“If you want to help somebody, this is how to do it. A place just like this.”

By Nigel Gordijk  Thursday, January 26, 2023

One of a series of profiles that I wrote about residents at Supportive Housing Of Waterloo. I interviewed them about their experience and shot their portraits..

(Photo: Nigel Gordijk)

(Photo: Nigel Gordijk)

Shawn has called 362 Erb St. W. his home for the past 10 years, after two decades of living on the street.

“I was outside, living in a tent, sheds, whatever,” he said, adding that he was based just a few blocks from downtown Kitchener. “Nobody knew.”

“I did that for 20 years, and I was volunteering at a soup kitchen for many of those years, so I always had food and clothes. I liked it. I worked for cash money and didn’t pay rent. I had a little bit of money of my own, so I always had my ‘play toys’, and my tent.” Shawn owned a portable DVD player, which he’d use to play movies he borrowed from the library.

Winters were often tough, though, when temperatures could drop to minus 40. “You’d go back to your tent and it’s collapsed because of the snow. You’re kind of screwed then, but the churches were open,” he said.

Being outdoors in harsh weather eventually took its toll on Shawn’s health, and he contracted pneumonia three times in the space of two years. That’s when he reached out to SHOW.

“I found out about this place, and they accepted me.”

As well as safe accommodation, Shawn has found peace of mind.

“I don’t worry about anything. There’s just no worry,” he said. “If I need food, I just come down and ask if I can I go to the pantry.”

There’s also a sense of community, which he enjoys. Shawn and a couple of friends do “meal sharing”, with each person helping out. “Somebody will cook. Usually not me; I’m the worst. If I cooked it, you wouldn’t want it! We’re having spaghetti right now. Zach made sauce, and Danny made noodles.” Shawn contributed the meat and mushrooms.

He’s full of appreciation for the staff at SHOW. “They’re great. They get along with each other, and they get along with the tenants. They’re understanding, for sure.”

More than anything, Shawn is grateful for a place to call home.

“This is a good place to be. If you want to help somebody, this is how to do it. A place just like this.”