Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MIKE

LAST IN A SERIES from *Working For Change.

You will never see hotdog soup on the menu in a restaurant. It was one of Mike Creek's recipes. Boil up some hotdogs, use the oily water as a broth, squeeze in some ketchup from a fast food restaurant pack and stir.  This is how one survives when one is homeless.

Mike held down good jobs and took pride in his work. He worked at a hotel in his hometown on Lake Erie from a very early age. He worked his way up from bus boy to management. With a wandering spirit and curiosity, Mike was able to afford to visit Paris, London and Morocco.

In his early 30s, Mike was working at a video reproduction company in Vancouver when he felt a pain in his side. He had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and was treated with chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission, but he was too week to work.

Mike's slide into poverty was like a creeping disease. He moved back east, living with a partner in Toronto who was abusive. Mike, a bright, kind-hearted gentle man was beaten down. He lost all hope of returning to the life he once enjoyed and where he thrived.

Homeless for almost two years, he slept on a friend's sofa. He once went to a Toronto men's shelter, but the conditions were horrific and the drugs too prevalent. It was safer on the streets, so he lived under a bridge in Toronto's Don Valley for a time.

In 2007, while visiting his doctor, he saw an ad for a new programme called, Voices From The Street. It was an invitation to people who had known poverty. He applied and was accepted.

His life changed again.

Mike is now the Director of Strategic Initiatives at *Working For Change, the non-profit umbrella organization for Voices From The Street. He has met with provincial cabinet ministers, sat on the board of the Toronto anti-poverty organization, won awards and has influenced public policy.

His life is flourishing.

Mike, the man a social worker predicted "would never work again" is a skilled leader in human rights, health and poverty reduction campaigns.

The 13-year-old kid, the bus boy from Port Dover is now happy, inspired and using his life's experiences to help others find their voices and their way.

MIKE FUN FACT: He now owns a condo, has his own place and recently bought a nice camera. He is interested in photography and wants to do a lot more of it when he retires in seven years.

*Working For Change provides education and employment opportunities for people disadvantaged by mental illness, addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, violence and newcomer/immigration challenges. For more formation, please visit www.workingforchange.ca  With files from Leslie Scrivener.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

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