After eight months of waiting to see a specialist, Mark learned that the cartilage in his hip joints had almost completely worn away from advanced osteoarthritis. During the wait, he went from using one cane, to two. At 48, Mark would need hip replacement surgery.
By September 2012, Mark was able to work only two or three times a week at the temporary labour agency. It wasn’t enough to pay rent. He scrambled to find another place to live at month-end, but there were no other options. So, everything he owned that he couldn’t carry was packed away in storage.
He made his way to Gateway Shelter, where he quickly learned if you weren’t there early, you didn’t get a bed. Some nights, he was forced to walk the streets, his pack bearing down on his inflamed hips and back. In the mornings, as often as he could, he would get up and try to work another shift.
In the new year, the extreme pain rendered him unable to work even the few shifts per week he had been trying to maintain. “It would have been a different story if I had continued working…I can’t do any work, and yet I want to.”
While at the Gateway Shelter, Mark met a support worker from KEYS: Housing and health Solutions, who told Mark about an opening at Petersen Place – a former motel turned into subsidized housing in 2008. Mark was the first of six men to move in at the beginning of March.
Mark now lives in one of the two handicap suites in Petersen Place, each featuring a large washroom with a step-in tub – a priority for Mark. KEYS also helped Mark find furniture and provides him with low cost food.
His first hip surgery took place on August 20, and the next is scheduled four weeks after. Recovery will take four to six months, and Mark will know how well the surgery improves his condition once everything is healed.
After his surgeries, Mark hopes to get back to work. He has the drive, now all he needs is the opportunity.
Non-profit organizations such as Keys: Housing and Health Solutions, are supported by the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
Written by Amy Ounsted