Justin is a skinny, sharp-featured 20-year-old man who wiggled both his legs through the entire interview while he told a twisted and confusing tale about a rough-sounding family that he left at 14, and his subsequent descent into substance abuse, gang involvement and probably criminal activity. He has fathered two children, each of whom are in the care of their maternal grandparents – or were, by the time his current partner, Star, participated in the research a few weeks after his interview.
FM: Okay, let’s start with you telling me a bit about your up-bringing –where, who was in your family, how your family made a living, etc...
I grew up in Lockville, lived there most of my life with my parents and my two sisters. Both my parents had steady jobs the whole time. So did both my sisters once they got to the right age.
FM: What kind of work?
My mom and sisters all worked for Tim Hortons and my dad worked for a paving company. And I worked roofing. Ever since I was 16 years old.
FM: And this was in the Lockville region?
Well, I worked roofing in Littletown, but I fell off a roof and had an accident so I can’t go back to it. Still trying to but…
FM: Okay, let’s start back a bit. I’m going to [go through] each of the changes in housing that you’ve experienced, either since you left home, or even when you lived at home, if that’s important. So let’s start with: when did you first leave home?
I was 14. I moved up to Rapidsville, got into a lot of trouble with the authorities.
FM: Let me ask what motivated you to leave home at that time?
Me and my father got into a huge fight and I punched him in the face and he told me just to leave. I’ve been taking anger management courses ever since.
FM: So I gather this tension between you and your dad was not new, necessarily?
It wasn’t but it was. Because before we’d just sit there and holler at each other and end up just talking it out. But that one day I just went berserk on him.
FM: What do you understand was the reason why on that particular day you went berserk?
My grandfather passed away and he denied me to go to the hospital to see him before he passed away, and he was my best friend. He got me a job roofing, took me to Florida every year and the odd trip out Europe area.
FM: So this is your dad’s dad?
FM: And did those two get along?
FM: So why do you think your dad didn’t want you to see your grandfather as he was dying?
He says that he didn’t want me to see him because it wasn’t him that was there, it was just a shell. And because it was around Christmas time, he didn’t want me to see him at all, because normally he’d be there at Christmas.
FM: Okay, so he was protecting you, in a way, but you were grieving and lost it? That about it?
Yup. Pretty much.
FM: Okay. So your grandfather, before this, before you were 14, had gotten you hooked up with roofing?
Yup. He owned his own company at one point and the people he sold it to hired me on.
FM: So you started working very early.
Yup. Had to. Just because I wanted nice clothes, cool electronics, I wanted a car, I was looking very high for myself, but it didn’t work. I’m still trying to, but I’m just tired nowadays.
FM: Okay, so #1 was leaving your family home to somewhere in Rapidsville; what kind of place did you end up in that time?
I ended up with a 3-bedroom apartment, nice place, on the north side of town, right on the lake. I had a car, I had everything. I couldn’t drive the car yet but I still had it. I was set pretty much, until I got robbed.
I lost everything. And I’m still going through court for it to this day.
FM: What happened? The event itself -
I went out, came home, the car that I had no insurance on or anything was gone, the house was just emptied except for the couch, the bed, took my clothes, my dresser, everything. And then I got hold of the cops, they arrested someone who they had some suspicions about, had some of the answers about it. And they’re still trying to find my stuff. They found the car but won’t give it to me.
FM: Because why?
Because it’s a part of their investigation. There are fingerprints on it they need. They said I wouldn’t want the car to begin with any more.
Because the people literally destroyed it. The frame is bent in. The windows are smashed out, the seats are ripped right out.
FM: And this was six or so years ago?
Six years ago in a week from when that all happened.
FM: So what happened in your life after that?
It kinda went downhill from there. I tried moving into Littletown for a little bit. Couldn’t do it. Moved up to my parents’ place in [a small village 25 km away from Rapidsville].
FM: Tell me first a bit more about the move to Littletown, how that worked for you.
When I first moved into town, I met some people, got in the wrong crowd, got into the drug scene. It was just pot but it was too much for me. I ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning every weekend. Me and my friends we’d go rip off the dealers just to get our weed, I’d end up getting beat up afterwards. And couldn’t find work at all.
FM: Where was school in all this?
I was in Rapidsville high school for the first year of my high school and then I went to Rapidsville adult education, and kept on switching between that one and the one here [Littletown], whichever was closest for me to be bussed in.
FM: So you were in grade 9 when you left home. And started in Rapidsville when you had the nice apartment?
Yup. I was in the high school at that point. It was easy for me to walk down in. It was December when my grandfather passed away and I just kept on going to school, for some reason. Most people said take a couple of weeks off, but I just kept on going.
FM: And what was your history with drugs and alcohol before your grandfather died?
I never touched drugs, never drank other than the odd beer with my dad during that period. Well, actually, my 14th birthday was my first beer with my dad.
FM: So a coming of age ritual with your dad, share a beer like -
Pretty much. Both my sisters did the same thing but their drink was wine. And I drank the bottle and ran to the bathroom.
FM: To be sick?
FM: Your sisters older than you?
Both my sisters are older.
FM: And did they move out of home early?
No, well. One moved out at 18 to go to college and the other one still lives with my parents.
FM: Okay, gotta ask here. It sounds like very nice accommodations for a first move out of home. Most kids move in with friends or into a dumpy little apartment. How were you able to afford such nice digs?
I was one of those kids who saved every birthday card, money from birthdays, from Christmas. People would ask me what did I want, I’d say just send me money, not toys.
FM: Okay, so you had a nice bank account and got a nice place, and somebody wrecked it. Any idea who would do that to you?
Yup. My sister’s ex-boyfriend. He’s the one on trial right now.
FM: And why would he do that?
My sister broke up with him and he knew where to get a quick buck. All because he hit me. He hit me because I wouldn’t let him stay at my place but I let my sister. He bombarded himself in by hitting me. And then he never left until everything else left.
FM: And was your sister still living with you?
No, she’d just come after school.
FM: Okay, so the picture I’m getting is that you left home, got a nice pad, sister liked to visit, you didn’t care for her boyfriend so wouldn’t let him come in, so he forced his way in and wrecked the joint as punishment. That about right?
Yup. And to this day he still tries to come to me, to get money, cigarettes, tries to get me to get him drugs. But I’ve gotten myself out of things, out of drugs, I have a smoke a day. Trying to get myself off of it.
FM: Weed smoke or regular cigs?
FM: So was he a bad-ass guy or what?
He ended up with 127 counts of grand theft auto for stealing boats. And tried to drag my sister down with him.
FM: Is this the sister who still lives at home?
FM: So he’s still fairly involved in your life, indirectly?
Tries to be, because he lives three doors down from where we’re staying so every time I walk past to come up this way, he sees me every time and comes running up the street to see if he can get stuff.
FM: Why isn’t he in jail?
Because the trial hasn’t been finalized for him to go to jail yet.
FM: So this isn’t the trial about your stuff, but about the boats?
Nope, it’s about my stuff. He went to jail for a year for the boats, that was when I was 16. And I’m hoping he’s going to go to jail for my stuff. Because I lost everything and I went downhill from there.
FM: So let’s talk a bit about ‘downhill’. You’ve said you got into drugs and alcohol really heavily, a bad gang. Anything else?
I am a father of two, now. I have a child that lives with me that’s five months old, and one that doesn’t. He’s three, almost four years old.
FM: And he’s where?
He’s with his grandparents, the mother’s parents.
FM: Do you see him?
Every day. I make a point to go out there and whether it’s to bring him a little toy or whatever, just so I can go up and see him. They don’t like me coming up there but they can’t stop me.
FM: So if he’s almost four, he was born when you were 16.
Pretty much. Born seven days after I turned 17.
FM: You still see the mom at all?
Me and my girlfriend are actually friends with her. We were up at her place the other day because her boyfriend beat her up, so we escorted him out and called the cops and he’s the one who ended up in jail.
FM: Okay, so you met her, I’m guessing, during your wild days?
Yeah. I came into town one day, met her and a couple years later we met up again. And then we were together for two years and then I found out she cheated on me about 10 times, during her party years. While I was trying to provide for both of us, provide for the baby.
FM: So is she your age or younger?
She’s two years younger than me, a year and a half.
FM: Alright, so she becomes a mother at 15 or just turned 16.
She was pretty much just turning 16, just about to turn 16.
FM: And the two of you parented that child? Where were the grandparents, her parents, at this time?
We both parented the child and her grandparents were my next door neighbours. Unfortunately I got an inheritance when I turned 16 and bought a house and then that happened. Like us losing him. We lost everything because of CAS. The house was seized because there was no proof of where the income came from, until this previous year, and I was arrested for apparently selling drugs but they didn’t find them in my house. Charges got dropped for that but I still lost my house. And to this day, no cop has been able to arrest me, let alone come 100 feet near me. The Littletown cops. The OPP can. But you don’t do nothing bad, you don’t get into trouble at all; that’s the way I see it.
FM: This is a story with lots of turns and twists. Okay, so apartment trashed, you’re going to adult ed, meet girlfriend and get pregnant, inherit money and buy a house, police seize the house and charge you, but charges dropped. You and your girlfriend – no, first CAS takes the baby?
And puts it in the grandparents’ care. Because CAS gave us a choice whether or not my son would go to an orphanage or if we had someone who could take him. And I didn’t agree with it because her father is a raging alcoholic but her mother’s a sweetheart and so I finally gave in, I’d rather have him go to them than to a place where I’ll never see him again. So now he reads, he writes. He showed me yesterday his novel that he’s reading, it’s the first Twilight book. They’re big books, too.
FM: He sounds quite phenomenal for a four-year-old -
He really is.
FM: And do you sneak to see him, or do the grandparents allow it, even if they’re not happy?
They have no choice.
I have half custody. And the only reason I got that was because I fought for three years in court for him, just to have any part of his life.
FM: So is it supervised custody?
No, I can take him anywhere I want, he can come to stay me any time he wants. He asked me last night if he can come live with me, and I said unfortunately he can’t because I don’t have a home at present.
FM: Okay, proceed a bit with the story from CAS takes him, you and the baby’s mother split up.
We stayed together for a few months after he was taken, [staying with a friend in Littletown] and then one day she said she was going out to a party and that’s the last I seen her. Until she found out that my girlfriend was having a baby, and now I have a little one.
FM: So what did she think about you having another child?
She was actually quite happy for me to find someone that was right for me. And to be able to start all over again.
FM: Alright. So she leaves. Does she see your son?
No. She’s not allowed to by court orders.
Because the reason we lost him was because she held a knife to the CAS worker, and threw this big box fan at the Healthy Baby nurses.
FM: Was she charged?
Yup. Uttering death threats and attempted murder. But because she was under age, she didn’t get much. Well, she pleaded insanity at that.
FM: And is she insane?
Not any more. She was pretty nuts, like say any little thing to her she’d be snapping. But we did find out she had bi-polar.
FM: Okay. So she’s out of your life, baby is with grandparents and you’re okay but not great with that. Are you still partying, into the drug life?
No. I’ve been clean for five years now and even with alcohol I’ve been clean for just over two.
FM: Did you get any help making that change?
I’ll show you my help right here: Buddha. My help mate. Helps me do everything, just rub his belly, supposed to give you good luck. Me and my girlfriend wear one right now. Not with a dress shirt, but with a t-shirt I do.
FM: Okay, but not AA or any of that stuff? And you did say you’d been taking anger management courses forever. Talk about that a bit?
When that all happened with my dad I felt bad, I figured I have anger problems; I gotta figure it out. But the reason I’m doing it now is because CAS is back in my life, they say you might have to do this, have to do that, but I’m already in the program so they can’t say anything.
FM: So they came back into your life when you had this second baby?
Yup. Just because already having them in my life once and it wasn’t over the 10 years.
FM: Okay. Let’s swoop back to your work history. We had roofing, school, adult ed – tell me a bit more about how that worked in your life.
The roofing, I loved my job when I was working it. I didn’t want to do anything else but work. Until my ex, the one I had my first son with, hollered my name when I was on the edge of the roof because she wanted money to go to the mall and buy clothes. And I slipped and fell and broke my back.
Schooling, I’m still trying to work on it. Because I had everything back and because the Rapidsville switched my files to Littletown and then back over to Rapidsville, they lost all my files. And I had to start back up again from grade 9. I’m almost done now. I only found out a year ago that this was going. And with high schools, I couldn’t do it. Too many students in the class. I didn’t get along with either the principal or the teachers. I had a fight with the principal. He thought he was still a cop and tried to arrest a few of us for smoking weed at one of my buddy’s houses.
FM: Go back to your accident, for a minute. Broke your back, ended up in hospital?
Yup, for about six months. And then they put some brace on me and said I wouldn’t be able to walk. And now I’m perfectly fine to walk. I get a lot of pain when I do, but I’d rather keep on walking than not, because if I sit around I’m going to become a couch potato or get bed sores or something and I don’t like the idea of that.
FM: How did you manage financially when you were physically unable to work?
Workers comp. Ontario Works. Ontario Works is kinda worthless in some ways because even now, me and my girlfriend found a place and we need first and last and we got nothing. We didn’t even get a cheque this month. They didn’t give us a cheque at all; they haven’t funded us for a couple of months.
FM: And why is that?
Well, a lot of it is because we got kicked out and we don’t have an actual place. And our worker just does not like me. [The worker is] one of my parents’ old friends and they don’t talk any more, all because the worker’s husband was trying to flirt with my mother, trying to pick her up.
FM: Okay, more twists and turns… So you haven’t worked in roofing since when, then?
I was 17 when I broke my back, so since then. But until 6 months ago I was running a residential park.
FM: What is that?
It’s like an all-year-around trailer park. I did shoveling snow off sidewalks, plowing the roads, cutting down trees that were dead.
FM: So maintenance. What happened to that job?
My girlfriend’s mother moved us out there because her grandparents own the park and I couldn’t work for my landlord because I never seen the money. They’d take it and say this is your rent, and I’d already paid my rent.
FM: So it wasn’t a job so much as it was working for the roof over your head?
Yup. I had a little bit of spending cash that didn’t come into my hands at all, went into my girlfriend’s mother [hands] to buy my kid’s formula and diapers and stuff. And I feel like I’m a grown up adult, I can do that thing myself.
FM: Was this an arrangement though Ontario Works?
No. I wasn’t on assistance at that time.
FM: So a family-made arrangement?
Yup. Which I got screwed in the end. See, I’m here trying to make a little money, buy some more formula.
FM: When did that deal end?
Two and a half months ago, fully, when we got kicked out with the baby.
FM: And the relationship with your girlfriend’s family, is that gone beyond repair?
They sent me to jail because I kicked my own truck. So they got me for mischief on that. And not even a week later, we were out on our own, kicked right out, no ride into town or anything. And now they refuse to give us our stuff. They want us to walk from [the village where the residential park is] into town when it’s pissing down rain.
FM: And since then, you’ve been couch-surfing?
Since then we’ve went to my parents’ [place] for a week, [the shelter] helped us with a motel because they didn’t have space here. and now we’re staying at my street parents. They gave us a room right off the bat. It’s only a room but it’s better than nothing.
FM: Street parents: talk about that a bit.
They’re my family friends. My parents knew who they were. They’ve known me ever since I was in diapers and they take in all the kids that [the shelter] has to turn down. They’re the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I wish they could get funding for doing that because what they want to do is start something out in the country and put in four or five little houses, and pretty much separate them room by room or separate them by apartments or something, people that don’t have houses, that need the help.
FM: But now, they don’t get paid for having you be there?
No. Ontario Works won’t give me funding or them funding for us living there.
FM: This new regulation about first and last rent no longer being available: what impact does that have on you?
I find it’s stupid. Because if someone needs a home and they work their ass off their whole life, they should be able to do this. Like people being on Ontario Works their whole lives is wrong because they’re using up everybody’s tax money. But once they have a house, they can get a job right away.
FM: If you – when you are able to get a place to stay, what work would you look for? How would you go about getting work?
Right now, I’m doing what I am doing; right now trying to get any kind of job, whether it’s fast food or construction. If I could get back into roofing I would.
FM: Because your work history is just roofing, no other jobs, right?
FM: Could you physically do roofing now?
Yup. My doctor says I’m capable to do what I did before. He went to jail last year. Dr. G in Rapidsville, he went to jail for child molestation. Supposedly. I don’t think he did it but…
FM: I thought you were going to say you went to jail.
I did. I was in Littletown Mega-jail two months ago for mischief, one of the most stupidest charges. I shouldn’t get thrown into real jail for that, should only have been in the cop shop and went to court.
FM: What mischief?
I hoofed my work truck. With steel toe boots. But I ended up fixing it to begin with. Before the cops showed up.
FM: So this the incident that got you turfed from your girlfriend’s parent’s place?
Yeah. Plus I bought a Nintendo Wii. But that was her mom’s full excuse.
FM: Without permission, I’m understanding?
Yup. My money. My GST I saved for a few months and I bought it myself.
FM: Okay…I have a few what I call finish-up questions; are we there?
Pretty much say so.
FM: Anything else?
Other than I know I have to put in [that] [the shelter] was the greatest help to us, gave us food, a place to do laundry, helped us with the motel. We didn’t pay a thing for that.
FM: You mentioned somebody else, [name]. Who’s that?
He’s my dad’s brother. His wife left him and then came back and took his house and his car and his daughters, so he came here and they helped him get himself situated and now he’s volunteering here just to help everyone else. I want to volunteer but I have to worry about getting a place before I worry about volunteering. Or else I’d be volunteering with my old cadet corp.
FM: Okay, let’s do the finish-up stuff. It might bring some other things to mind. In order for the people who will read this story to understand it the way you mean it to be understood, would you give it a bit of shape or focus by saying what you think is the most important event in this story. Could be something that happened, or something that didn’t happen, whatever you choose.
The most important thing I think, out of this story, is that someone can kick their grandson and their daughter out without a hesitation and that people can actually be rude, like, as how Ontario Works was to us, was pretty rude not being able to help us with anything, just kinda cut us off. And that some things just shouldn’t happen. There should be shelters in these small towns. If there was a shelter in Rapidsville, I would never have came to Littletown. Because all this town is is crack-heads and coke-heads now, you don’t see this nice kids who do something just to be nice, they do it and then say, here, hand me money.
FM: Do you think if you had stayed in Rapidsville, you might not have gotten into the drugs/drink problem?
I don’t think I would have gotten into it like, big, like going to a party, smoke a joint, do a few beers. But I don’t think I’d have gotten into it every day all day like I was. And I ended up having a kidney removed already because I was bleeding because of alcohol apparently. Maybe appendix.
FM: Let me also clarify; for how long were you daily abusing alcohol/weed?
Two full years.
FM: From 16 to 18, basically.
FM: Let me also ask; what about Rapidsville would have kept you at just regular partying rather than this really bad abuse, d’ya think?
I think that it would have saved, I wouldn’t have gotten into hard drugs, like hard into drugs, but just stayed with partying, like. Like people come to parties and they just have it, the drugs, the alcohol. Because most time our parties are just have a fire, loud music, somebody gets stupid and does donuts around the firepit.
FM: Because of the excessive drugs/alcohol? In Rapidsville, is this?
We only ever have our parties out in [a village near his parents’ home] in my brother-in-law’s house. My ex brother-in-law – my sister who’s living with my parents.
FM: So the picture I’m getting is that some of the hard partiers were within your family connection, that you knew them before you came to Littletown. Yeah?
Yup. A few people came from Littletown to our parties. Because we’d put it on Facebook and thousands would come. Field parties. Like usually the cops would come and they’d get arrested. I hid in the bush.
FM: Okay, now I don’t understand why staying in Rapidsville would have protected you from hard partying, because it sounds to me like some hard partying was going on there as well.
Not really. There was never that much drugs or alcohol at our parties, there were just stupid people. Like I went to a party, supposed to be a birthday party, I walked in and saw a crack pipe on the table, walked back out, I’m not into that. Had my kid with me too. Like it was a kid’s party. Should have never been drugs. I’m sick and tired of the drugs, seeing them, being around them, being associated with those people. You never know who does them, who doesn’t. Like a lot of the pot heads, you can’t really tell. Like I know five cops who smoke weed all the time.
FM: Okay, so I’m hearing that Littletown is rife with drugs and addiction and it’s hard to find an alternative social group.
It was pretty hard. Until I got back in touch with my street parents. They say no drugs in the house, no alcohol in the house, no cops in the house.
FM: Okay, next finish-up question: The judgment question. The people who read this story will wonder, and probably form an opinion, about how it’s apt to turn out. What would you say about the direction that this story is going to take, good or not so good? You optimistic or not so much?
FM: Optimistic is thinking positively, seeing the positive.
I see it not going so good but I’m hoping for it to go good. I guess I’m optimistic because I always think positive. Like I have $120 go missing out of my account on the first and I gave the benefit of the doubt, it was my best friend that was stealing it. I hoped it wasn’t him, I went to the bank and there was him on the camera.
FM: So you hope for the best but you don’t really see how it’s going to work out that way?
Yup. I’ve always tried to see where anything can go in this town but there isn’t much in this town at all.
FM: Could you go back to Rapidsville, or to [the village] where your parents are? Would that help?
We’re trying to actually find a place in Rapidsville, or to Lockville, like a small town away from drug abuse and stuff in this town. And unfortunately we can’t go back because my parents just moved out to Middletown. Like we just got back and they were moving. It would help if I moved back to a smaller town because there’s less drama. Apparently not this hard hard drug stuff. Rapidsville still doesn’t have anything like they have up here, and it’s only 15 minutes away. But if we were to go back to my parents, wherever it is in Middletown, I’d probably end up dead because there’s been two deaths right around the corner from where they moved, and they were people that moved from this town. So they’re trying to find a place back out toward Rapidsville.
FM: Okay. Two more questions. Advice questions. Advice # 1: What advice would you give to your younger self, whether or not your younger self would take the advice, what advice would you give that you think would make a better outcome to this story more likely?
I’d tell myself for one, don’t punch my dad in the face, [second], don’t get into the drugs or the alcohol. It’s not worth it. And wrap your tool, at least until you’re over the age of 18.
FM: Speaking of contraception, what… well, speak of how you thought – or didn’t – about contraception. Birth control. Condoms.
With my first one, she was on birth control, apparently. And I found in the end she poked holes in the condoms. She was looking for a quick buck. Still is. She’s pregnant now. With her fourth.
FM: And the second?
Second one was kinda planned. Because we were set up, we had money, we had a place, we were both working. But we didn’t expect it to be that quick, that early. A year after we were together, we got pregnant. We didn’t think that quick, we thought maybe two years, three years.
FM: So you weren’t using contraceptives because you thought it would take longer to get pregnant, or -
She was taking her birth control and her doctor told her it would take her two years to be fertile again but it was only a year. We’ve known each other all our lives, best friends forever, she’s watched me go through hell and back.
FM: Almost finished. Advice # 2. What advice would you give to people like us who want to be helpful to young people like yourself, what advice would you give us?
That’s a hard one. People are doing so much to try to help the youth and everything, but mostly the youth put their backs into their faces and screw everyone for everything. So I’d just say keep on doing what you’re doing. And maybe, I dunno, the guy out on the front desk was thinking the same thing I was, more affordable housing. Because there’s only two buildings in this town, 14 apartments in those buildings. So funding for more housing. And maybe helping protest against CAS, or at least help people with [fighting] against them. Because there are some people who are good parents, don’t do a thing, have an argument and CAS is there, thinking they can take anything. They’re [CAS] not government funded. Fought with me for two years, saying they were. Went to the supervisor she said, no, we’re not.
FM: Okay, I think we’re done. Anything else?
Not that I can think of this moment.