Hi, I’m Sam.
A little over five years ago, a lifetime of chronic alcoholism and drug abuse culminated in my hospitalization. While in the hospital, I decided that instead of hiding my issues from everyone, the addictions, the mental health issues, and everything that goes along with those issues, I would be as open and as vocal as possible about my entire life with the hope of helping others, healing myself, and being a voice of change.
After moving to BC, I remained clean and sober for some time before suffering a mental breakdown. I relapsed, and ended up losing an amazing job – and by default the roof over my head. This event directly led to what has now become over four years living on the streets. I have kicked the drugs once again, and am nearing four and a half years without alcohol. I am currently working with some amazing organizations and committees as a peer advisor/person with street experience to influence decisions and make effective changes where I can.
The whole time I have been on the streets I’ve spoken with as many other unhoused folks as possible. I wanted to find out how they ended up on the streets, their aspirations, and what they think will work for them and what won’t. I brainstormed ideas with some extremely intelligent and helpful folks, I fine tuned the concept, and have been working on bringing my vision to life since moving to the Island in the fall of 2019.
About the Program
The basic concept is simple: build a program specifically designed for the person struggling with addiction and mental health issues, with no time limit. As participants work through the program, they plan and build their own tiny house. When their house is complete, participants work as a team member to build homes for low income seniors, struggling veterans, or anyone else that needs help and a home.
When participants complete their program, they own their own tiny house. They can take it wherever they want. We encourage all past participants to remain on the same property the program is run. There they will continue to have full access to the same help and support they had during the program. The goal is to prevent former participants from relapsing and trying to access services themselves. Ensuring that they aren’t forced back into the same unpredictable, hectic scenario they worked hard to leave.
Over time, it will become a tiny house community where former participants will live integrated in the community. They will be surrounded by others who understand, and can relate to them. They can work as part of the community to build lives that are meaningful to themselves.
Possible training avenues included in the program are: education (GED, post secondary, trade schools, etc.); life training (learning to do their taxes, open bank accounts, etc.); they could learn to grow their own food; or be taught how to cook inexpensive, healthy meals by culinary professionals.
The program was conceptualized, developed, and created by unhoused addicts. It is for anyone struggling with addition and homelessness, with the goal of empowering individuals to take back their lives, work hard, and begin to move their lives in a better direction – a direction that they, themselves, fully control.
The Comox Valley Unhoused Society is governed by:
Grant Shilling, outreach worker: Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness.
Stephanie McGowan, Councillor- Town of Comox
Amanda Claudia Wager, PhD, Canada Research chair- Community Research in Arts, Culture, and Education: Vancouver Island University
Sharon Karsten, PhD, Director of Research and Community Development: Comox Valley Art Gallery