For Jay, becoming homeless was a conscious decision. “I’ve had places to go but I’d rather not stay. I’d actually rather I chose the streets,” he told Christine Nayler, podcast host and founder of Ryan’s Hope. “So I just essentially paid to have my stuff stored.”
They spoke at Barrie Public Library’s Downtown location.
Jay advises homeless people to “make sure you got the friends to help you, look after you” because there are many challenges for homeless people such as “getting robbed, Freezing.”
There are few places in Barrie where homeless people can live. Barrie Police forced Jay to move around telling him that he “can’t stay here. It is city property.” So he lived “in the trees or in a bush.”
“You don’t know where to go. Keep quiet,” he said.
Jay said “there are two different communities” in Barrie. There’s people that have homes that kind of did, right, I guess. And then there’s us that are homeless. Trying to do right, but something always sets us back or we just choose to be homeless.”
Being homeless, Jay and his girlfriend experience both best and worst from housed people.
“There are actually good people out there that do care. And do try to help and you just got to think of them more,” he said.
“The people that are housed, they frown upon us,” he said. There are others he said “actually do care for the homeless. There’s a few times, (my) girlfriend and I are staying in one spot. People actually came and dropped off Timmies or Tim Horton’s or gift cards.”
Jay said people who use drugs are seen as “useless people.”
“It is our choice to use. Most of us actually do want to stop, but still not (able to),” he said.
Barrie has one of the highest rents in Canada and rising food prices are putting pressure on pockets of ordinary Canadians.
“It’s either you have a roof over your head, and no food or you got food in your mouth and no roof over your head,” Jay said.
Jay works as a peer support volunteer for Ryan’s Hope. It was started by Nayler and her husband in memory of their son who died of toxic drug poisoning last year.
“That’s almost every day,” Jay said about the impact he has on people as a volunteer.
He said it also helps him to help others.
“I feel better knowing that you’ve helped somebody be safe.”