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About SQW

Who the squid is this guy?

My name is Stanley Q Woodvine. My blog will naturally be a reflection of what interests me. That includes things like. me, computers, anime, the tools I use as a binner, such as bicycles and bicycle trailers, my experience as a homeless person, interesting things I find in the garbage  (you have no idea), and life in general.

In the past I’ve been an illustrator, graphic designer, and a writer. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the future. At present I am living rough in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, meaning I am homeless, and have been for the past nine years. I support myself almost entirely by binning — collecting and returning beverage containers for their deposit value. People in the Fairview neighbourhood can see me bombing about with my bike and trailer with it’s fluorescent orange back end. I have had some traditional jobs: part-time in a book store, landscaping, and full-time custodial. I have also done a bit of computer consulting, and CMS design/set-up.

What’s with that whole Homeless thing?

Looking back on it, I would now say that I became homeless largely through my own stupidity; sadly, it can’t be blamed on alcoholism or drug addiction.

I tell people that I simply lost the “thing” that had driven me to be an illustrator since I was a child. I had used that drive to push me beyond a childhood environment that was abusive, and dangerous; it pushed me to leave the Prairies at age 17 and seek my future in Vancouver. Within two weeks I was working for a community newspaper, the Westender, as their first-ever illustrator. I learned graphic design on the job, and went on to other newspapers, most notably The Georgia Straight. I also freelanced a lot; mostly illustration and design, but also some surprisingly lucrative technical writing. Basically I was able to pursue my passions and incidentally support myself for some twenty-four years.

By 2004 the passion was gone, I came to a point where I didn’t want to, almost couldn’t bring myself to draw; all the joys became terrible chores. I fudged, and outright missed deadlines; my work became laboured and mediocre. I effectively drove my freelance business into the ground.

Having honed my work ethic entirely in the meritocracy of commercial creative communication. I found myself baffled by the completely opposing ethics that seem to underlie traditional nine-to-five sorts of work.

I had current and former clients who tried to help me, but it is a thread running through my life that I’m hard to help. I have to say, with hopefully no rancour, that my friends weren’t much help. Ultimately, I wasn’t able to pay my rent so I evicted myself.

Cue the violins?

Eight years later, I’m still homeless. Why is that? One friend says I’m taking the easy way. It does seem easier to stay homeless than jump through the hoops to get off the street. I’d hoped to do it myself: 1) get a job; 2) work hard; 3) save my money; 4) get a place; 5) rebuild my life. I tried that, and hope to try again – I got as far as number three. No one would rent to me — my loss. Having a full-time job and being homeless do not mix well. If you are going to be homeless, then binning allows you to control your schedule, so you can go get a shower when showers are available to be gotten.

Some of this nonsense could be avoided if I had identification. I lost a lot in the process of becoming homeless, including my ID. I have no living relatives, and I do not even know how to spell the name of the mother I’ve never met. So if I can’t satisfy the requirements of the forms, then what? I had my one-and-only meeting with a welfare worker in October 2004 to see if the system could offer the same assistance it had back in 1980 when welfare (then called “Human Resources”) worked hard to help me get my ID for the first time. This time I was told, quite bluntly, “No.” Getting my ID back was my job. If i did that, and if I got my taxes back in order, I would be entitled to $73.00, monthly street assistance (2004 dollars, so that’s real money).

So, eight years later, I’m still homeless, because it’s easier, and because I am neither an alcoholic nor a drug addict ( I can say that because I’ve made my second try at quitting smoking stick for nearly two years so far), I don’t need to suffer. I can support myself as a binner competitive with having a minimum wage job. And I don’t believe you can go hungry in this beautiful city.

And obviously I have enough leisure time to start a blog. I hope it will entertain and inform.

How to help support this blog

canvasbitcoin3As of November, 2013, I can accept Bitcoins, WTF are those? A somewhat nouveau cryptographic online currency. WordPress.com accepts Bitcoins as payment for upgrades. I’m really interested in extra storage — starting at $20 per year. This would also allow me to also post audio files. I haven’t received any Bitcoins yet.

At right is my Bitcoin QR. Below is my Bitcoin Address:
1KKXN57xL5WJ6EEmnn4CWz1B2wqMBV1JCJ

Email me

14 Comments
  1. Just wanted to drop a note and say that I find your blog really interesting. I lived in North Van on Lonsdale for 13 years and have watched Vancouver change quite a bit during that time. We know quite a few artists struggling to make ends meet, living month to month. I think not doing drugs, drinking or smoking is a huge accomplishment. Keep writing and taking pictures, you definitely have an interesting point of view. Wishing you all the best, Ramona

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. I’m actually doing the “struggling artist” thing backwards. I quickly made a working go of it in 1980, as both a designer, and an illustrator, and didn’t stop, really, until my desire, and everything connected to “commercial art” hit a brick wall for me in the early 2000s. Drugs, and/or alcohol have never been a factor in my life. I tried cocaine in 1980, when I worked at the West Ender newspaper; not only did it have no effect on me, but I watched it make my co-workers bahave like hyperactive idiots. This was also a time when heroin was killing a lot of local musicians. Finally quiting smoking after 30 years doesn’t quite offset the stupidity of having started in the first place.

      • You are very welcome. Funny thing, I told my husband about your blog and he said that he might know you. He used to have a studio on the Downtown Eastside and recalls someone with your story selling his drawings a couple (?) of years ago??? Small world, ey?!

      • It is a small world — at least if you have a bike. I don’t think I was the seller; I sold someone a sketch of some boats in some West End harbour, a few days after I’d arrived in 1980. Since becoming roofless in October 2004 I haven’t had an urge to draw so much as a pension. From Novenmer 2004 to February 2005, I had a part-time job in a little bookstore on the Downtown Eastside, but haven’t set foot in it, more than thrice, since.

  2. justin permalink

    I just read your bio, sorry to hear that you had a tough go with income assistance last time you tried. I don’t recommend doing it on your own, for the reasons you mentioned. Give the Carnegie Outreach a call, they can usually make things go a lot smoother, and can also help you find a place. 604.968.1825

    Wish you the best

  3. Dave permalink

    Not sure if you will get this message as it seems the other comments were from a few years ago. I just wanted to leave you a message saying how much I appreciated your blog and your story. I too have experienced homelessness and also had an abusive childhood that drove me to run away. However I was hopelessly dependant on opiates. Somehow… By a miracle… I ran into a retired teacher who offered to rent me a room in his house and allowed me to pay what I could when I could. He also helped me replace my ID, bought me clothes and other essentials, and helped me to get enrolled as a mature student at Carleton university (I was a high school dropout). That man was diagnosed with a terminal illness a year later and I reduced my schedule to part time studies to look after him. I graduated and he lived long enough to see it. He also saw me get accepted to law school. But a year into that degree his health became much much worse. I fought hard to access support services like nurses and PSWs and had minimal success. Mostly they said that he had me and other people had nobody. I made the tough decision to withdraw from law school and spend all my time and energy trying to make what time he had left as comfortable as possible. Another year past and I was able to keep him in his home despite his condition – mainly because I cooked, dressed, bathed, and monitored him. Eventually everyone said I couldn’t do this any longer, my health was suffering hugely. I had sunken into extreme depression, anxiety, and relapsed into drugs after four years of being clean. My leave of absence from law school expired and I missed my chance to go back without having to reapply and rewrite the lsat etc. We moved him into a truly beautiful retirement residence with first class service. His initial prognosis was 6 months to two years. Under my care he lived for five years. After the move to the retirement residence, his mind was quickly lost and his health plummeted. He died 11 months later. That was this past summer. I didn’t get back into law school and I have no recognizable employer on my resume for the last six years because I worked for that man 24/7. I haven’t been able to get a job, I’m no longer eligible for a government loan to go back to school, and I haven’t been able to get help for my worsening addictions. I’m lost again. I’ve been on the verge of eviction twice and will likely be homeless again in a month. I don’t know how I will survive or if I will even want to. I can’t believe I ended up back here. When I care what happens to me next, I’m terrified. And so mostly I try not to care. What struck me about your story and its similarity to mine was the utter failure of our social services. They seem to have failed you and they have consistently failed me over and over. I am not the type to mooch off the system. I think an honour roll BA and getting into law school despite not having high school proves that I am a hard worker. Your story also shows that you are intelligent and a hard worker. Not everyone in need and on the street is stupid or lazy. I wish more people realized this. Thanks for sharing and sorry for this long rant. I just needed to tell someone….

    • A friend of mine had a similar experience of becoming the primary caregiver to someone who helped get him off the street. In the case of my friend, things ended nearly as badly — at first.

      His friend passed away and he went into a deep depression which caused him to “self-medicating”. However, his elderly friend had a will in which he had left my friend a small amount of money. which an executor doled out monthly. May friend ultimately righted his ship, as it were,and he’s in housing, has a modest job and touches no drugs beyond cigs and weed.

      You clearly have a big heart and strength of character. What you did once, you can do again, although, as you and I both know, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to get off the street by one’s own effort — we all rely on the help of other people.

      Unfortunately, I cannot say much for the help of governments and NGOs. Help from that quarter has been all but nonexistent in all my time living on the streets. It has been ordinary people in the neighbourhoods who have sustained me but I’m the first to admit that I need to do better and truly get off the street altogether.

      I’m still of the same mind as ever, that the “system” should be there to facilitate me in getting the ID I need so I can get a job; provide shower facilities when working people need them (early in the morning and late at night), rather than when unionized government people are willing to run them (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). There should be help for working homeless people to bank accounts to better save the money that they make and the the government should be in a position to stand behind such working homeless people when they need references to rent.

      None of this sort of help was available when I last found full-time employment in 2007. Had it been then I don’t believe that I would be still homeless today.

      As difficult as it is, I know that I have to keep trying to get off the street and so do you. What else can we do?

      Good luck to both of us?

  4. Most of your photos at Broadway and Granville are very familiar since I work around this area. I must have seen you around. Next time, I will stop and say hi. To bad Kalamata restaurant closed. That was one of my fav spots. Nothing wrong with dumpster diving. I talk to alot of them early in the morning when I go to work. Hope you won’t join those two homeless regular in front of Starbucks and Restoration Hardware. Congratulations for being discovered.

    • Thanks. You refer to the so-called “Blanket Brothers”. I’ve known them for years. They’re not bad people but I understand they can be something of a terror in that block where they panhandle. Fun fact about them…both are voracious readers.

      • Yup. that’s them! Sometimes, I pick up what they leave behind and interesting reads. No, they are not bad at all. I’ve taken shots of them. But I wish they keep their area clean especially where they hide out at night. Sigh….

  5. Camille permalink

    Please. Look up new research on combating depression for anyone in the feed struggling. Moderate depression can be combated with an exercise regiment of 4 days a week
    40 min exercise. Something that will make you sweat (shown to be *more* effective than anti depression medicationson with no side effects and a significantly reduced relapse rate. Consider a gym pass to be your med subscription). Also diet diet diet. Anti inflammatory foods (depression is an inflammation in your brain -in tern it can effect your digestive system)…high fibre..veggies..beans..tumeric..garlic. sugar can cause inflammation. Cut out sugar. Replace screen time with art and reading. Blue light in screens can disrupt hormones and sleep cycles. Deep consistent (same time everyday) sleep is also rly important in combating depression. Seek out novel experiences that will re-wire your brain and make you feel brand new (press “re-set” button). Hiking and nature films can instill a sense of awe and an appreciation for the connectedness of life which will combat the depressive mindset of feeling disconnected And above all reach out for help! Fighting for your life is worth it -and even fun!!!
    Best,

    • Camille permalink

      And omega fatty acid tablets!

    • I agree with all you’ve written. It’s not much of an issue now that I’m homeless but I recall being quite depressed about my situation in the months prior to losing my housing — as the bills and anxieties about my future piled up. And I felt very much alone. I do not feel like that now.

      No one gets by in life without a little help from friends and strangers. A person should never allow themselves to become isolated from the community of others — that way lies madness. Also you need to keep your mind active and engaging with the people around you and learning from their experience is a great way to exercise the old noggin.

      Unfortunately, many homeless people I’ve known ans know are dogged by depression, isolation and boredom — three states that individually and collectively encourage mental illness, and drug use.

      Homelessness should be nothing more than a rough patch of life, but most people who fall into it will not see it that way so long as society continues to promote losing housing as kind of socioeconomic leprosy.

      As it is, too many of my peers accept homelessness as a kind of “retirement” or veritable death sentence and they act accordingly and fatalistically.

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