One year after tent city, two former residents who found housing share their story

One year after tent city, two former residents who found housing share their story

WATCH: John Bertram and Laurel Hanuse moved from tent city to a rental apartment last year. April Lawrence caught up with the pair to see how they’re doing now.

It was a cold and rainy day in December 2015 when CHEK News first met John Bertram and Laurel Hanuse at Victoria’s tent city next to the courthouse.

They had been living on the streets for a year after their apartment was torn down to build condos.

But just two weeks after that first meeting, the couple were packing their bags eager to get out of the rain.

They were among the first group of tent city campers to move into the new My Place shelter operated by Our Place Society.

Then after just one week, they received even more good news.

With the help of Pacifica Housing, the pair landed a new market rental apartment in Cook Street Village.

Things were starting to look up.

“It’s a new beginning for us so, it’s like we’re starting all over again,” said Hanuse at the time.

But unfortunately, that new beginning came to an end after five months.

Today John and Laurel are living at the Choices transitional shelter ? a former youth jail in View Royal.

They share a converted jail cell, including the tiny bed inside.

The couple says they left their apartment voluntarily because of conflicts with their neighbours.

“It turned out there was a lot of drug use in that building as well, I mean lots of times we came out in the hallway people passed out in the hallway, people passed out downstairs,” Bertram said.

They don’t do drugs but admit it’s hard not to drink when you’re surrounded by it.

“When you’re living in a certain situation it’s kind of hard not to sometimes, I mean, what’s a guy do when you’re down in the slums and you’ve got nothing else to do,” he said.

Those who help the homeless population say John and Laurel’s experience shows the need for different types of housing in Victoria.

“Just putting someone into housing and hoping they’ll succeed is unrealistic,” said Grant McKenzie, Communications Director for Our Place Society, which runs the Choices shelter as well.

“There’s a definite need for sober housing, for seniors housing, for housing with a lot of mental health supports,” he said.

Laurel now volunteers at Choices, and John works in demolition occasionally but both say it’s tough to find work, and an apartment, when you’re homeless.

“It’s not much to put on your resume, I live at tree six bush nine that type of thing that’s my address right?” Bertram said jokingly.

But they’re not giving up ? Laurel is preparing to go to detox for the first time, and John is still searching for that perfect place they can, permanently, call home

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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