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Don's Story

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Many years ago, Don was a surveyor who worked on recognized projects throughout the province of British Columbia and in Mexico. He worked on the Juan de Fuca Trail, various pipelines and dams, and the Olympics during his surveying career. Don went to BCIT for education in various programs and completed a diploma of technology in financial management. Don is educated, smart, hard working, and, in his words, "had it all."

Don fell into an opiate addiction after being prescribed opiate pain medication for an injury. He eventually lost his home and job due to his substance use. Don found himself on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, homeless and struggling to survive. He tried many things to work through his substance use, including residential treatment. Don did complete treatment, but at 9 months sober he had a traumatic accident and began using again. He fell down a 30 foot embankment into a creek on a cold winter night. Don was stuck in the mud up to his armpits for several hours before being found and rescued by the fire department. He was taken to the hospital and treated for hypothermia. Don believes that God was looking out for him that day.

Don was able to find success through harm reduction and overcame his opiate addiction that once dictated his life. Don took part in a street church held on the DTES and found joy in dancing. Don could be seen dancing on the streets of Granville to live music, at Robson Square Park, or at the street church. Don's dancing would draw a crowd and was often filmed and uploaded to YouTube. At SUSEP, we call him "Dapper Don" because of his preference for dress shirts and fedoras. He's a stylish guy!

Don began working with SUSEP in September of 2021. He was facing eviction from his apartment, struggling to stay sober, needing to get his drivers license back, and desperately wanting to return to work as a surveyor. SUSEP's case manager attended court with Don for the eviction dispute, provided counselling for substance use, connected Don to financial support to take the Responsible Driver Program, and helped him look for work.

It has been 11 years since Don was employed as a surveyor. Don began working hard, putting together his resume, looking for jobs, and attending interviews. One day, Don received the call that he had been hoping for for over a decade. He got a full-time position as a surveyor! Don stated, "if I could do it anyone could do it! I went from being homeless on the streets to working my dream job." Don received all the work clothes and work boots he needed from Working Gear, an agency in Vancouver, and was ready to go.

Don recalls the difficulties that he has faced over the years with tears in his eyes. Don's hard work and determination has paid off. He is now working for a surveyor company in Abbotsford. After 11 years, Don is back doing what he loves. Don is an example of how strong, resilient, and capable people are. Don says, "There were times that I never thought I would be able to work again. I couldn't have done it without the support."

Don loves what he calls his "office," meaning the beautiful scenery that he works in as a surveyor. Don loves being outdoors and getting to explore nature, while being surrounded by beautiful landscapes. Don says, "I had people who believed in me and that gave me confidence. Everybody has something to offer."

Don, at his office, December 2021.

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