“this is my buddy - no problems here”

Margaret's Monthly

Today, October 17th, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and last week, on October 10th we acknowledged World Mental Health Day. Please read below to hear a client story that we hope acknowledges the importance of educating yourself and others about these topics. A little awareness and compassion can go a long way. Thank you!

I’m sure we’ve all known a “Joe” at some point in our lives, you know that guy who runs a tight ship, speaks bluntly, and is a little rough around the edges. You might’ve been a little intimidated by “Joe’s” gruff nature but in time, he quickly became one of your favourite people. His passion is unwavering and his work ethic is admirable.

Maybe you lost track of your “Joe”. He moved on, or you did. But you know that if you ran into him having a coffee at Timmy’s you’d be surprised and delighted to shake his hand and catch up for a few minutes.

A quick question: how would you feel bumping into this person at a drop-in and respite shelter? How would you feel seeing him struggling?

This exact scenario played out for an electrician hired by Margaret’s to install security cameras at the 21 Park Road location last year. It was there, out on a job, that he bumped into his old manager, good guy named Joe. Knowing that Margaret’s is low-barrier, the electrician, Fred, was a little nervous about the population. The staff agreed to block access to the upstairs area where he was working.

A Margaret’s staff member caught the two talking in the stairwell and checked in to make sure everything was okay. He knew that Joe was a heavy drinker who struggled with substance abuse and had been staying at this particular location for a few months. Without hesitation, Fred dismissed the staff member’s concerned look and replied, “this is my buddy - no problems here”. As it turns out, 20 or so years ago Fred used to work for Joe. For 7 years Fred was mentored by Joe. He was shocked and dismayed to see his old boss struggling so much.

“We were in the restaurant business together, he was my boss and he was a phenomenal boss – everyone was scared of him because he ran such a tight ship. Even right now I’m still nervous talking to him.”

Joe was candid about how he had come to struggle so much. He revealed that he hadn’t had the easiest childhood or upbringing. He grew up in foster care, made some bad decisions as a young adult and ended up doing time in jail. It was while he was imprisoned that he developed cooking and kitchen management skills. After his release from jail, he became a successful kitchen manager. For 7 years, Joe had it figured out. But then a trigger. Old wounds, old traumas, and an inevitable downward spiral. The alcohol and narcotics took over and he found himself moving in and out of shelters.

But that day in the hallway, talking to his former colleague, something shifted in Joe. We caught up with him a couple of weeks ago, and he said that he was getting himself into a treatment program to get himself cleaned up. He admitted that his encounter with his old friend sparked a desire to change for the better. Seeing a man that he used to manage, now owning his own successful business, he was reminded of his own capabilities, something he had given up on a long time ago.

“We are all just one bad decision away from being here” reflected the Margaret’s staff member working that day. “You never know where life will take you”

Through this unpredictability, we rely on each other’s help to encourage us and to pick us up when we fall down. The 21 park location is run by staff and volunteers who offer women and men like Joe, a warm, safe, and friendly environment. People may visit for a nutritious meal, a hot drink, a place to rest out of the cold… and for assistance finding the help and resources they need.

Thank you for your support. You make sure that the women and men who have been deemed “unworthy”, who in many ways have been abandoned, can rely on Margaret's.