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Volunteer at the Maison du Père, and former participant of emergency, referral and social reintegration programs

“Reliable”. This is how is perceived Michel the volunteer at Maison du Père. Michel is always reliable when asked to welcome new users, fold tax receipts, put Christmas cards and newsletters in envelopes, or guide other volunteers. Because Michel is the informal head volunteer of the Maison du Père Foundation.

That is why it can be surprising to discover his past, one of instability, of addiction, of loss and wandering. A rough and steep road precedes Michel's footsteps at Maison du Père. It is a long journey that passes by the streets but which has found an exit, the exit of rehabilitation, serenity and hope, thanks among other things to the kindness he encountered on his way, to the services of Maison du Père, as well as the volunteer work he does here. Here is the testimony of a success, his own.

“I ended up in the streets in Saint-Jérôme, he confides. I had a job, but I used a lot of drugs. I was consuming coke, then at one point, I switched from coke to speed, and that was the downfall... I became a slave to that drug. So it had a hold on my life. So much so that I lost everything. It destroyed me, and my relationships at work."

The year is 2014. Michel was working in a factory, where he enjoyed advantageous working conditions and a good salary. But drug abuse and gambling spoiled everything. “I was piling up debt on top of debt,” he adds. So much so that one day, he was evicted from his home for not paying rent and thrown into the streets in the freezing cold of January. To avoid living in the streets, he first found an accommodation center, then a hotel.

But drug, gambling and money problems persisted. “Then, I saw the end come,” he says. In order not to suffer in the streets, he thought of ending his life. He was thinking of jumping into the icy depths of the Rivière du Nord. He was then admitted to the hospital. He finally decided to leave Saint-Jérôme for Montreal, and at the same time had to quit his job after 9 years of employment. He traveled in a taxi, paid for by the hospital, and found a warm place to sleep at the Old Brewery Mission.

Arriving in Montreal seemed very significant for him. When he arrived, he already felt like problems were behind him. But he still had work to do. He gained a private room at the Old Brewery Mission. He enrolled in courses to reorient his career. He was accepted, and obtained student loans. But, after 3 months away from gambling and drugs, he relapsed. He then lost his welfare money in his addictions, forcing him to drop out of school. He then arrived at Maison du Père.


“When I entered the RESO program [social reintegration, at Maison du Père], I was not happy, really not happy with myself,”, he says. But, he did not give up, and signed up for job search workshops at Maison du Père. Other motivated participants inspired him, and he quickly found a good job in another factory, “in metal”, even if he has little knowledge of the field. On this topic, his new employer told him one thing: "Everything can be learned." Things are going well at his new job. Until one day he discovered back pain. This is a major injury, and drug use may have contributed to it. He must therefore stop working.


At Maison du Père, he obtained a studio, then an apartment at Maison Wolfe, the rooming house managed by Maison du Père which was then opening. He was referred by Maison du Père to Centre Dollard-Cormier, an addiction rehabilitation center, and finally found the help he needed to deal with his addictions. The center offered him help to find independent accommodation, which he obtained in 4 months.

Since then, things have only gotten better. “I've been there for 3 years, and I've never missed the rent, my bills are paid, I eat like a king. Yes, there is a great big change today. A big change… All of that to say that, yes, I've had some setbacks, but I never let go,” he says.

Volunteering at Maison du Père played a role in this recovery. Unable to work again due to his back injury, volunteering gives him something to fill his schedule, to feel useful and to meet people. He appreciates the warm contact with employees and the contact with the new participants he welcomes, and with whom he identifies. “I volunteer to help, not for something in return. But, yes, it helped me straighten up, and it also gives me hope. It brings me joy to help,” he says.

“I believe a lot in Maison du Père,” he concludes. Personally, it did me a lot of good [to be accommodated] here... and what I really liked here was the human contact. I’ve met some great people here. Although I wasn’t happy to be here at first, now I realize that it did me a lot of good. Without it, I might still be on the streets today.” For Michel, the street has found its exit.

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