“I worked for eight years installing everything from steel metal doors to bathroom stall partitions. I can’t work in a lot of places because of my criminal record, but I have installed all the bathrooms in the courthouse and the super heavy cell doors in the basement – where they hold hardcore criminals. I have done work in RCMP buildings, hospitals, universities and public and catholic school boards. I have installed every single washroom in the Stampede Grounds, including under the Coke Stage. I have installed lockers in police headquarters and the Westwinds training facility for the Calgary Police. All this with a criminal record.
There is a stigma that people with criminal records are violent or thieves. I am neither. I like doing things for other people – enjoy being thoughtful and brightening someone’s day. Family is a big part of my life. I talk to them, spend a lot of time at home, have dinner with them. I have a best uncle reputation to uphold and like to bake cookies for my nieces. When I go visit them I always have Kinder Surprises. They always ask me, ‘Do you have an eggy?’ I say, ‘Yes, I have an eggy – you have to eat your supper first.’ My mom used to make these toffee cornflake cookies once a year at Christmas and everyone loved them. She would make a huge batch and they would all be gone within a week. I have an entrepreneurial mindset and would like to start my own business making her recipe. The consumable industry is one of the greatest on the planet.”
“I was born and raised in a small town in Ontario. I grew up with a mother who was abusive and a father who drank from sunup to sundown. I used to act up in school so that I would be put in detention and not have to go back home. At 12, I ran away to Montreal and have lived on my own ever since. I went through years growing up of being pushed down and told I am not enough. When things were tough, I used to replay in my head the stories that I wanted to hear to stay positive. I went to counselling and realized that I am okay. I am real. I am happy with who I am. I like seeing the good in people, seeing the positive out of every situation and smiling a lot. Because smiling makes other people smile and that makes me happy. I live life and don’t think of the negative because, if you do, it will gobble you up. I would like to tell people to be free. Live free. The little things won’t matter when you get older and, if you have made it through today, you’ve got victory.
I see beauty in people on the streets. I used to work for the Metro newspaper and I would always stand in the same spot to hand out papers. I would often see the same homeless couple and would smile at them and say hi. Sometimes I would give them change, so that they could get themselves some coffee and stay warm in restaurants on cold winter days. They were always grateful. Other times they would bring me trinkets they would find on the streets. I always think, if I can make someone feel good for one moment, that is one moment less in their life they don’t have to hurt. I became friends with this couple and, one day, I told them I was leaving town and wanted to visit them to drop off some winter clothes. They told me where they would be staying – next to a dumpster and a garage on a given street. When I dropped by later on, they were so happy to see me. They told me to come in, unfolded a cardboard box and offered me a place to sit. They welcomed me better than others would welcome me in their home. Funny how it is, that people who have the least, usually give the most and care the most.”
“Five years ago, I found out that my partner of 24 years had been cheating on me – hours after learning that my mother had just passed. That day, I lost my two best friends and began a spiral road of depression and addiction that led to incarceration. Upon my release, I became homeless. One day, tired of living under a bridge, I tried to commit suicide. It was a police officer who saved me by simply asking, ‘Are you done?’ He later came to visit me at the hospital and took me to my first AA meeting. It was during those meetings that I realized what I was done with was feeling sorry for myself. I have been sober for the last four years. Forgiving myself for the mistakes I have done has been the hardest, but I recently found new hope when an employer gave me a second chance at life by offering me a job. Now I think, if an employer can give me a second chance at life, I can also give myself a second chance. I used to think I was worthless, but now go to work happy and I come home happy. I am strong, confident and believe that in a world of tens – I am an eleven.”