The Peninsula News Review’s Erin Cardone is the first reporter to talk to “Ed,” who is half of a campaign to raise awareness of Woodwynn Farms.
Editor’s note: Ed is an alias, used to protect the identity of the man in this story.
As they stomp up to the red farmhouse door, mud clinging to their boots, Ed and Sue talk fences. They’ll need to install a barrier on the farm soon, maybe today. The pigs and ducks have already been fed.
Hours earlier, Ed awoke in his bed – in a bedroom – including pillow, blanket, and a bathroom nearby.
It’s an average life, quite normal for most. But for Ed, it’s a far cry from what his life has looked like these past two years.
He had just started a new carpentry job when a rung of the ladder snapped beneath him. Ed, then 56, fell and his foot broke.
“I was out of work,” he says. “I had just started a job. An hour into the job the step on the ladder broke.”
Next, the hydro was cut off in the house he rented. Then he was homeless, living from his white Chevrolet van, usually in Brentwood Bay, the community he’s called home for 27 years.
For Ed, trading homes with Woodwynn executive director Richard Leblanc, who now sleeps in Ed’s van is about awareness of homelessness, how homeless people are treated, the importance of Woodwynn and the unavailability of jobs. He has no criminal record and no addiction issues. He wants people to know that homelessness exists on the Peninsula – not just downtown.
“There’s more homeless people out there than you actually think. … They want to live just like you do, but they just don’t get a chance. This thing at Woodwynn is such a good thing for everybody, but in [Central Saanich] they say, ‘Not in my back yard.’ Open up your eyes and give your head a shake.”
Calls to potential employers have turned out fruitless for the carpenter. At 58, he’s too old to be in demand.
For now, Woodwynn’s wooden farmhouse painted white with the red door is home. On the livingroom couch, beneath framed words such as “love” and “respect,” Ed pauses from his story, looking down to hide the tears that streak his cheeks, then continues in broken sentences.
“Being here on Woodwynn Farms, it’s awesome. Such nice people. I can’t thank them enough. House. Warmth. I can cook and just the people themselves. Awesome. Their hearts are so big.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing. Still living in my van, going to the library all day long, then wait for the sun to set so I can park. That way nobody harasses you.
“Ah man. I do not recommend it to anybody, living out there.”
Two years of homelessness in the van he shared with his shaggy 16-year-old dog Kye, reshaped Ed.
“It made me a better person because now I know the answers I didn’t know before,” he says with a little bitterness. “When you look at somebody don’t judge him by what he does. You can’t judge a book by its cover. There’s some really nice people out there on the street. Some of it is their choosing and some of it is not.”
On Monday, Feb. 20, Ed was invited to Mark’s Work Wearhouse in Sidney.
There, staff put $500 worth of work clothes into his cart.
The owner, Doug Bateman told Ed, “We’re your neighbours and this is what neighbours do.”