In this series, we share stories from Art Jam participants. Art Jam - a volunteer-run program of the Salt Spring Arts Council - provides a safe, welcoming space for members of our marginalized community, where they can be defined as creators and artists, rather than by the challenges they regularly face. By celebrating their unique creative accomplishments and reinforcing the value of their work through public exhibitions we promote positive self-identities and help build self-esteem.
My name is Nick and I have lived on Salt Spring Island for 5 years now.
I’m originally from Barrie, a small town in Ontario. Well it started small but it is the fastest growing city in Canada. I got sick of Barrie, but more importantly I was making bad decisions. I could either leave or continue screwing up, spiraling down.
I consider myself a hobo but I’ll find home eventually. I am still looking. Right now I sleep in a tent; nothing British Columbia throws at me weather wise is scary. Having a family one day would be nice. I’m looking for that so to speak. It feels like a major topic, being the last male able to carry on the last name. It sounds aristocratic.
A friend of mine lived here before I decided to move out west. He invited me to come, and even though he was not as hospitable as I had hoped, we managed. I ended up leaving here to go to Victoria. I left Salt Spring because winter was approaching, there weren’t a lot of resources here, and because I didn’t know anyone. I decided to go to a city where there were more resources and opportunities. I was part of the tent city project and when I would get sick of that way of living I’d come back to Salt Spring. I’d pack up my things for a couple of days and come back here to de-stress.
I love the smallness of the island. Big cities create problems for me in regards to drugs, which are everywhere.
I am a member of the United Church. I’ve been going to church since I was a kid. When I came to Salt Spring it took some time to get back into the church community. Churches are different from place to place so it took time to warm my feet here. There are members of my church, and I don’t want to sound mean, but they can be judgmental at times. The meadow situation between the church and the homeless has further set a divide between the two groups. Sometimes I act as an advocate for the homeless, but I am only a small piece of the puzzle. If you wish to understand homelessness you would have to speak to all the people of the world, and only then would you be able to figure it out. Well, maybe. Good luck with that idea. I share my story, and I can tell the stories of my friends, but I can’t advocate for all the people. I won’t speak about what someone is going through with their mental illness because I’m not a doctor and therefore cannot advocate for them. I encourage people to be Christian, if that makes sense, because a lot of people sadly forget that. Chris (the minister at our church) said today: “It is our job to be there for the bad times. It is not other people who need to live what we think is Christian, it’s our job to be the best example we can be, and to express this to people so that they want the same.” It’s easier to police yourself than police the world. We get so invested in getting someone else to do it our way.
I have a permanent job working at the Seabreeze Inn twice a week and I do other jobs that are offered to me. For me housing creates anxiety. While I was living in Barrie, I either lived in roach motels or was homeless for many years. There were so many experiences of living under a slumlord. Slumlords are the worst human beings on this planet.
At one point I just gave up, because under my income bracket I am not going to meet with someone who is not a slumlord. I can’t afford a half decent place to live. I feel I am better on the streets that under a slumlord.
I don’t have anything that comes to mind as far as a dream for myself goes. I just want to keep myself busy until I can’t any longer. I would like to be recognized as an artist before I die. That’s my dream job.
Before I came to Salt Spring Island I thought of myself as a hobo/crack dealer. I did not every consider myself as artist until I came here, to Art Jam, week after week. When I saw a piece of my art in a show that’s when I realized I was an artist - when someone buys a piece of your art. Then you have another show, and a lot of people come and talk to you about your work and you feel more like an artist than ever. It’s an evolution. You are changing how you feel about yourself. If you think of yourself as just a hobo or drug addict and then you add another world to it, it changes your perspective. That’s what I found here, I could call myself an artist. At our show I loved being the one to tell another person “you sold a piece.”