Sure - Canadian Substance Use Resource and Knowledge Exchange Centre

Published: December 9, 2021

By: Matthew Bonn

As someone who works in the harm reduction and drug policy field, we don’t nearly talk about housing enough. We look at people experiencing homelessness as a whole other category of people, yet they are the same people we support. When it comes to housing, from my experience, as harm reduction organizations, we more or less write people experiencing homelessness off till they have stable housing. How do I know this? Well, I’m guilty of it but I also fall into both of those categories. The last time I had a place of my own, if you'd even call it that, was September 2019 when I lived in the basement of my dad's friend's place. 

I used to call it family sanctioned house arrest. Anything I did was immediately reported back to my tough-loving, drill sergeant, dad. So not only was I stuck on house arrest with the hypocrite, he could do whatever the fuck he wanted while I had to live life by colouring inside the lines. 

That wasn’t going to happen for long. 

That summer, between April 2019 to September 2019, was one of the best and worst summers I had in a long time. In the back of your mind, you know it's going to end sooner than later and it kind of paralyzes your mind, body, and soul. God do I ever miss those times. Luckily it was peaceful getting out of that relationship. She was a girl like no other, one that only comes around once in a blue moon during a decade. She was a perfectionist that got thrills living life through my eyes for a bit. We loved each other like Noah and Allie from the Notebook and our story is similar; my past finally caught up with me and took the girl of my dreams away, just like that. She used to come visit my little place all the time, and it really wasn’t until she left that I knew how important the roof is over everyone’s head is.

After her leaving I did what all drug users do. I got high until the day was black and the sun was blue, then stayed up all night. It was a pretty shade of blue with the moon a darkish colour of yellow that would always reflect off my dope and spoon.

I did not stop all summer. I never wanted to be homeless, but did I ever want to die. Yet for some stupid fucking reason, there  never seemed to be enough to put me down one last time. I hate it, I hate it everywhere I go, I don’t have what everyone on this goddamn planet needs and that's their own place to peacefully go.

Surfing on the finest east coast couch

I have spent countless days with my mother with a MERCEDES c230 just collecting dust even though it drives and goes. I have gone on weekend binges, not really having a clue where I wake up. Sometimes it’s in a hotel, sometimes it's at a friend’s but what I really do know is my  mom is upset, and I’m causing the pain. Those are the days having suicidal thoughts actually feel more normal, than they are insane. 

Precarious housing may be worse then shelter living. At least in a shelter pretty much all is the same; If you are there long enough you memorize practically everything there is that impacts your daily living, and your opioid agonist therapy (if you are on one), is a hop, skip, and jump away. Don’t get me wrong, this is no way to be happy and live. I have never stayed in one and the few times I tried, of course I was denied. Maybe my income said I made too much. I thought housing was a human right, but they had no problem looking me in the eye and saying ‘best of luck next time’.

The views expressed in SURE Blog posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Public Health Association or Health Canada.