years. It was a setback that brought me here to Maison du Père, just like for many others I think.
Before that, I had never touched drugs in my life. I have a short story that will give you the idea. Cocaine comes in certain quantities: quarters, 1 1/2s, 3 1/2s, etc. As far as I knew, a 3 1/2 was an apartment. I overheard someone talking about a 3 1/2 [one-bedroom apartment], so I told him that I’d seen a nice one for rent not far away. He must have thought I was kind of an idiot. Sadly, now I know what a 3 1/2 is.
When I was 65, someone took a hit of freebase (crack) and blew the smoke in my mouth. That’s how I got addicted, almost nine years ago. Drugs have a way of getting under your skin.
I started getting my pension payments at 65, but I kept selling doors and windows until I turned 71. So even when I was using, I still kept working. Well, as much as possible, because it wasn’t easy. I carried all my equipment in my car, all my window models. Sometimes I was still coming down when I went in. I'd been high and didn’t necessarily have my mind on work.
I had quite a bit of money in a safety deposit box before I started using and everything went to it. My RRSP, too. Everything I’d saved was spent on it. At the credit union where I had all my wealth, my accounts and insurance, they took away my transit because I deposited empty envelopes several times. I took stuff from my house and pawned it to get some money.
It truly changed my life…it destroyed my entire life. If I hadn’t become addicted to drugs, I would have kept travelling. I wanted to travel around the world! I still took some trips, sometimes two or three a year. But with that, my trips all went up in smoke — it has to be said! There were so many things I didn’t do anymore because my mind was completely focused on the drugs.
I stopped working when I came here to Maison du Père. But I’m getting bored. I would start working if I could.
I’ve gone through nine treatment programs in total to try to get myself out of this. I came to the Shelter when I was 70 and spent time there during a period of two years. I’ve never slept on the street. I slept here or at Welcome Home Mission.
I’ve had a room here at the Residence for two and a half years. Even today, I have trouble getting away from that mess. I keep myself very busy, which helps. I didn’t have to find new passions or things to do. I’m doing stuff that I already liked, things that I had stopped doing because of drugs. I’ve gotten back into my old hobbies. Like cinema: every Tuesday is my day out. I eat at a restaurant in Place Dupuis, then stop at the video library. After that, I go to the theatre in Quartier Latin. That’s my weekly Tuesday outing.
And then, I remind myself that at least I was able to take those trips. I participate in the activities here, I get involved. Some people here have trouble leaving their rooms. It’s bad for the mind. The brain is like a muscle that has to be kept in shape. Even though I’m among the oldest ones here, I’m one of those with the best memory. And I’m still in good enough shape to go to the gym. I’m still in good health. I still have lots of goals, lots of objectives. I don’t want to just sit around doing nothing, waiting to die. I still feel young for my age. There are still many things that interest me.