Vancouver Papa: the Story of Carlos

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After falling into a life of substance abuse and reeling from a broken marriage of 14 years, Carlos ended up on the streets of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside (DTES)–the poorest neighbourhood in Canada.

However, through his loss, loneliness, and pain, Carlos found resilience, faith, hope and meaningful friendship through his pain and loss.



I work all my life just like a lot of people. Work hard, save for the future. But it didn’t end up that way. After [00:00:30] a 14 year marriage ended, I took everything really hard. Eventually I got into drugs. Money runs out. Lost my apartment. Lost my van. Sleeping in the van I was. Lived in the park. Now I have nothing.

[00:01:00] I’m even too embarrassed to show my face to my family. So I ended up in the streets. I became an angry man, a bitter man. So many fights. I didn’t care if I was hurt. All I want to do is I want to hit something. As sad as I was, my pride still [inaudible 00:01:28]. Seeking [00:01:30] help didn’t work. I’m just alone. I wanted to be alone. I don’t deserve anything else. Just me.

Eventually I went to their Servants Vancouver was the name of this place. I was going to turn away and walk away because I was afraid. I was so [00:02:00] afraid to walk through that door.

A young lady came and said, “Are you coming in?” I said, “Yes.” It was just a house. A lot of good people. Just want to welcome me. I though, “Wow. What [00:02:30] do they want from me? I have nothing.” And yet I’m greeted with these smiles. Showed me a seat. Here I am sitting to eat at the dinner table already and something was wrong because I got so used to the lineups. The endless lineups.

[00:03:00] To me, treated like a person. It was simple, something I needed.

Ashleen: The one thing I appreciate most about Servants is it’s family-like culture. [00:03:30] It’s highly relational. There’s acceptance and openness to a variety of experiences that we all make. Any initiative we take and development is with the locals and they have a say and they determine what they need and how to best find a solution to their problem rather than coming [00:04:00] from above and doing it for them. It’s really about doing it with them.

Carlos: Whether it’s substance abuse, or broken heart or just plain loneliness. They provide the space to feel like a part of something, part of a community because this is how Christ healed my heart. Through friends.

Ashleen: [00:04:30] There’s a real feeling of being loved. Sometimes it can be easy to lament or grieve and so really needing to celebrate and recognizing the joy that gives strength. Looking at how Jesus is God incarnate and moved to be amongst us, [00:05:00] so we also believe in moving amongst the poor as we build a relationship with the poor and live in solidarity.

Carlos: I don’t have many, many friends, but it’s came up to about 100. I don’t know, because I’m just old or something, but I can definitely feel when somebody’s sincere. Now I find myself in leadership roles now. It’s like, “Whoa, that can’t be me.” [00:05:30] I learn enough that I do have to ask for forgiveness. All of a sudden I have this feeling inside. I didn’t even know what it was. I had never felt that before, but it was peace.

This five years to get into where I am now. It’s work. Servants [00:06:00] played a big part in walking with me. We have experienced Christ together. Nothing more than I want in this life than to be part of that.




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