The Story of Evan: A Transformed Life
Evan first came to the Advocacy office in 2002, and at that time he lived in the very worst area of the Downtown Eastside. He was truly a rough man with a matching attitude. He took his whole stuff from the office after getting angry during a visit. The director at that time went to try and retrieve it at which time he threatened her. Following this incident he was banned from the office.
Evan came back to the office again in late 2004 when I had taken over as Director. With no file I didn’t immediately connect him as the man from 2 years previous, since he wasn’t my client at that time. I allowed him in as a client and we started working together. He had numerous issues that needed to be dealt wit: a disability application, problems dealing with welfare, and housing issues. I worked with him and we eventually got him on disability. Evan had numerous physical health issues as well as a major anger management issue that got him in a lot of trouble. He had already spent some time in jail for assault and the police kept an eye on Evan. He told me he really wanted to turn his life around, but it wasn’t easy especially living where he did. I started working to get him out of the Downtown Eastside. Unfortunately before I was able to make much headway he had another confrontation with the police and they banned him from the area so he was suddenly homeless. This made him more angry and extra difficult to place him in a housing. Many of his appointments were spent just talking he seemed to trust me and I was trying to break through the tough crust so we could make some better progress. It was working, it’s not a fast process. He was homeless and camping in different areas, it was spring and summer and he was enjoying it. When winter came around I got him into a shelter in Surrey as everything else was full. We got lucky from there. I had been pushing hard with some contacts within BC housing and I got him into an apartment in Surrey. He was so happy with this. We still had the problem of the anger and the trouble that caused him especially in dealing with welfare. Evan had been with welfare for years because of the anger which meant he couldn’t go into a welfare office he had to deal through a third party which is assigned to handle particularly difficult clients. We wanted to try and get this changed now he was starting a whole new life. Between us we devised a plan that would help if we could get the welfare office to cooperate. I was to be the go between. If Evan needed to communicate with the welfare office he called me and I called welfare for him, if welfare needed him they called me and I called Evan. This worked as long as the welfare workers remembered.
I managed to get Evan into free counseling through the UBC Counseling Students program. This made a huge difference for Evan. After two years of free counseling he had a good grasp on his anger. He was able to recognize triggers and knew how to deal with it. This was a big turning point in Evan’s life. Also, he quit drinking something he had been working on since first coming to see me.
Quite a few years passed since Evan first came to see me and he had been quite happy where he was living. Then, it was getting difficult where he was living since BC Housing had changed their policies and they were moving some harder to house into the regular buildings. This was causing trouble for Evan. We had to put in for a transfer to another BC Housing Building, and he wanted to move to Vancouver. He eventually got a transfer to a BC Housing Building near Jericho beach and he was truly happy here.
He was able to garden, which he really enjoyed and he had neighbours he got along with. He was a whole different person, he was saving money to buy a kayak (he did get his kayak, it was great to carry it to the beach and go for a relaxing paddle). He had one more big wish and that was to reconnect with his kids were adults now. He had not seen his family since his life started falling apart so many years before. He reached out several times before he received some positive response from them. He was so happy. This was truly a new Man; he acted so different, he could hardly be recognized. Evan didn’t need my help much anymore but he kept in touch with what was happening.
In early 2016 now and early in the year Evan was telling me he was feeling much better. One of his major health issues seemed to be under control with new medication that had just come out. This would be life changing for him. Then suddenly he called me in early October with devastating news that he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. They didn’t give him much time. He had one final wish that he would get to see his new granddaughter, his youngest daughter was pregnant and due late December. Evan got his wish. His family all came out from back east, including his Mom, for Christmas. This was a great re-union and he saw his new granddaughter. Evan passed away January 2nd, 2017. This has been a hard story to write, I get close to clients I’ve worked with for so many years.
As narrated by Ellen Silvergieter, Advocacy Office Director