Jon's Story

My name is Jon.

I was born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the eldest of four children (one brother and two sisters). We are a close and loving family, and have become even closer over the past two years as the family unit began to face its own challenges and losses.

I had been single for many years, and not very socially active. At some point it became apparent to me that I was ready to settle down, again; and that what I truly wanted was a long term committed relationship. I became more involved in the community, took up reading after so many years of not opening a book, enhanced my existing friendships and developed some new ones, exposed myself to art and culture, and ventured into the scary and foreign world of camping! I was having fun. I felt good about myself and about life itself.

Then I met someone. Then I fell in love. Then, two weeks after taking the relationship ‘to the next level’, I got the worst flu of my life; with aches and pains, headaches, nausea, sweating. Then I went for my routine physical and blood work

I tested HIV+ 28 September 2006 and immediately informed my family of the test results. My family rallied around me, as did my colleagues and friends. Within the year, with my own physical and emotional health teetering back and forth, members of my immediate and extended family faced their own personal health issues. As my depression and anxiety worsened while I was adjusting to the diagnosis, my mother was constantly ill. My father was experiencing signs of ‘slowing down’. I wanted desperately to return east and they wanted me to come home!

After careful thought and planning, it was decided that I would return to the East Coast to be nearer to those I held closest in my heart. However, my beloved mother died unexpectedly ten days after my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary, and before I could return home.

Families, it seems, sometimes have a way of falling apart after the death of a family member, especially when it is the death of ‘the head of the house’. All of the original planning put into my relocation continued onwards, but I returned much sooner than anticipated due to my father’s health and his inability to care for himself, alone in a large home, with his own health problems.

My employer was more than supportive and agreed that a transfer could be made. On paid leave from work, I packed my treasures and sent them ahead, and, between yard sales and donations to charities, I emptied my apartment.

Somewhere during the flight my family changed their mind; or, at the very least, realized that I was actually coming home!...that I was on the way!...and, what would they do with me now? I sensed it the minute I stepped off the airplane and entered the airport, seeing my family standing there with what I can only describe as ‘stunned and numb’ looks on their faces, and by their cold and unfeeling ‘hugs’.

Everything changes...and it did.

I spent two months in my father’s home before he announced that during a family meeting (which I was unaware of) they had come to the decision that it was best for me not to live in the family home. Further to that, none of them felt obligated to give me any reason for this decision except to say that they would prefer I leave and never come back. Father, usually in control at all times, verbally tripped and stated ‘we don’t want you around the children, your situation doesn’t make for a good role model’. They also informed me the decision was effective immediately.

I packed what little I could squeeze into a travel bag and the very next day hailed a cab to the airport. I landed in Toronto. I’ve not been back, nor have I looked back.

I notified work and explained what had transpired over the past several months. The transfer was cancelled on the basis of ‘lack of available specialized medical care, and isolation in an area with no community support’.

I am finally home! I have a wonderful primary care physician and AIDS specialist. And. I have a homeless outreach worker at Fife House who is…well, I’ll describe her as an Angel of Kindness.

She has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help ease my fear of being homeless and without life-extending medications if/when my employer benefits should cease. She has offered me a tremendous amount of guidance, understanding and compassion during this difficult time. I am, and will always be, eternally grateful for the kindness she has extended me. It is with her support and encouragement that I have completed the required applications for safe affordable housing. It is with her support and encouragement that I will keep holding on to the knowledge that things WILL get better, that things WILL work out for the best. And that some day I will obtain the single remaining dream I have left…safe affordable housing for a lifetime!

I am seeking affordable housing. My physical and emotional needs are being met; however I truly feel that if I do not obtain safe affordable housing, my health will fail rapidly. I am doing the very best I can to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I desperately need housing to maintain this optimal level of health and motivation. Even though my family and I are once again close and supportive of each other, I am alone here. Even though I have wonderful old and new friends, I still feel alone here. I feel alone because I live every day with the fear that I will die alone in a mission bed or on the street…cold, hungry, and sick.

I’ve always believed it was ok to die, but it’s not okay to die alone. And, more importantly, it’s not ok to die homeless!!...that, quite simply is as wrong as it gets.

Postscript: Jon was subsequently housed in our Sherbourne Residence and lived there for three years. Eventually, he felt financially and physically stable enough to move into completely independent living in a downtown apartment building. He maintains contact with Fife House staff and is looking forward to working and volunteering in the community.


Fife House provides secure, supportive, affordable housing to men, women and families living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area.