Dan Thanh Vo is in his room in Desmond House, operated by Cool Aid Society, talking to his brother in Ontario. Just a few months ago, his brother thought Dan was dead.
“I’m very happy to talk to them again,” Dan Thanh Vo said.
Dan, who has a severe mental illness, has been living on the streets of Victoria’s Chinatown for eight years. He was sleeping in doorways and finding food anywhere he could.
“I eat food in the garbage can, yes,” he said.
He was moved into Desmond House a few months ago, after smashing a car window and ending up at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
“He had some kind of schizophrenic episode where he thought someone was in danger in the car that caused him to break in,” said Desmond House senior resident support worker Francine.
The hospital is also where he told a nurse a familiar phone number, a number she called and found Dan’s uncle on the other end of the line. He quickly notified the rest of Dan’s very relieved family.
His family sent him an iPad and a cell phone so he could keep in touch and pass the time while he waits to go home to Ontario. But he could be waiting a while because like so many people who live on the streets, Dan has no identification.
Dan was born in Vietnam and he does have his birth certificate but it’s not enough to get the ID needed to travel home by bus or plane. Because of Dan’s health, it’s not advised he make the long trip by car.
“For someone like Dan who’s a refugee from a country decades ago it can be very difficult to obtain that first document that proves who you are,” said Together Against Poverty Society Executive Director Douglas King.
So instead of it taking a few days, it could be months or even a year.
“There’s no reason why he can’t access that document in a matter of days if the government actually put the time and effort into providing that service, but the reality is for people like him it could be a year before he gets that documentation,” said King.
“Identification should not be a barrier to getting someone out of the street and into their family’s home,” he said.
And that’s exactly where Dan wants to be.
“I want to go there as soon as possible,” he said.
So he’s hoping someone will hear his pleas, and help speed up the process and get him home to the people who love him most.