Yes, in my garden: how a stranger’s act of kindness changed the life of a homeless man


Ask David McDonald and Kim Cormier who makes the most of their newfound friendship, and they’ll both point the finger at each other.

“I feel very lucky to have met David,” Cormier said from her home in the Skeleton Park neighborhood in Kingston, Ont.

“I am the blessed one,” corrected McDonald, sitting next to her.

It was a chance meeting in July that brought them together.

He’s part of the family now.-Kim Cormier

McDonald, 46, who has been intermittently homeless since 2016, was driving past Cormier’s house on his electric scooter earlier this summer when he had a flat tire. He asked Cormier, who was working outside on his laptop, if she would watch his things for him while he went to Canadian Tire for a new inner tube. He had had a lot of his things stolen recently and didn’t want to lose any more.

Upon her return, Cormier invited McDonald to dinner with her and her partner, Andrew Embury.

“We hit it off,” McDonald said. “Every time we have a conversation there is laughter.”

Rotten chain of luck

McDonald’s needed a good laugh after a string of bad luck.

Until 2010, he owned a Pioneer gas station in Kingston, pulling nearly six figures per year. But when gasoline hit a dollar a liter, he lost his business. Then his house in the Cataraqui Woods neighborhood of Kingston. Then his Dodge Durango.

Around the same time, her 10-year relationship with another man ended.

“I literally lost my whole life after the gas station – the life I knew then,” he said.

McDonald moved to Toronto with his teenage daughter, and when she moved he took a Greyhound to Vancouver, where he first experienced homelessness.

Nine months later, fearing that he might die in British Columbia, McDonald packed up a few possessions and walked and cycled over 3,000 kilometers to Ontario, eventually living in a park in Toronto.

After staying with various relatives near Kingston, he returned to the city in late 2018.

McDonald, who once owned a gas station in Kingston, lost everything in 2010. “I couldn’t imagine being homeless. I cried. And so it was hard for me to accept help – charity, I felt it. (Kim Cormier)

Stolen and threatened

For a year and a half, McDonald’s shared a one-bedroom apartment with a stranger, but said other tenants made his life miserable, robbed him and threatened him with violence because of his sexuality.

Shortly after meeting Cormier for the first time, McDonald left the apartment and began to live in a tent. When it rained, he took shelter in an abandoned transport trailer he called his “cave,” supplementing his monthly Ontario Disability Support Program payments of $ 1,124 by scouring the city to pick up what he was doing. calls it “alcohol cans”. (McDonald’s suffers from social anxiety and is unable to work in a traditional setting.)

She did more than I could ever say thank you to her.-David McDonald

“I do not use the services provided for [the] homeless because I feel like even though I’m homeless other people are worse off than me, ”McDonald said.

He finds most of what he needs in the trash, using the things the rest of us throw away – an air conditioner, a coffee maker, even a toothbrush.

“It’s a throwaway company. I find it all,” McDonald said.

Some days this includes food.

“You have to swallow your pride when you are homeless,” he said.

“There is a misconception that the homeless don’t want to work and are lazy, and it is none of the above,” Cormier added. “He doesn’t drink or do drugs. He’s out all day looking for things, accumulating, and he’s generous to the rest of the homeless.”

“A friend to count on”

McDonald’s will tell you that Cormier is the generous one, as she has gradually replaced her stolen goods.

Once, when she noticed her undersized shoes left her feet blistered, she literally gave him the Birkenstocks of her own feet. Cormier and Embury also gave McDonald’s a backpack equipped with a solar panel for him to charge his phone, as well as new clothes.

Earlier this month, Cormier and Embury invited McDonald to move into their backyard. His new three-season tent, gifted by a sister he hadn’t seen in years, comes with a queen-size mattress, sofa, fridge and rugs. He cooks on Cormier’s outdoor fireplace and knocks on the door to go to the bathroom or do his laundry.

“She did more than I could ever say thank you,” McDonald said.

According to Cormier, McDonald’s gives back in its own way.

“He has some really good stories, and he’s just friendly and respectful,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to have someone coming in and going out, someone to talk to and a friend to rely on.”

McDonald’s new micro-home will resemble that of Niagara Falls-based manufacturer EnerDynamic Hybrid Technologies. (EnerDynamic hybrid technologies)

house small house

Cormier, 35, is so pleased with the arrangement that she and Embury came up with the idea of ​​letting McDonald stay there all winter – a secluded “micro-house” that he might one day call his own.

A mortgage agent, Ms. Cormier came up with the idea for a local organization she is involved with called Our Livable Solutions, which is in the early stages of planning a community of small houses to give to the approximately 400 homeless people. of Kingston a permanent place to live.

She launched an online fundraising campaign that by Friday was about halfway to her goal of raising the $ 18,000 needed for McDonald’s new 80-square-foot living space. After the deposit is paid, the manufacturer in Niagara Falls, Ont., Is expected to deliver the house to Cormier’s backyard next month.

Donations included a gift of $ 2,500 from a complete stranger, an employee of the local public school board.

“It gave me tears in my eyes and goosebumps. I couldn’t believe it,” McDonald said.

McDonald’s plans to repay Cormier the remaining balance, and when that happens, the portable house will be his own to move wherever he wants. But Cormier said she was in no rush for that to happen.

“He’s part of the family now,” she said.

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