Vendor Profile: After working through years of homelessness, Fred Willingdon began selling street papers
Fred Willingdon loves Victoria
“I’ve been a vendor since last October. When I came to Victoria back in 2006, I saw people doing the street news, and I saw they seem to be having a nice bankroll. Well, I thought, if I ever figure out how to get that done, to join the street news organization, I’m going to take advantage of it.
“I found out about it at a job fair at Our Place. They gave me the information, the next week I trained, and started selling. I’ve had a few good months, like in April I sold 95 copies.
“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to retire in Victoria. I like the city, it’s a clean city, and a small city. Basically, I spoke about coming to Victoria 10 years before it happened—almost to the date of when I came here. I’m just so grateful to be in Victoria. There are so many people, it’s really accessible, there are food banks. It’s a lot of good opportunities here to be in semi-assisted living. I love it. It’s just great.
“I was born March 6, 1953 in Vancouver. I spent a few years in Ontario and came back to B.C. in 1960. Then in 1961, my dad opened his chiropractor’s practice in Burnaby, which is basically where I grew up, from age seven all the way up to 42.
“At age 19, I ended up working in the Sears Canada shipping department for three years, then went to California to work on a tree farm for a few months at age 22. Then after 1978, I was married and I spent my married life in Maple Ridge and I have three children and two grandchildren.
“I’m a person with persistent multiple barriers. I can work, and I’m diligent enough and capable of coming in to work on time and doing his work, it’s just that this is not a person you may want to hire full-time, perhaps. It’s not a serious problem and it doesn’t affect my ability to do things. It’s a designation rather than a diagnosis.
“I divorced in 1999, I lived in Langley for awhile, Cloverdale. I lived homeless for about four years [from 1996-1998, and 2004- 2006] because I couldn’t afford anything for awhile. I was working at a land and cedar plant out in Maple Ridge. I worked there for 28 years. It was a good union job. I was paying my ex-wife $600 from a $1,000 paycheque. I just couldn’t pay any of the bills because I was paying her $600 for alimony and another $150 for childcare, until my kids were removed from home by social services.
“Both of my sons I see pretty frequently, but not my daughter, when you’re not driving it’s not easy to get around.
We communicate, but right now her phone is off the grid as it were, because her phone is based in Abbotsford.
“When I first got to Victoria, I came in 2006, I actually volunteered in the kitchen as a prep and then I did some bussing as well for the lunch at Our Place. I got working at RONA as a janitor, I worked that job from August 2010 to March of 2015.”
Fred Willingdon sells Megaphone in Victoria at the corner of Johnson Street and Government Street. Photo: Jamila Douhaibi.