“I was homeless in the ‘90s. Back in the ‘80s, there was nobody sleeping in doorways.
At long last, Delisle August Doucet finds his way home
“I was homeless in Courtenay. I was trying to live out of my car but it was a very difficult thing. And in Victoria, I slept in Beacon Hill Park more than once. I slept
in the park in James Bay, too. I’d go there because I knew I wouldn’t get disturbed until 7 o’clock in the morning. My blanket saved me on a number of occasions.
“When you’re sleeping on the ground, I’m lucky to get an hour and a half’s sleep with no mattress. The thing about sleeping outside that people don’t realize is that when it’s windy, there’s no way to get out of the wind. And that’s a big problem, right there. Sometimes, I didn’t even have a blanket.
“The night that I almost froze to death, it was February, years ago now. I had a blanket and wound up in level two hypothermia, which means that I have 15 minutes to warm myself up before it turns to level three hypothermia, which is always fatal. I sat up and wrapped my blanket as tight as I could around me, and stopped the shaking before I went to the next level. The thing that saved my life that night was I had a little bit of beer in me and it kept my blood from freezing.
“I’ve hardly ever panhandled. I used to go out and busk back in the day. I didn’t play anything. I just sang songs: “A Horse With No Name” by America, “Brave New World” by Three Dog Night, “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles. I don’t sing much anymore. I just sell my papers.
“I started working as a street paper vendor in ’94, just before the toonie came out. I learned about it through the downtown Victoria community.
“Selling my papers has been tremendous. I’ve gone out and done really well and got my needs met lots of times.
“There’s no comparison—there’s no comparison between my life when I was homeless and my life now. I’ve got a good place to live now and I’m happy with it. I’ve got everything I need and I’ve been getting by quite well.
“I’ve been living where I’m living now for almost three years. I live in Cedar Grove. It’s out on the gorge. It’s not too bad. I’ve got a bachelor suite and I’ve got a nice comfy bed to sleep on. And electric heat. Previously I lived for four years at the York Hotel, and before that I lived for 10 years at the Pandora Project on Pandora Street.
“I have friends in Cedar Grove here that I see pretty well every day. Things are going along really well. I’m not going to run out of peanut butter. I’ve got my peanut butter sandwiches. That’s all I buy on cheque day: peanut butter, coffee, milk, and sugar. It’s all I can afford, really.
“We need more money from welfare. They’ve made us wait 13 years, now. The rates have stayed the same. Things keep shooting up in price. They’re not keeping up with what we’re getting. That’s why we see so much poverty nowadays.
“Homelessness in Victoria is a problem more recent than people think.”
Delisle sells Megaphone at Douglas and Yates streets in downtown Victoria.