FACING SURREY’S HOMELESS: ‘Once I tried cocaine intravenously, I was done.’

One night after three days of crack cocaine use, Adam jumped into a cardboard dumpster outside a large grocery store in downtown Abbotsford to escape the imaginary people who were chasing him.

Paranoia and psychosis had taken over, but eventually, he fell asleep.

Soon he felt the container begin to move. Panicked, he threw open the lid just as the contents of the large metal bin were about to be tipped into the recycling truck.

Startled, the truck driver immediately put the bin back down and that’s when Adam got out and ran, leaving all his belongings and identification behind.

Growing up in White Rock, Adam, now 40, was an athletic kid who played soccer and rugby. After games, he and his buddies would drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.

By Grade 10 he had dropped out of school. While working part-time at a restaurant, he began experimenting with cocaine. And that’s when his life began to spiral out of control.

“Once I tried cocaine intravenously, I was done,” he says. “I would steal anything from anyone.”

He spent the next five years living on the street in downtown Vancouver. He would stay up for days at a time, eventually passing out in alleyways or cardboard boxes – anywhere he could find cover.

He found himself selling cocaine, sleeping on the pavement, crashed out in cheap hotels or couch surfing with some of his drug customers.

“I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been robbed, you never know what will happen each day when you’re on the street. I have slept next to bank machines and woken up with sandwiches and change next to me,” he says. “Definitely not one of my shining moments. It’s not glamorous.”

He tried recovery programs in Kelowna to get away from his past, but the drugs always seemed to follow.

Racking up more than 100 convictions for petty crimes, Adam has spent close to a decade in jail.

Now in recovery, he has a place to stay and a clear focus.

“Addicts living on the street are often smart people, it’s really just distorted thinking and bad habits, that’s what it comes down to.”

NO FIXED ADDRESS: Read the other stories in this Leader special report:

• The homeless: It might not be who you think

• ‘I honestly felt suicide was my only option.’

• ‘I literally have nowhere to go.’

• ‘We’re not drug freaks. We would just love a place to stay.’

• Pushed into despair – and onto the streets

• ‘Once I tried cocaine intravenously, I was done.’

• ‘Everything is a struggle when you don’t have an address.’

• The cost of caring: $7 billion in government services

• ‘ I lost my brother, my mother and my father.’

• ‘Sometimes I would even go to the airport and just pretend I was going somewhere and sleep.’

• Working the NightShift in Surrey

• The solution? In short, more housing







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