Faces of the Downtown Eastside: Brian's Story

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In the last two weeks, we’ve shared the heartfelt stories of Jay and Verna, two of the Faces of the Downtown Eastside. Today, we share Brian’s story.

After years of struggling with his health and homelessness, 60-year-old Brian Work is about to move into his own apartment.

Work was once the owner of a successful signage company, but after retiring to follow his passion of bicycling full-time, a heart problem forced him to hit the brakes on his dreams. Unable to work anymore, he watched as his savings dwindled down to nothing. It wasn’t long before Work found himself moving into a homeless shelter.

Now, two years after checking into his first shelter, Work is checking out and moving out on his own.

“I’m looking forward to moving in and getting back to my life again,” he said. “The apartment is perfect for me. I’ve got my own kitchen, my own bathroom.”

The search for housing wasn’t easy. Even though he had a heart arrhythmia, Work struggled to get approved for disability. Once he did, he found it even harder to find an apartment.

“A lot of people won’t rent to somebody on disability. They think that the person won’t be able to take care of themselves,” he said.

Work said that he was tireless in his search for housing. Even though he didn’t have much success at first, he said he knew something would open up eventually. “It’s all about timing. You just have to be looking every single day,” he said.

Work struggled with depression during his stay in the shelter, but through it all he said his caseworker, Marc, was a constant source of encouragement. “Marc was great,” he said. “He was very interactive and he was always ready to help me with my applications.”

That level of personal help is something that Work said he never found at other shelters. Harbour Light not only offers emergency shelters and support workers, but also a computer lab, a nurse’s clinic and a treatment centre among its services.

“I’ve loved staying here,” he said. “It’s more than just a shelter. The Salvation Army offers you support that helps you get out of the shelter system.”

With his new lease on life, Work said he plans on going to go back to school at Simon Fraser University to become a writer.

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