When Life Fell Apart

Balding male sits on couch
by SalvationArmy.ca

Jesse was a schoolteacher, in a long-term relationship and was going to be co-owner of a business when life fell apart. Alcohol abuse was in the mix, and there were consequences that he was unprepared for. When he reached out to The Salvation Army, he was welcomed and had hope for a better life.

“One week I was living in Russia with my girlfriend, teaching students and doctors. The next week I was homeless, standing outside a shelter in Vancouver,” says Jesse.


Born in South Africa, Jesse (now age 58), recalls how his drinking began in high school because everyone partied, and it was hard to take a stand. When peers were graduating, getting married and buying homes, he struggled to stay sober. And the more he drank, the lonelier he was.

“I didn’t know anybody and was destitute.”

Jesse came to Canada in 1986 for the Vancouver Expo and decided to stay. He worked at various jobs before he attended university to become a schoolteacher. All the while, the truth of his reality was that he was an alcoholic.

In 2014, Jesse moved to Russia to be with his girlfriend and family. He was also on a teaching contract. In 2017, his working visa expired, and he had relapsed again. His girlfriend couldn’t cope with his poor decisions and lifestyle. The couple parted ways, and Jesse returned to Canada.

“I arrived in Vancouver with a suitcase and a heart condition,” says Jesse. “I didn’t know anybody and was destitute.”


After several days in hospital, Jesse bounced from shelter to shelter and worked on his sobriety. When he came to The Salvation Army’s Belkin House, a state-of-the-art facility that houses up to 225 men, women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, he had been sober for two years.

“The Salvation Army were good people who genuinely cared and wanted to help.”

“Belkin House gave me a stable environment that was drug-free,” says Jesse. “With support, resources and encouragement, I made smarter life choices.”

From Belkin House, Jesse went to The Salvation Army Grace Mansion, which provides safe, secure transitional housing to men and women in a clean and sober environment.

“Grace Mansion was one step further up the ladder to building back dignity,” says Jesse. “It’s for people like me who find themselves in situations but are willing to do what it takes to get out of them.”

Today, Jesse is living in a studio apartment in downtown Vancouver and is developing a small video production company.

“The Salvation Army were good people who genuinely cared and wanted to help,” says Jesse. “That gave me hope. And hope is a powerful thing!”

By Linda Leigh