John Vernick is a client of Friends Catering, an organization in downtown Toronto which provides training for those who face barriers to employment. John worked in a bank before he personally became affected by homelessness. He has lived in five different shelters in the city and with the help of Friends Catering he is now looking to support himself once again. We met with John this past summer to discuss his experiences and opinions in regards to homelessness in Toronto.
Can you tell us how and why you came to Friends Catering?
I’ve lived in Toronto my whole life, I was raised in the Rexdale area. Childhood was pretty normal, 2 sisters, mother father. Pretty normal family growing up.
I came here about 6 months ago and just started applying and I got hired. It’s good that people put their faith in you again… to have people’s trust is a great thing to have moving forward. It definitely works. Like for example, Ive always worked my whole life. Working has been vital to me just as much as it has been to everybody else. So the more you get everybody back into society, back working, involved and contributing it’s very important. Becoming a part of the community again is very very important. This is not wasted money. This is well spent money to help people.
When you get involved with them, they are there to help you, but you’ve still got to put your effort into it. You’ve still got to want it. You’ve still got to grow and make progress and you gotta go forward… that’s ultimately what life is all about, trying to find a way forward.
What do you have to say in regards to the stereotypes surrounding homelessness?
I know it sounds cliché and I wish I could say more, but it really could happen to anybody. There’s a lot of issues that go on in our lives, a lot of complications …it can be a variety of issues. It really can happen to anybody. And really, people just need help sometimes. The alternative of not helping them is really, it’s a bad ending for a lot of people.
Emotionally, everybody has it. It’s not like a disease where you’re born with it but we all have emotions and being homeless and being a human being, we’re all the same. It can happen to everyone. It can be a lot of things… a traumatic event, a death of somebody in your life… that event alone can trigger it and all of a sudden they’re homeless and they can’t take care of themselves properly. It’s a sad thing but everyone who lives and goes to work everyday, it can happen to them. It’s not those old stereotypes… it happens to everybody.
Is there compassion in Toronto?
You know what? There are a lot of compassionate people here. Even when I panhandled, I never had someone come up to me and say get a job or you’re a bum. A lot of people do care. They ask you your name, how you’re doing. They care.
What does your future look like at the moment?
My long term goals are to get back to supporting myself. I’ve always supported myself … I’m a pretty simple person, I’d be pretty happy with that.