FACING SURREY’S HOMELESS: ‘Sometimes I would even go to the airport and just pretend I was going somewhere and sleep.’

As a kid in Surrey, Devinder was always active. Sports were an escape for the now 44-year-old, who felt most at home on the soccer pitch.

As a teenager, Devinder, like many of his friends, dabbled with alcohol and recreational drugs.

“The drugs were there,” recalls Devinder, “but they weren’t unmanageable.”

Then he tried crack cocaine.

He began to spend days binging on the drug, often staying away from home for weeks at a time.

In 2000 Devinder came home, after being high for days, to find his mother had passed away from leukemia.

As she lay dying in the living room of her Newton home days earlier, she had called out for Devineder, her middle son, but he wasn’t there. It’s a shame he carries to this day.

“At that time my dad told me to beat it,” he says. “I held resentment against my dad for many years, but now I realize he was just trying to keep his house safe.”

Devinder left home with only a photograph of his mother and spent the next 13 years living on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

During that time he was convicted more than 100 times for theft – all attempts to feed his growing drug habit.

When he was not in jail, he would spend most of his time searching for shelter.

“I would ride the bus down Broadway up to UBC or to the SkyTrain. Sometimes I would even go to the airport and just pretend I was going somewhere and sleep on one of the chairs.”

In 2014 Devinder was released from jail and was given a chance at rehab through drug court. A recovery house in Newton has been his home ever since.

He has reconciled with his family and although he has had minor relapses, he has hope.

“I know people love me,” Devinder says.

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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