If you live at Bethlehem Place, you know Phil and chances are Phil knows you too.
He’s the gentlemen smiling and saying hello, as he makes his way through the Lobby in his new scooter, happily attending programs and joyfully heading into the community to join his friends in the Silver Spire United Church choir. Man, when I sing in the choir I feel like I am flying.
Prior to making his way to Bethlehem Place to live Phil experienced an unfortunate turn of events. A few years ago Phil had been holding down a minimum-wage job as a security guard. His work took him all over Niagara and to Hamilton, often doubling up on shifts just to make ends meet. Last year, Phil found himself living in the emergency shelter at the Salvation Army Booth Centre, a place where he once worked as a security guard.
During my short time in the shelter, I got to see life how it really is for people who are homeless and very poor. I saw a girl with frostbitten hands and witnessed several people overdosing on opioids. Some were saved and some were lost.
You start to realize that more and more people are homeless and experiencing addiction. You start to understand that there is so much hopelessness for people without stable housing and with zero food security.
I started to realize that the first step is to get your own place and set yourself up from there. If you can’t find a stable place to live then there is no hope. The staff of the Salvation Army Booth Centre were extremely helpful. I wish everyone could experience what I learned there and see what a catastrophe homelessness is in St.Catharines right now.
I understand people who are homeless. Now, I see that I can have an impact by volunteering for the Out of The Cold program at Silver Spire. I know what might trigger a bad reaction or negative outcome and it’s good that I can be there as a familiar helper.
For three months, Phil found himself living in the Salvation Army shelter before a spot opened up for him in Bethlehem Place.
Phil has found a new perspective on life and doesn’t let his mobility issue limit him. This isn’t to say that living as a person with a physical disability, is without limits. He has degenerative arthritis in his left hip. Since coming to Bethlehem, our support staff assisted in procuring a new motorized wheelchair, a significant upgrade to the outdated wheelchairs he previously had access to.
Growing up as a child of Filipino missionaries in Hong Kong, Phil was taught empathy early on. Through one-to-one discussions with our support staff and attending group sessions at Bethlehem Place, Phil now recognizes that putting others before yourself does not mean that you aren’t allowed to care for yourself too. Phil now puts time into advocating for people who experience the same challenges that he does. He takes time for much needed reflection and contemplation.
The support staff are amazing! The courses are awesome and life changing. I feel much more independent. My life is finally becoming happy.
This apartment is beautiful! The staff at Bethlehem were placed in my life for a reason.