“I could have been there,” said Paul Christensen, a Prince George man who donated $1,500 to the Moccasin Flats tiny house project.
The volunteers, led by carpenter Brad Gustafson and his assistant Philip Fredrickson, are currently building shelters including small shelters and tiny home shelters for people living in the Moccasin Flats encampment.
Christensen, who is retired, heard about the project and felt compelled to contribute.
“This whole deal is near and dear to my heart in some ways, so I made a donation…which was pretty significant,” he said.
“It’s not that I’m rich or I’m doing well or anything like that. I’ve actually been through a very difficult journey, but overall, you know, I’d say the whole issue of homelessness is near and dear to my heart.”
Without family and Canada’s social safety net, he said, he could have become homeless himself.
“I mean addiction isn’t just drugs, it’s cigarettes, alcohol, street drugs. Prescription drugs are another drug and probably the hardest drugs I’ve ever gotten off of,” Christensen said.
“For me, it all ended with a stroke. There’s a 20- to 25-year gap in my memory and an ever-changing cocktail of antidepressants, and during that time I was a mess.
Christensen said he was hit by a tree when he was 20, breaking his back, and a series of concussions followed.
“In hindsight, I can say that everything went sideways at that time, and soon after that I was on antidepressants.”
In addition to antidepressants, he said, he began drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs.
“I would have gotten off the bars if it wasn’t for my family. Then it was the social safety net when I had my stroke.”
After having a stroke while he was an outpatient, Christensen said, he found a doctor who didn’t think he should take the antidepressants he was taking, and after two years he stopped taking them and began seeking support from a brain injury group.
“We all like to be a little bit superior. You know, ‘I’m better than you,’ but a lot of people don’t really want to take a good look at themselves,” Christensen said.
He said he feels sympathy for those living at Moccasin Flats and suspects that many unhoused people may also be suffering the effects of a traumatic brain injury or serious concussion.
“For those who bemoan moccasins, where else would you put them?” Christensen asked. “It’s a community, you know, that group of people, however dysfunctional, is a community within itself.”
A GoFundMe that supports volunteers to build shelters at Moccasin Flats has also raised $5,000 so far, exceeding the original goal of $1,000 to help with supplies.