Day 6 – December 28, 2010 – Lawrence Brooks

Start from the beginning

Lawrence Brooks – Past Midnight

Lawrence Brooks walked into Blenz and I quickly offered him a seat, a banana and a cranberry juice.  The cranberry juice was given to me by Kenneth a few hours ago and the banana I bought with some of my panhandled money.  Our conversation covered a range of subjects including: homelessness, the needs of an individual, his family history and his beliefs.

Lawrence was a big believer in God.  He knew that religions were created by humans, but was convinced that God was real.  His strong beliefs were partly due to the fact that he miraculously survived after being hit by three cars and one bus on four separate occasions.  In one of his accidents, he claimed that the car was travelling at a speed of 60 km/h.  To have someone survive this accident without major consequences is simply remarkable.

At another point in time, his doctors were convinced that his leg had to be amputated.  He was bitten by a poisonous black spider in Vancouver Island and didn’t have a chance to get it treated early enough.  He said that he was actually bitten twice on two separate occasions and both times he walked away with minimal injuries.

All of these incidents drew Lawrence into believing the existence of a higher being on this planet.  When I told Lawrence that he was very lucky to have survived four car accidents, he said that “he did not like the word luck but preferred the word blessed instead.”

His greatest amount of suffering and pain was that his heroin addiction created a great big divide between him and his family.  Lawrence started to tear up and cry.  When his brother passed away two years ago he was not allowed to attend his funeral.  And that really hurt him.  His family has been trying to get him off drugs, but they have been unsuccessful in doing so.  These failed attempts and his brother’s drug related death, are a cause for concern.  At the age of 44, without being able to turn back the hands of time, Lawrence is intently trying to restore the relationship with his family once again.  But before that, he has to control and eliminate his devotion to drugs.

Next, we discussed some basic changes that could make Vancouver a better place to live.  One suggestion was to have more places like Insite.  For those who do not know, Insite is a safe injection site for individuals who suffer from addiction problems.  He supported Insite because it made him feel safer and was much cleaner than using dirty needles or shooting up in an alley.  People who are addicted to heroin or cocaine will shoot up anywhere they can.  So instead of avoiding the inevitable, it is better to accept it.

As Gabor Mate said during an interview in Streets of Plenty, Insite is a place where these addicted individuals come into contact with non-judgmental government employees that are there to assist them to make sure that diseases do not get spread within the community.  They also provide treatment, check-ups, information and condoms.  This environment could lead a drug-addicted individual to reach out for help and the facts do support evidence for this claim.  Since the creation of Insite, HIV infections have dropped, overdose rates lowered, more people have signed up for detox and drug-related crimes have been reduced in the Downtown Eastside (Source: New York Times).

We currently only have one Insite location and Lawrence was suggesting to create more.  Imagine having only one 7-11 store in downtown Vancouver.  You would have to walk a long distance just to get to that one store.  So instead of walking a long distance, a drug addict would shoot up in an alley instead because it would be more convenient.

Lawrence told me that he was recently interviewed by the New York Times.  They even created a short movie clip called about him, which is 5 minutes long.  I recommend that you watch it; the link can be found in the article here.  The article about Lawrence was published in February this year, which was two months after I had met him.

I gave Lawrence my blanket, and he is now sleeping on the couch.  I’m going to have to wake him up soon because people are not allowed to sleep in this store.  I am going to let Lawrence rest for a bit before I head out though.  I think I’m going to sleep on Granville Street tonight.

After we finished our long conversation, it was getting late.  He was really appreciative to have someone listen to him non-judgmentally and he hadn’t felt this welcome in a long time.  He told me where he stayed and invited me to come see him again in the future.

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