Ronzig. Freedom is not automatic. By choosing freedom, a man will live his life as an outcast, despised and envied by the majority who lack the courage to choose freedom and/or the wisdom to recognize the choices. I choose FREEDOM.
Down But Not Out was recently ranked the 12th best website about homelessness on the internet, but it isn’t just about homelessness. There is also valuable information and commentary on most of the issues that currently plague our society, from a collapsing environment to freedom of information on the internet and more.
To watch videos produced by Ronzig about many of these issues go to
At the bottom of this page there are many fascinating comments and personal stories that viewers have added. You can tell your personal story or comment on content seen on this page by going to the bottom of the page.
Not an accident. Not a problem.
Homelessness is a political agenda.
Why else would there be so many homeless people in the richest country that ever existed on the face of this planet?
In the forties I was born.
In the fifties I was a student.
In the sixties I was a nomadic hippie.
In the seventies I was a millionaire and real estate broker.
In the eighties I was an owner of a recycling company with a 23000 square foot factory and a fleet of trucks.
In the nineties I was a homeless person.
In the new millennium I am a writer, social activist, documentary video maker and photoArtist.
I have always chosen to be a free man.
Freedom is not automatic. If a person does not choose freedom and face the difficulties of that choice he will automatically become a slave to whatever political/economic system he lives under.
By choosing freedom, he will live his life as an outcast, despised and envied by the majority who lack the courage to choose freedom and/or the wisdom to recognize the choices.
Ronzig is a Digital Photo Artist and social activist, ex homeless addict in Toronto explores people and places from a unique perspective emphasizing the lifestyle of those forgotten members of our society whose suffering has been neglected for too long and compares their circumstances with the accepted norm. His art, photography and commentary provide an exceptional opportunity to understand social trends in Toronto at the outset of the 21st century.
My Homeless Lifetime
It's kind of like I was always destined to be homeless. When I was just a kid in grade 4 or 5 our family lived on Silverbirch Av in the Beaches. Now this was before they built the Don Valley Parkway. In those days The Riverdale Zoo, Toronto’s main zoo facility was in the valley on the West side where the Riverdale Farm is currently located and most of the Don River Valley all the way north to the outskirts of the city was wilderness. A wide variety of wild creatures made their home there including ducks, geese, foxes, rabbits and deer. There was even a hobo camp there. In case you don’t already know, a hobo is what a homeless person was called in those days and although they were a rare species. There were a few living in Toronto. You would have to look hard to find them though. There were only a few of them and you’d never see them sleeping on the sidewalks like you do today. If a homeless person was to die of exposure because he was homeless and had no place to find shelter it would cause a widespread outcry of concern about this failure of our society to protect and nurture those who are not as fortunate as the rest of us. Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t because times were better back then. In fact widespread poverty was the prevalent economic status for the majority. What we didn’t have was the vast gulf that currently divides the population into an elite number of extremely wealthy aristocrats, a rapidly disappearing middleclass and a frighteningly large segment of the population that suffer extreme poverty.
If you are currently one of the middleclass who has managed to remain prosperous, have you ever stopped to wonder where all these homeless people are coming from? No. Well you should, for most of them are people just like you who until recently had a good job, a home in a nice middleclass neighbourhood and a wife and family. Then one day without warning his job disappeared, usually to be relocated to one of the developing countries where corporate costs are lower and labour will work for slave wages. At first he didn’t worry. After all, it should be easy for a man with his abilities to find a better job. Uh Unh, not any more. Whether it took a few months or a few years, eventually he came to understand that he would never find a decent job again. By that time he had lost all of his middleclass trappings and looked just like any other bum. His house and car and everything he couldn’t carry with him went by the wayside including his whole family. He had been transformed into just another homeless bum, too lazy to get a job.
But I digress. Sort of. I was talking about how I was destined to become homeless. Well as I was saying, there was a hobo camp in the Don Valley when I was in grade 4 or 5. I used to skip school to hitch hike down to the Don Valley to spend the day hanging out with these really cool hobos. There weren’t very many of them and sometimes one of them would just be gone or another one would be there who hadn’t been before. I didn’t understand politics or economics or psychology back then but I knew these people were always happy to see me and would take the time to tell me stories or answer my questions no matter how dumb they might have been. They were my secret best friends. Secret because I sensed that if I told anyone about them it might get me and even them in trouble. For some strange reason none of the adults in my life seemed to like hobos. In fact I could tell that they really hated them, but I knew better. These were my friends. Over time the residents of the camp changed but the mix was always similar an ancient old codger or two, several men in their middle years, one or two teenage boys and sometimes an old woman.
Little did I know back then, but I grew up to be very much like them.
The first time I was homeless was during the hippie era when I spent a few years hitching rides with truckers or salesmen, or hopping freights or even one time hitching a ride in a single engine Cessna airplane. I saw a lot of North America in those days and learned a lot about human nature and I even got to know who I was during that period. Some of the best times of my life.
After my Hippie period I tried to fit into regular society, but I just couldn’t force this square peg into that round hole. Each attempt I made to conform ended when I realized how miserable I was and rebelled, spending short interludes couch surfing or sleeping in my car before going back into the mainstream to try again. The currently accepted definition of homelessness means not having a traditional place to reside with a postal address and includes couch surfing and sleeping in a vehicle, so based on that I have been homeless probably more time in my life than I have been traditionally housed. The main difference between me and the majority of homeless people is the fact that I chose the lifestyle and preferred it to a more traditional one while the vast majority of homeless people today are forced into homelessness due to economic conditions, abuse situations, mental or physical health issues, or addiction issues. Those people DO NOT WANT THE LIFE that has been thrust upon them. They would do anything they possibly could to find a real home and introduce a little stability into their lives.
After bouncing from job to job and experiencing numerous short term periods of homelessness over nearly two decades, I came to a point where I was desperate to fit in so while I was on welfare I went to George Brown College and got my real estate sales licence. I was really good at it and I worked hard. It only took me ten years to go from a penniless welfare recipient to a millionaire. Then I met a woman who introduced me to Crack and I was bankrupt in less than two years and homeless within ten years. I was a homeless crack addict for a decade but other than the fact that the crack had taken control of most of my life and was slowly killing me those were happy years for me. But they had to come to an end. On March 2 2005 I came to the conclusion that I would not live through the month. I was Fifty Nine years old and weighed a mere ninety pounds and I was really dying. Once I realized this I had a dilemma to face. Did I want to live? A person can take that question lightly until the time comes when his answer would be final. If I answered no, all I had to do was go on the same way as I was already living and I would be dead in a month. If I answered yes, I knew what I had to do; Quit drugs and find a real home. It took a few hours that morning to make my decision, but the answer was yes. I called an outreach worker friend I knew and told her I needed help. She got me into a detox centre that same day and I haven’t touched crack since. I spent about six weeks at the detox centre eating sleeping and going to counselling sessions, basically working at getting healthy again in mind as well as body. From the detox centre I went to live at a halfway house for recovering addicts and while I lived there I took a once a week outpatient counselling and rehabilitation program provided by the Salvation Army.
I had been on a waiting list for assisted housing for over ten years by then. I had given up ever getting a place when I got speaking with a housing worker socially and mentioned I had just turned Fifty Nine years old on March 26. She told me I qualified for seniors housing at my age and suggested I come to her office to update my housing application. I went to her office the following day to make the updates to my application and within a month I received a phone call notifying me that they had an apartment available for me to look at. I moved in on October 1, 2005 and expected to spend the rest of my life living there.
In the spring of 2011 I got a puppy to keep me company because I was feeling the need to form a close loving relationship with a living creature other than a woman to alleviate my loneliness. Smokey is part Cocker Spaniel and part Chocolate Lab and he was six weeks old when I got him. There were several pet owners in my building so I didn’t foresee any problems. I didn’t take into account that Smokey would grow much larger than the rodents they call dogs that were living in the building. Although Smokey is a gentle and loving dog some of the tenants were afraid of him because of his size once he got older and began complaining to management. The management had no grounds to evict me as I had a legal right to have my dog there so they began a campaign of harassment and lies to file in my record with the strategy of building a case for my eviction. I saw the writing on the wall. I bought a 32’ motorhome and left my $139.00 per month bachelor apartment right at Yonge and Eglinton. So now I’m homeless again and will remain so as long as my health will allow.
You may be wondering why I have opted to spend such a large portion of my life homeless. There is a simple one word answer that really says it all: FREEDOM!
Down But Not Out is the 12th top rated homeless blog on the web
Compiled by Masters In Public Health
You may think you understand the plight of the homeless person you’ve passed on the street. But after reading these top 50 blogs for better understanding homelessness, you may have a completely changed opinion. Homeless people are blogging. Their friends and advocates are blogging. And they’re trying to get the word out that this segment of the population is tired of being ignored. They are tired of being invisible. You will be stunned by some of the things you hear and see here. Here are the top 50 blogs we have found for better understanding homelessness:
Blogs By Real Homeless People
1. The Homeless Guy : Kevin Barbieux, a resident of Nashville, is considered “chronically homeless” when you read the HUD definition. He has been off the streets for over a year, this time around, and he blogs about being homeless.
2. SLO Homeless : Michael writes about the experience of being homeless in the San Luis Obispo region of California. He was homeless for a little over two years.
3. Vagabond : Kerry Echo chronicles her life as a homeless person and her journey in and out of different jobs.
4. Humble Harv’s Homeless Handbook : Harv offers guidance on topics such as hygiene and where to sleep.
5. The Homeless President’s Blog : Written by Pete, a man who has been homeless since the age of twelve, this blog contains political commentary.
6. Pads Chicago : The homeless in suburban Chicago have a voice with this blog written by an actual homeless woman. She struggles with medical and mental health issues, but is not a drug addict.
7. Michaelann Land : Michaelann’s blog focuses on news from the homeless community and thoughts on politics.
8. Wandering Scribe : Anya Peters spent nine months living in her car. She also started a blog, which was followed by many, many readers. Now, she has published a book and she is arguably the most famous ex-homeless person in the UK.
9. Homeless in Abbotsford, BC : James W. Breckenridge blogs about the homeless life and Canadian government.
10. The Adventures of Homeless Girl : Homeless Girl lives in England. She and her family are trying to figure out how to survive. Her blog is full of emotion and advice for people who are trying not to become homeless.
11. Girl’s Guide to Homelessness : A “typical Orange County girl” finds herself homeless. She blogs about it, becomes an authority on homelessness activism, gets offered a book deal, and keeps living in her trailer.
12. Down But Not Out : This is Ronzig’s blog. Ronzig is an ex-crack addict and ex-homeless person who lived on the street in Toronto for over ten years. Now he’s an activist.
13. The Joys Of Being Homeless : Simply fascinating reading. This is a survival guide for anyone who is homeless. Covers everything from shelter to food (how to kill, clean, and prepare pigeons, for instance.)
14. Homeless Family’s Blog : This informative blog is written by a person whose family spent two years out on the street.
15. Homeless Tom : Tom Armstrong is a Buddhist thinker and homeless person living on the streets of Sacramento. He blogs about his experiences, even his stays in the county jail.
16. Homeless, Not Nameless : The author of this blog writes to bring awareness of the character and personality that each person has. Even a homeless person.
17. Homeless Nation : This is not a blog, but a social network created by and for homeless people. Reading the message boards will truly give you insight on how it feels to be homeless.
18. Homeless Man Speaks : Philip in Toronto records the words of a homeless man named Tony and posts them here. Fascinating look into the perspective of someone who has been homeless for many years.
Blogs By Organizations Who Help
19. National Alliance to End Homelessness : This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is dedicated to reducing homelessness in the United States. They blog about public policy that affects the homeless.
20. Hope For the Homeless : The Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida blogs about current events, specific needs within the community, and statistics regarding the level of homelessness and shelter usage in their region. They hope to dispel myths about “the kind of person” who is homeless.
21. Signs of Life in New Orleans : This blog of UNITY Outreach in New Orleans depicts the daily struggles of a relief organization as they attempt to get homeless people out of abandoned buildings and into proper homes.
22. Click Homeless : Click Homeless is a site that supports homeless bloggers, as well as non-homeless bloggers writing on homelessness.
23. People’s Place Seattle : People’s Place Seattle began when 40 people and four dogs needed a place to stay, and the community responded. Their blog details their efforts as well as brings together news about homelessness.
24. Homeless Help Network : Homeless Help Network was started as a way to connect needy people in the Twin Cities area with information and resources to help them avoid becoming homeless.
25. Homeless in LA : This is an excellent blog with resources that homeless people in Los Angeles can really use, such as a list of restaurants that will accept your food stamp card.
26. NY Coalition for the Homeless : This strong public policy blog also takes on common myths about homelessness; for example, that it is a jobs problem.
27. Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign : This group demands that Washington guarantee heathcare and housing to everyone in the United States.
28. Portland Rescue Mission : Portland Rescue Mission’s blog has video of people who have changed their lives as well as news about current events.
29. Stone Soup Station : Stone Soup Station is Steven Samra’s blog about issues affecting the homeless. A former addict and homeless person, he now works to help others in that situation .
30. Star of Hope Mission Blog : This is one of several blogs on the Star of Hope Mission website. Star of Hope is a Christian homeless mission in Houston, Texas.
31. Dallas Homeless Network : Dallas Homeless Network provides advocacy and updates for the homeless community in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area.
32. Cleveland Homeless : This is the official blog for the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland. The authors write thought-provoking articles on public policy as it relates to poverty.
33. Invisible Homeless Kids : Diane Nilan is a fierce advocate for the over 1.5 million children in America who are currently homeless. Failed by the system, many slip through the cracks and grow up destined for a life on the fringes of society.
34. Voices From The Field : This is the blog of the Homelessness Resource Center, a part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There are many resources here for homeless service professionals.
35. Arise For Social Justice : Arise For Social Justice is a low-income rights organization with many members, some of whom are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
36. NH Under The Bridge : NH Under The Bridge was begun by a group of formerly homeless people to spotlight the conditions that the homeless in New Hampshire face each day. They operate under the principle that everyone has basic human rights.
37. Picture The Homeless : Begun by and for homeless people in New York City, Picture The Homeless is a group dedicated to social justice for the homeless, opposed to laws that criminalize homelessness, and working toward reducing homelessness.
38. End Homelessness : This change.org blog keeps readers up to date on news affecting the homeless population as well as ways to help.
39. Project Homeless Connect : Project Homeless Connect is San Francisco’s resource that helps the thousands of homeless San Franciscans get the health care and services they need to survive. Their site features videos, photos and news.
Blogs By Observers of the Homeless Community
40. Hardly Normal : Mark in Los Angeles blogs about social change, homelessness, and other important topics on this website.
41. Squatter City : This fascinating blog is devoted to presenting the stories of squatters—people living on property that doesn’t belong to them.
42. Sans Houses : Sans Houses documents the homeless community in and around Nashville with photo and video.
43. Invisible People : A video producer uses his tools to interview real homeless people and to record their stories for the world to see. We may look at them and realize that they were once just like us.
44. News and Rants on Homelessness : The title of this blog pretty much says it all.
45. Joe Anybody Homeless Blog : “Joe Anybody” covers national news related to the homeless as well as Pacific Northwest stories. He is filled with compassion for the people who need the most help.
46. Poverty Insights : PATH Partners, a company that helps non-profit organizations mobilize effectively to help the homeless and others in need, publishes this thorough news blog.
47. Names Of The Homeless : Names of the Homeless is dedicated to presenting the stories of the people we pass by on the streets. One story at a time.
48. Faces of the Homeless : This blog is composed mostly of photos. Stunning, beautiful, sad, tragic photos of real homeless Americans.
49. On Homelessness In America : Ryan Garou writes about homelessness in America in this blog which is a companion to his upcoming book.
50. Shelters and Soup Kitchens : Since public libraries are open to everyone, and all of them have computers these days, it’s not hard to imagine a homeless person looking up his next meal from this list.
Need Emergency Shelter in Toronto?
Here are the emergency phone numbers for the City of Toronto. You can call any time.
Referral Centre for single
adults, youth and couples.
or call toll-free from a pay phone
1 877 338-3398
Central Family Intake for families with children.
Fear vs. Certainty
I learned early in life that material possessions can become a trap. The more you have, the more you want and the more space they take out of your life. With each possession you acquire you give up a small piece of your FREEDOM especially if you purchase these THINGS on credit. As you accumulate THINGS, you accumulate debt and the responsibility to provide a place to keep them and labour to maintain them. The temptation to cling to what you have and seek ever more is part of the brainwashing of the conspicuous consumer society we live in today, but it only takes a small act of courage to break free.
Many years ago I found myself unhappy in my circumstances. I wondered if I could JUST WALK AWAY. It struck me that I was young and strong and healthy. Why not, I thought?
One Monday morning I woke up and got ready to go to work. I walked to the subway station and instead of heading downtown; I spontaneously reversed direction and went to the end of the line on my way out of town. I stuck out my thumb and was gone. What an incredible sense of release and FREEDOM I experienced! I spent the next 3 years on the road exploring the world and learning about myself and my brothers and sisters everywhere I went. I have to tell you that these were the best 3 years of my life up till then and still rate very high on the 65 year list. Once I learned that I could just walk away there has never been a cage for me. I’ve been a Free Man ever since.
I’ve been getting so many emails lately that they sometimes overwhelm me. I've pretty much stopped showing my art now because my activism is demanding more and more of my time and with the economic meltdown well underway, things are getting to a critical point where informed activism has never been more important. The hard part is trying to keep informed when I'm inundated with dozens of emails with links to stories and events every day. I just can't keep up with it all. I don't listen to radio or watch television or read elitist newspapers because most of the news that comes via those channels is merely propaganda and is irrelevant. I admit that I do read the headlines in the paper boxes now and then to get a feel for what the press deems important, which is usually something totally inconsequential such as who won some sports event or what some movie star is up to. Sometimes they report the party line about the many Imperialist wars that keep the arms industry booming even in an economic downturn. Or they report about what some "terrorist" organization is up to. When you look into all these stories about war and terrorism and take the time to really learn the facts, most terrorists are merely Freedom Fighters trying to help their people break free from the elitist stranglehold that claims the whole world should be FORCED into economic slavery to make these people even more rich and powerful and most wars are merely elitist grabs for the land and resources of other peoples' homelands. The more effort I put into digging out the facts that are relevant in this mixed up world where propaganda rules, the more fearful I become that we are doomed. Yet I MUST fight on and do what little I am capable of to help move the direction of events onto a course that will lead to peace, freedom, justice and security for every person on the planet, not just the elite.
I have been a visitor on this planet called Earth for 65 years now and most that time I have been involved in a search for what the Christians call God. Now I can not define God, but I am certain that the Creator as envisioned in the majority of humanity’s religious doctrines although called by different names is in fact the same entity.
Since early childhood, until relatively recently, I have been unsuccessfully involved in a search for God, (which is the name I will use in this discussion for lack of a better word.) Again, I find it strange that the English language has no pronoun that can accurately reflect my concept of who/what He/She/It is, for I do not believe that God has a gender and I don’t believe God is a sexual creature at all, but also the pronoun, it, falls far short of the mark when attempting to communicate the entity or concept or whatever you may choose to call Him, (which is the pronoun that I will use in this discussion again for lack of a better word.)
I say until recently, because it was only a little over 5 years ago that I was able to feel a close personal relationship with Him.
I’d like to explain how this occurred, but in order to set the stage; so to speak, I should relate a few of the events that led to my newly acknowledged association.
During the period that these events were taking place, I was
a homeless alcoholic and crack addict, but even in my diminished state of
consciousness, I began to recognize a sustaining pattern that became
undeniable. For example, one day I was walking along the sidewalk near King St
and Spadina Av and the sole came loose from my running shoe. I recall thinking
to myself that I would have to try to replace my shoes soon as I continued on
my way. Before I reached the next corner, something that I am convinced was a
miracle occurred. To my astonishment, a brand new pair of shoes, my size and
still in the box they came in was sitting on the sidewalk waiting for me. At
the time, I did not view it as a miracle, but I will explain later. A little
earlier, as I was walking along the sidewalk near Strachan Av and
Now you may think that these few examples of the many miracles that occurred to help me survive my homelessness are only mere coincidence. Possibly, but how does one explain the fact that each of these and the ones I will relate shortly occurred within less than a minute of my thinking of my need?
Now for the most wonderful part; not only were my personal requirements immediately seen to on these and many more occasions, but other people in need were helped with my direct involvement as a conduit if you will. For example, I was at the Scott Mission one evening, waiting for the film they were showing to come on when another homeless person I had just met asked me where he could get a sleeping bag. I replied that I didn’t know and decided to go out for a smoke before the film started. While I was outside smoking my cigarette, a fellow walked up to me and without asking if I needed it, handed me a sleeping bag. Imagine my new friend’s surprise when I handed him his new sleeping bag less than 5 minutes after he mentioned his need! Not so miraculous, you say, but consider this, in the 10 years that I was homeless, only twice were sleeping bags given to me and each of them within a minute of my sensing the need. But I had not considered these events miraculous myself at the time.
How about this? Panhandlers have their spots where they work
and each of these locations has a priority of who can work there based on
seniority. The person who has worked the place longest has the right to ask anyone
else who is working the site to leave if he needs to work. One of my places was
the corner of
None of the aforementioned events were accredited by me as miracles at the time, but as I began to contemplate these and many more instances of coincidence that had been occurring in my life on the streets, I began to realize that there were far too many and they were far too urgent to dismiss as mere coincidence. Something amazing was happening and upon further reflection it came to me that none of these occurrences were chance; someone or something powerful was at work here! It could only be God, for no other explanation was conceivable. From the moment of that realization, my life has been irrevocably altered for the better. It took quite a while, but I was able to quit drugs and alcohol and I got off the streets and into a nice apartment. I began doing my art and working in advocacy and dedicating my life to attempting to make the world a better place for all.
Now, I have come to a new understanding. Since moving into my new home and getting clean and sober, there are very few miracles such as I have mentioned in my life. I began to wonder if God had left me until I realized that the lack of miracles is directly related to my new circumstances. My need for divine intervention has diminished and miracles are no longer an urgent necessity to my survival. I am confident that God is still watching over me, but He is pleased to be able to allow me to fend for myself in the knowledge that I can.
To those who don’t believe in miracles, I say, that it is not evidence of non existence that you do not experience miracles for two reasons; first when they do occur, people tend to write them off as coincidence and second, in our affluent society the need is not often there. Others have far greater need than us and deserve all of God’s attention when we are capable of looking after ourselves.
Hank Sept 24/10
Hi Ronzig: It is Hank again from
previous , just dropping by to say hello and that things are going very well. I
have a job as a mechanic in a local garage and the fine woman I met is still
The ponytail and the beard are now full grown (!)
And it looks like I have found that freedom you talk about.
Here's some irony for you: My old garbageman came into the garage where I now work to have his car worked on. And he was dressed in the suit, tie and one of the pairs of Italian shoes he bought from me when I was selling everything from my old life.
He has moved on to a white collar job; his life has changed as much as mine.
He didn't know me at all at first - especially with the name Hank. Then he recognized me, and I told him my story in brief. He just grinned and told me what an arrogant snob he thought I was in the old days when I was Trevor and he picked up my trash. And he's standing there wearing my former pinstriped suit with his feet in my former shoes when he said it!
But the clothes are his now. They fit his life now - not mine. And the suit wouldn't fit me now anyway. I saw how it all came together.
I apologized and told him I had some hard lessons.
Then he said something I really liked: "It looks like you finally woke up to real life! You're a different man now in more ways than one."
Life is funny. What goes around, comes around! He has a Lexus now and I've got the truck. I did a good job on his car. I did not envy him the Lexus. It was now my job to work on it.
The pride in my work is greater now than it ever used to be.
And I am still volunteering in the food pantry. I have a lot to give back to the world.
It is now that I realize I am finally free.
Great to hear you’re doing well Hank and thanks for staying in touch. I’m so happy that you’re feeling the joy of FREEDOM. That is worth more than all the toys that so many voluntarily enslave themselves for. Over the past few days, the Financial Post, Canada’s National economic propaganda rag, has been softening Canadians up for another round of fraudulent misappropriation of the nation’s wealth through a return to recession. Check it out at www.downbutnotout.ca/economy.php
Back when everyone started cheering and dancing around gleefully proclaiming the recession was over, I was one of the few that were warning of a second wave even worse than the first that was yet to come. Well it seems like it’s on its way. If I’m right, auto repair will be a good place to be employed. As people forego buying new cars and try to squeeze a little extra time out of the old ones, they will have to keep them running and road worthy.
You’ll notice that I’ve changed the URL to www.downbutnotout.ca/ The old URL will still work, but the new one is easier to remember. I’m working at improving the site im several small ways, with more emphasis on the causes and possible solutions to the mess that the world is in rather than on the mess itself.
I’ve also changed the URL to my art website to www.ronzigsgallery.com/ and I’m working at a radical redesign there as well. I’m even building an online store and I have a really great new product which I’m launching next week. I’m working with a new contact that can embed my art into the glaze on ceramic tiles. It’s really good and I’m excited about it. You can check the tiles out at http://www.ronzigsgallery.com/tiles.php
I’d love to see what you look like with the hair and ponytail. Why not send me a photo at firstname.lastname@example.org
I could even post it here if you don’t mind. Let me know your feelings on this. Say hi to your lady for me. Glad that’s working out for you too.
All my best wishes, Ronzig.
Eddie July 14/10
Hi My names Eddie im 19, i have a 45 year old recovering(hopefully) crack cocaine addict, what could i show/tell her to help her stop the cravings
Hi Eddie. It saddens me that there are so many stories of addiction and so few stories of recovery. Unfortunately there are no easy answers to your question, if there were, there would be more stories of recovery, but you ask the wrong question. There is no magic bullet to get rid of the cravings. After more than 5 years clean, I still get them from time to time. The good news is that there is a way to overcome them and they will lose their power over the suffering addict as recovery progresses.
First, it is crucial to understand the addiction is an extremely personal phenomenon. There is no one size fits all solution. You didn't give me any details to work with, but if you'd like to send me more information I will try to help.
You can email me at email@example.com with as much information as you can think of. It helps to know the FULL HISTORY of the addict's life and especially as much as possible about the period of addiction and the years leading up to it. You should tell me as much as you can about your relationship with her too. Also if you are serious about wanting to help her you need to be prepared to dedicate the next year to it. It won't be easy and it will be painful, but I'll do what I can to help you both through it.
Before getting started, there is one very important thing you need to do. Sit down with her and talk about this and ask her if is willing to really work at recovery because if she is not ABSOLUTELY committed to recovery there is nothing that anyone can do for her.
Anonymous May 3/10
I can relate to your situation although my boundaries of seeking freedom had to be restricted in order to provide my children with the stability of a permanent home. But I briefly encountered the 'other'. And I'm ashamed of the country I decided to make my home. I'm 31, a single mom, a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe re-establishing after leaving my abusive ex. I stayed at a shelter in Scarborough for a few months last summer with my little kids. Now I'm with Community Housing and barely making it as a Ryerson student...I'm a highly educated, bright, healthy woman with a part-time job (ok paid), full-time school, and two little kids. I'm studying midwifery and my plan is to finish school, get out there, and give my whole heart, my skills, and my passion to the Ontarian women and babies who require maternity care. So why is Ontario making me struggle now - by restricting access to quality daycare, by taking the money I'm making out of my OSAP... by making it impossible for a single mom with a goal to survive unless she either feeds off a man for survival or decides to embark upon the shady side...and trust me, I would rather choose the latter, at least I could keep my dignity this way.
What IS wrong with this country?
Thanks for taking the time to write. You are right in condemning the restrictions that the social assistance programs place upon recipients. Instead of rewarding people who make the effort to become self sufficient , contributing members of society, the authorities prefer to place so many hurdles in our paths that it is no wonder so many just give up and take the easier route of remaining on assistance forever. If the government would only make an effort to clear the path or employment there would be far fewer people needing assistance. It makes me wonder if the government prefers to control the population rather than see them attain self sufficiency. It’s disgraceful.
Mary Campagna March 22/10
i LEARNED A LOT. mARY e. cAMPAGNA
Glad I could help. Misunderstanding is the main obstacle to finding solutions to the problems that face our society.
Anonymous March 22/10
hi from england, great site and congratulations for beating your addiction, you have definitely changed my opinion of the homeless and have been inspired by you to hopefully be able to help in some way in the future.
Great to hear from England. Homelessness is endemic throughout the developed world and it’s totally unnecessary In a world full of billionaires there must be enough money to house the underprivileged. I’m a strong advocate of volunteerism. The service that volunteers give to the needy is crucial and the rewards in terms of spiritual enlightenment and personal satisfaction are priceless. Thanks for taking the time to write.
Hank March 11/10
Hello again Ronzig:
This is Hank and I won’t refer to myself as the ‘former executive’ anymore. I hope you don’t mind a brief update again. I read over what I wrote in January and I am ashamed of my self-pity.
Things have changed again and are looking up. First I took your advice and started volunteering at a food pantry. It feels great to give something to others after thinking about myself for so long. There are good people there. Second, I have started training as a mechanic with an old friend who used to work on my car in the old days. He offered the training to me as a way of learning a real trade. I said yes right away.
You were so right as usual about the tattoos. I was in despair at the time, but it didn’t last. I complained for a few days and Cheryl, my friend, said to me ‘Were you happy back then?’ I said ‘No – not at all’.
And she said ‘Your grieving. Your grieving for the way you used to look. That’s why you wore those fancy suits all those years. You don’t look important now. You don’t look sharp. Nobody would think you were a big shot. So what? That’s not being happy. That’s it. You’ll get over it’.
She doesn’t care about image or status at all. She’s the one who likes my beard and ponytail and hates business suits and encourages me not to wear shoes if possible. She says: ‘Shoes are to protect your feet Hank. Not tell you who you are. Or what you are. I don’t care what you wore in your office or in your car. Only wear em when you have to until you stop caring, and only cheap ones. No more fancy shoes for you! No more suits either ever again! Get that stright!’ Wise woman.
She is the opposite of my ex in every way. I never have to impress her. But I have to be real.
She was right Ronzig. I started felling a lot better. I am now enjoying my freedom again and my lack of stress and fear. I have a place to live and I found some work. How did you keep up your spirits without a home? I am ashamed at my own despair.
I still have those tattoos of course. They can’t be hidden! But for a mechanic it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s a lesson to me every day not to give into despair and to look ahead. (I have to admit – I would like to see the face if my old boss if he ever saw me now…)
I’m even using my new name now with pride. Trevor, the old me, is gone. (Trevor wouldn't have tattoos or work as a mechanic or go without shoes) But Hank is alive and making it.
So thanks, thanks.
Hank the Mechanic
Great to hear you’re doing well Hank. Sounds like a very wise woman. You’re a lucky man. I like the fact you’re apprenticing as a mechanic. There will always be opportunities in that field.
Freedom is the absolute key to happiness. No-one can be truly happy without it. For me homelessness was my assertion of my freedom and I would never have come in if my health didn’t force me to. I had to sacrifice a large portion of my freedom when I came in.
I’m pleased that you are volunteering at the food bank. The rewards of doing something worthwhile are far greater than the financial rewards of so many of the meaningless careers that are so abundant in our society.
Stay happy my friend and keep in touch.
Mike March 6/10
Hi Ronzig. You are an amazing man with an amazing life history. You have not changed my mind on giving to the homeless as I always give what I can but you have changed my perspective on what they use it for. It is now given for whatever they need most at that time. Again, to a very wise man thank you. Mike
Thanks Mike. Well said.
Peter C, CAMH March 2/10
I have been inspired by what I have
Peter C., camh
Thanks Peter. It’s reassuring when people in the know send positive feedback.
Wanda Feb 19/10
Hi! My name is Wanda and I am to a former crack addict who made it off the streets. I agree, crack is fucked up. I to had a good career, a nice place, a loving husband. And then he got sick, and died. Someone introduced me to crack. I at first was only going to smoke on the weekends. It helped to ease the pain. Wow! Before I knew it I was a full fledged addict. Lost my career, my home, everything. And was on the streets and in shelters. spent some time in jail. I supported my habit though prostitution. I have seen the changes in peoples faces when they learned that I was a crack addict. Crack made me do things that I never in my life thought I would do. I had someone in my life who really cared a lot about me. They took me out of the big city and back to where I came from. Just 50 miles from the big city. They sit me up in an apartment, paid my rent for 2 months, got me necessities and told me the rest was up to me. Plus I had family support here also. The person who saved my life was my son. I started going to therapy, and drug sessions, and cocaine anonymous. I got me a job, and have been doing good ever since. Life on the streets is lonely, but I did leave a lot of people that I cared about behind. I related to your story so much, because I lived it myself. I pray every day that the other addicts and homeless people can find a miracle like we did. I have been clan for 5 years now. I'm still in therapy, I need it. I had a lot of fucked up things in my life. But I'm a lot stronger mentally, than I have been in years. And yes I am older myself. I was a grandma crack addicted, homeless prostitute.
Thanks for writing Wanda. Congratulations on 5 years of freedom. It’ll be 5 years for me on March 2, 2010, so I can really relate. It’s really important to tell our stories of the hell of addiction and our triumph over it. It gives hope to others who haven’t made it yet when everything seems so hopeless when we’re caught up in the grasp of addiction. Also, it shows the rest of the population that addiction and homelessness are not unbeatable if they don’t give up on us.Anonymous Jan 18/10
G'day from Australia.
Thanks for the site; it has been educational to read.
I am quite poor now and work evening labour (like many do) to get myself through engineering school and hopefully get some security for the future.
But I suppose that, as seen from your writings and from what others have/ are going through, that in reality there is no such thing as true 'security', and to survive in the face of any adversity we must adopt certain mental attitudes.
I hope I can develop these attitudes, but I have a niggling suspicion that one cannot aquire them without first having to go through some requisite, painful education.
All the best for 2010 and beyond, thanks for the wisdom you have passed on to me of the younger generation (well I'm 27 but that's still young!).
Thanks for writing from Australia. You are right. Security can never be found in material things. It can only come by building an inner strength that is so strong that you know you can overcome any adversity. Many find it through religion or meditation or challenging themselves to test their inner hidden abilities. However you find it, it is the one true route to living a dignified life.
Hank Jan 1/10
It has been about six months since I posted here, as the former executive who took your advice and became a part time janitor. You were kind enough to ask me to send an update at times so here it is.
Much has happened. The job I had as dishwasher/janitor ended in late July. By the end of September I had also lost the room I had, as rent went up just as I had almost run out of money. I was forced to move into my pickup. So for two months I was without a home. I still had enough money for food and for gas, but not enough for the rent for an apartment as well. The money from selling my possessions was enough to keep me going for a while, but I had to make choices. I had bought the pickup with some of the money and had to be very careful with what I had left.
It was a tough blow but I would not give up. I often thought: how did I come to th is? How did I fall from success and privilege to sleeping in a pickup? I had no one to blame but myself. I had lived above my salary for years and had false values. It was a dark time. I am not yet ready to think about it too much. A man I had worked with in the restaurant allowed me to use his shower at times. I am very grateful to him for his generosity.
I didn’t know what the future would bring. I accidentally slammed my mouth into the back of the truck one cold morning – and managed to lose two of my front teeth. I am in Chicago and there is no dental coverage for someone without a job or home. That day I just wandered the streets and ended up spending money on tattoos – yes, it was a dumb decision – and now have two on my neck.
Finally at the end of November I found a very small trailer in a trailer park. I now have a roof over my head again. She is a real gift to me. A few days later the restaurant hired me back as a janitor. The same week I met a woman in the same park – a woman, for the first time since the divorce. She is a waitress. So things have turned around for now, again.
I didn’t tell her any of my story at first; I didn’t know how she would react. One day she came across a photo I had forgot to throw out with a pile of my old stuff:
It is a 9 x 12 inch framed photograph taken at a formal banquet in 2003. I am standing next to my ex-wife and my ex-boss and holding an award given for my ex-job: Financial Executive of the Year. Yes – it’s ironic. I was once named Financial Executive of the Year!
She stared at the photo and asked who the people were and why I would keep a farmed photo of strangers. I told her. And she didn’t believe me. She really didn’t believe me!
I couldn’t blame her. We looked at the former ‘me’, the man who no longer exists: – fifty pounds thinner, a dazzling, confident smile with all of my nice white teeth intact, no tattoos, clean-shaven, perfect corporate haircut with a razor-sharp part, immaculate white tie and tails that I had once owned – never rented! -, manicured hands, gold watch, patent leather pumps on my feet, proudly holding up the award in triumph.
She then looked at the man I am now: a bearded, overweight, gap-toothed, pony-tailed, barefoot, dirty-fingernailed, tee-shirted, tattooed part-time janitor.
How can life change that much? How can one man change and transform so completely?
Finally she started to see the likeness in the face and was very slowly convinced. She insisted on knowing the story.
I told her everything - and she didn’t reject me or laugh or put me down. I told her everything in that photo was gone and explained what I have already written in other posts here.
I had not seen my ex-wife or ex-boss for over a year. That award had been thrown away. The white tie formal outfit and the wristwatch had been bought by someone I didn’t know.
She laughed at the ribbons on the fancy pumps I had on in the photo. I told her they had been sold and the silk socks on my feet along with them. She realized that expensive shoes had always been the symbol of my former life for me, and encouraged me not to be ashamed ever again of my new status in life – and to go barefoot as often as possible, to break with the false image – even to learn to drive my pickup in my bare feet on warm days. That’s a world away from the days when I pressed my mirror-shined Ferragamo wingtips on the pedal of my Porsche. If anyone had told me than that this would happen, I would not believe it.
I don’t know why shoes were the symbol for me. Everyone has something that means ‘success’ to them, and for me it was very expensive business shoes. Selling my shoes to others was harder than it should have been! Now I see again h ow shallow that was. Hearing her laugh was great.
She then told me she preferred me the way I am now. Was she lying? I don’t know. But it felt good. She said I would never have looked at her in my former life (I am ashamed to admit she is right) and SHE would never have looked at me! She told me she never liked “suits” and I was definitely a “suit” back then. She also told me she would only leave me if I shaved off the beard (which is now long) or cut my ponytail!
She also gave me the new name I now go by: My first name is Trevor, and I have always used it. She laughed and told me that had to change. It’s too upper class. Fine for an executive. Not for a janitor or a trailer park. So she took my middle name, Henry (still too classy) and turned it into Hank. So after a lifetime of being Trevor, I am now Hank to her – and to the new people I meet.
And that’s the update. I have written a lot more than you pro bably want to know! But as you say, I am more free now and I am STILL surviving.
Now I will take your advice and start volunteering to help at a food pantry. I have so little myself – but at least I have a place to sleep again and maybe I can encourage others as you have encouraged me.
Thanks Hank. It's really good to hear from you. I've thought of you often. I'm glad that you got your part time job back and managed to get a trailer to live in. Not having a place to call home is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can suffer.
And what wonderful news that you have found a woman who cares.
I've often wondered if getting tattoos is a way to externalize despair. Something to think about.
The big question is, are you happy? I know that I was far happier as a homeless person than I was as a millionaire.
Chicago is a big city and there are sure to be opportunities for you. If you look hard you should be able to get full time employment if that is what you want. Of course, if you can live with comfort on your part time work, you may prefer the freedom of less demanding hours. Since you have your pick up, you may be able to use it to earn a little extra cash if you need some. Also, if you get bored with too much time on your hands, you might consider doing some volunteer work somewhere. Although you don't get paid, being a volunteer can be extremely rewarding spiritually. Nothing can build a feeling of self worth like helping people in need and the friendships you will build really make you aware that you are not alone.
Thanks again for keeping me posted. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to know that you are dealing with things so well.
Have a happy, healthy and hopeful New Year.
Pat Nov 24/09
i gotta say i am impressed!!.....so good to hear a voice from the real world.
i live in new -zealand....have only been homeless once and so far have managed to keep my job and my head above water tho it would be fair to say its had its moments. here the "recession" has put thousands out of work and as a union delegate often need to help folks whose partner has lost a job....huge mortgage.....you get the picture...its heartbreaking and often dispiriting....we have a great country here.....we used to call it "godzone" but with the emphasis on real estate and rampant consumerism we are losing the communities we used to have and people are feeling isolated and "left out" however there are still afew of us who give a shit and ill admit to feeling a bit jaded myself with so many folks getting shafted but after reading here and trying really hard to ge t the message ive got to say i feel a whole lot more energised after reading this site....terrific site and you deserve all good things happening to you 8-).....and heck now you are world famous and ill make sure a lot of others read your sage words.....so from downunder....live long and prosper.....cheers pat
Thank you Pat. I do believe you are my first from New Zealand. In my youth, I lived briefly with a wonderful girl, Ray Blewden from there who was exploring the world. Times were different back then. There were far less riches back then, but they were more equitably distributed amongst the people, so there was not the atmosphere of class animosity that exists today. The unprecedented greed of the elite has resulted in such a vast and disproportionate gap between the rich and the poor that there is a rising tide of hatred being directed towards the upper class. In response, they live in fear and become aggressive and brutal in their attempts to quash the tide. If political leaders do not act SOON to remedy the situation I fear that class violence on a world wide scale will become inevitable.
Balance Sept 16/09
MY drae Ronzig,I am humbly awed by your
sharing of your truthful and honest story,your intelligence and all you stand
for.I have & am experiencing much similar only I too have overcome
completly drug addiction on my own,with the loving humane caring patience of
help of 40+yrs from my dear Husband Featherfire.I have always believed that
anyone can write their life story,but without any visual photos or art works to
show what your writing about too many people can choose not to be touched by
it.With added art when a human being sees the immage like it or not this can
never be ignored any book or story or writing can be thrown-out if it pushes
ones comfort zones in combining with your digitial artwork people cannot help
but to be touched by your sharing of your life's story.Why because once this
visual immage is seen like it or not it can never be pushed away from their
conscious mind.This is the only way in today,s society that people can truly
get their stories understood as well as ignite the humane compasion man should
have for one another.In this respect you are an inspirational first,an
important precedent 4 yrs I have known this is the only way to truly educate
& share with others one,s personal story.That is why writing,Art,Photography
and music is my passion.You are an inspiration for me to keep on going and
inspite of being forced to live with these same affects of choosing true
personal freedom and living life with no human rights or justice in any way
uplifts me towards having even more courage to keep my sights upon achieving
the sharing of my and Featherfire,s story,s for the exact same purpose and
reasonr you have done here.Yes my Brother understnd your whole blog as it is
very difficult maintaining ones sels-esteem when continully hunded by the
established order of the government and society that still see Featherfire and
myself as such a threat that we bth are literal ethnic orphans nobody wants to
know within our society & Government as well as our home America &
Canada.Yes it is soul destroying being forced to be in such a situation we have
a home,but we are forced to pay a huge rent for what everyone sees as a squat
such is the condition of our house really in need of buldossing.In many ways we
may be on the streets homeless as at least we would have friends to belong
to!Someone to talk with!Share a coffee!Help eachother out s we bth dis when
younger and living the same life as you describe here.Sadly this has even been
denied us now,but your blog and by allowing me to share and read is for myself
one of those miricles you talk of and I solely believe you as the exact same
has been so for myself and Featherfire and in the same ways within moments of
being conscious of the need.I also agree with your concept of god totally
always have at some middle age point came to same conclusion.Humble thanks also
for I was becomming embittered by the personal choice to live every aspect of
life truly with freedom and you have educated me towrds the reason why we are
still being treated the way we are.I am filled with a greater courage and
inspiration towards continuing & maintaining my personal choice of true
free living and facing the consquesnces,yet without bitterness my capacity to
help in a larger capacity a was well known all over Australia is
restored.Grateful thanks my Brother,light,joy,hope,justice,Love.Together yes we
Thank you Balance, I’m so happy to have made contact with you and Featherfire. I pray that life will be kind to you.
Anonymous Sept 6/09
AWESOME PIECE of WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you. Hope it’s helpful.
Anonymous Sept 6/09
Hey Ronzig: I met you at the Storefront. Great to see you here!!!
Thank you. Wish you had posted your name so I could tell who you are.
Jared Aug 28/09
Thanks for your feedback, I find it
You say donations may be wasted on a shelter system that is, if I may paraphrase, a corrupted disgrace. But are the shelters inherently corrupt, or are conditions disgraceful because of under funding? Could shelters be substantially improved without more money?
I am considering volunteering at a local church's Out of the Cold, because I have more time than money so it makes sense to volunteer instead of give, right now. What do you think about that idea?
I know that it won't be perfect; I know I can't save the world, but I have to try somehow.
I don’t believe under funding has anything to do with the inadequacies of the shelter system. All of the figures I have heard for the price the city pays a shelter for each occupied be per night is more than enough to provide a large profit over and above any expenses they could incur. I am presently in the process of researching this and hope to have some verified figures soon. The problems are structural and will never be addressed under the current political climate.
Volunteering is really important and I encourage it for Out of the Cold and many other programs that are available through non governmental sources such as churches. Meal programs and outreach programs are other good places to volunteer and wherever you do volunteer, you will have the opportunity to meet and talk with homeless people. The communication aspect is a benefit that both you and the homeless people you meet will share. All my best wishes and thanks for caring.
Jared Aug 28/09
Should people give
I ponder this question every day as I walk past panhandlers. I am a student, don't have a job right now, don't have much money just debt.
On the one hand, I feel like I shouldn't give away the change, because I don't have much myself.
Also, I feel like I should be helping, but that it would be better to give the money to an organization or a shelter or something, that that would be better long-term help than giving them change to buy more alcohol/drugs.
And, I also sometimes think that giving away change is just enforcing the cycle of dependency, that if people stopped giving them change, and panhandling didn't work, they would be forced to do something else more productive.
On the other hand, I do feel compassion for these human beings. I have so much, and others have so little. Maybe they'll buy alcohol/drugs, maybe not, but if I was on the street I would probably want to be intoxicated too.
Reading your website has made me feel even more sympathetic with the plight of the poorest of the poor, making it harder to ignore the guilt of walking past someone sitting in the street without helping them.
So, Ronzig, do you think people should give to panhandlers? Should it only be rich people that give, or working poor and students too? When you give to a panhandler, are you really helping them, or just rewarding them for begging and enabling them to get high?
Good Questions Jared.
First I’d like to speak to the question: should people who don’t have much give or should they leave it to the wealthy? From my experience over 10 years of relying on the generosity of the residents of Toronto, the people who can least afford it are the most generous. The wealthy tend to disassociate themselves from the needy at the personal level and prefer to deal with charitable activities such as black tie benefits which do more for the givers’ egos than for the needy. If we had to rely on the wealthy we’d be in real trouble. Of course it is the arrogant disassociative attitude of the majority of the elite that has created the crisis of homelessness in the first place. So yes it is important that people of modest means continue with their generous spirit.
Giving to an organization is an alternative, however, there are drawbacks. The shelter system is corrupt and your money would be misspent to support facilities that most homeless people and outreach workers agree are a disgrace. Furthermore there is a degree of satisfaction that comes with the personal contact of giving to a homeless person and perhaps offering a caring word of encouragement. To many of us, the connection with our regulars, (people who give routinely) is the only contact we have with society and it is valued almost as much as the money, for we are excluded so thoroughly that we feel totally outcast and alone. Also, to redirect your help to an organization in the belief that giving to a homeless person is only enabling him is a false misconception that the authorities have been using for a long time in their efforts to drive us out of their jurisdiction. Without addiction, a homeless person faces almost insurmountable obstacles to getting a job and rejoining society. An addict has no chance whatsoever unless he is one of the fortunate few who manage to clean up. He needs his drugs more than he needs a home or even food and certainly couldn’t hold down a job even is he could get one. Withholding your generosity on this basis will NOT force him to do something more productive. It will ONLY force him to resort to crime to survive.
Yes, a large portion of the money a homeless addict receives goes to support his addiction, however thanks to the kindness of people like yourself he manages to do that and still be able to buy the food and other necessities of life, so I absolutely support giving to homeless people and do so myself every time I go out.
It makes me feel good to be able to help.
Jared Aug 27/09
was wondering, why do you think it is that the cops bust people asking for
change near the skydome, but ignore the scalpers?
Could it be that there is prejudice in the system? Actually, Even though scalping is illegal, it is seen by many as a valid business whereas panhandling is not yet recognized as a trade. The cops don’t understand how important a public service it is to society. We make people feel good by allowing them to give us money. LOL
Anonymous Aug 27/09
painted your life really clearly...I am glad you are here to share it with us;
and although happy that you finally received proper help, am sorry that you had
to reach 59 & sickness to finally be recognized. Although we have to count
the blessings it is disgraceful that one has to go through so much first. I was
mostly disgusted by the cops just burning your belongings & frightened at
the naivety of children who could just as easily have become murderers the
night they lit your place on fire :(
I don't believe in "coincidences"...there is a reason for me to be here today...just yesterday I went to a college to learn about the Addictions & Community Service workers program that they offer...and now I am here reading first-hand what you have experienced & hoping even more so that I get into the Second Career program so that I can one day be of help, and a positive influence, & hopefully a Voice to help get things turned around to help change the system :) I had a good job-I did get sick, I was taken care of, and then got hit by a car. I had to down-size too, as I could not do the stairs any longer in my building, & got rid of most of my belongings to fit my bachelor apt. With a dog, I almost went insane (not really but it did stress me out!) with the continuous humming sound from the generator outside the building, my ceiling dripping water every day, the floor peaked & it took months for them to fix either hole, there was construction for months, and every time my dog turned around something went flying lol and everything covered in fur or dust, not to mention the heat of the room, and every weekend in the winter the hot water was not in existence which I needed for my aching bones. Just when I thought I was going back to work and back to a regular pay check I found that my neighbour was evicted-which for me meant a normal sized apt. & scooped it up. 2 days later I was laid-off...I did have a choice to go back to work but for the time I had been recovering from the car tossing me my Dad had had a bad stroke in SK and was pretty much a vegetable in a long-term nursing home & after not being able to see him for 2 yrs. knowing this, I was anxious to go--I would not have had any sick days or vacation days for another 6months, plus still get needles for pain (at the time every weeks)...so I took the salary continuance package...sadly my dad died before I had enough $ to fly out to see him :(( So now I am in a big apt. which I have decorated from other peoples discards & either trying to find employment or funds for schooling myself....it is scary sh*t! knowing that come next spring I could very well be another number...as that is to me all we really are--a number...when it comes down to it, most people only truly care for themselves first... I know if I ended up on the streets I would likely be raped or murdered within days-I have been through much in life, but not in that street savvy way that you have-sad to think that they should maybe run education programs on how to survive the streets lol I befriended someone once who also chose to live on the streets instead of shelters & he to said it was safer out there, as in the shelters people steal your belongings and fight for them etc...I also knew a young guy who had a great job and was very much into fitness etc who also got sick and had to give up his job-I think he said they gave him $500/month total & told him find someone to live with--they don't care WHO or what happens to you :( that is wrong...my boyfriend is in a seniors home; he was lucky in that they decided to rent out to 45 & up, so he got in-but what will happen to me if I do not find something and soon, I do not know-as I am not 45 for a couple more years so don't even have the security in knowing I could live with him worse case scenario. I hope the best for you, for all your friends still out there, and that we can change things so that more and more people don't have to get sick first before they receive better support. XOXO GLD BLESS~
Thanks for writing. Sounds like you are enduring stress from all sides. I admire your strength and commitment to keep trying. “NEVER QUIT”
It might be worth speaking with a few of the organizations that do outreach work about your desire to find a way to take the courses you need to enter their field of work. They may be able to suggest other programs to help you finance the cost. I would suspect that there may be scholarships or bursaries or other financial assistance programs that could be helpful.
I wonder how the people who make the rules would react if they were told that the only alternative to becoming homeless is to take a stranger into your home to share the expense and crowd your space. In addition to the overcrowding it creates, the problem with sharing your accommodation with a stranger is the stress that comes from gambling that the stranger is not someone who will be abusive, who will not interfere with your life and privacy to such a degree that it becomes unendurable and who will actually pay their share of the rent on time and not cause you to be evicted. That officials would recommend sharing as a viable means of keeping a person’s home is intolerable.
Anonymous#6 June 25/09
I posted here a month ago; I am the former executive who is facing the possibility of homelessness. You took the time to reply with some very powerful advice and this is the update.
I know its long and I understand if it takes up too much space.
Your words were honest and real and exactly what I need to hear. You pointed out that I needed to take drastic steps and that “you should divest yourself of all the fancy trappings” of the corporate executive lifestyle that I had known for so many years and to “sell everything you can for whatever you can get for it”.
For several days I read that again and again. I didn't want to accept it. Sell all of my possessions? Divest myself?
My suburban home?
My fancy car?
My business attire?
Of course I could not make the payments and was getting further and further behind. I was in a fantasy world. I finally faced reality.
I realized that my entire self was wrapped up in my FORMER career and all the upper class status that went with it. But the career is over; I was a financial executive and that world is dead. With my wife and my “friends” gone, I was holding on to a “white collar executive” identity that is now gone.
So I finally realized I had to act on your advice or else become homeless. I stopped the house payments. The suburban house is no longer my home; it is now in foreclosure. I could not keep up the payments and now it is gone. I have found a furnished room in a very different neighbourhood, but I am no longer worried sick about making the payments.
My Porsche has been repossessed. Yes, I drove a Porsche! I could not make those payments either. I had enough cash to buy a 1988 used pickup. At least it runs.
And I found a few hours of work! The owner of the pick-up mentioned a job at a restaurant near where I used to live – as a part time dishwasher and janitor. I applied for the job, and got it. The irony is that I once brought clients there as an executive! Now I enter through the back door.
The owner didn’t recognize me in the tee shirt and the beard and the extra weight. Life has changed. But I am dealing with reality.
Before I moved, I had a sale of all my treasured possessions except a few basic items. All of the furniture that my wife did not take went for sale. I spread out everything on the front lawn: I had plenty of “fancy trappings”.
I sold my exercise equipment; my golf clubs; the paintings in the living room; the carper; my tuxedo and the patent leather shoes to go with it; my gold wristwatch; and my cufflinks. I sold every one of my business suits, every white shirt and every necktie; in fact, they went first. I even sold my leather briefcase, my woollen overcoat and my black dress socks! (Only white ones now) It was an odd experience selling my clothes.
As a final irony, my former garbage man came to the sale and bought every pair of those, perfectly-polished expensive Italian shoes I used to be so proud of. Every morning he would pick up the trash while I climbed into my Porsche in my suit, in two different worlds. Well, now he is literally walking in the shoes I once wore! What goes around comes around, I suppose.
So now I have a new blue collar identity. It doesn’t feel normal yet. When I first started mopping the floor in the restaurant, it seemed like I was dreaming. But I am keeping the beard and the ponytail I’ve grown as symbols of the new life. No more corporate haircuts for me.
I have bought canned goods, second hand overalls and boots and other used clothes and a few other things. I have enough to get by for now.
Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for your honesty and your generous attitude. Thanks.
Thank you for the update. You've made my day!
You're a survivor. It takes real courage to move forward in the face of catastrophe. Many won’t in this economic disaster, but you took the first steps necessary to create a new life before reaching the homelessness that will be the destiny of those who don’t take this recession seriously.
It’s important that you put aside whatever cash you were able to save as an emergency fund. You have to learn to live on whatever income you receive. As this recession deepens (I wonder when they’ll start calling it a depression) even the job you have been wise enough to acquire may become redundant and you need to be prepared for all possible contingencies. If I am wrong and the economy does turn around sooner rather than later, those funds will be your head start on rebuilding a prosperous life, not the same as the past one though, for you will have different values by then.
I like the pony tail. It tells me that you have a free spirit and that can never be lost.
Since your new job is part time, you might look into volunteering at one of the agencies that assist the poor. Become part of the community and you will find that life can be very rich indeed, even without a large income. Also, when these agencies require full time help, they prefer to hire from their volunteer base and with your qualifications you would be at the top of the list.
Good luck my friend. Walk tall and be happy. You have already taken the most important step by reclaiming a sense of purpose. With purpose, hope and action life can be wonderful even when it is hard. When I was a millionaire, I was not a happy human being. Strangely enough while I was homeless, I learned to be happy.
Please keep me updated on your progress. If others read your
story, it may help them to take the necessary hard steps to ensure their
Anonymous#9 June 12/09
The more I read the more amazing you are. You are an extremely gifted individual. You did not get back to me about your siblings or children.
You can see my responses right here in green.
Anonymous#9 June 12/09
I have a very hard time understanding why your family would not help you. Something deep rooted. Maybe jealous of your wealthy days. Unacceptable. Where are your siblings and parents now. You mentioned you were a proud father. What is their life like.
My father is remarried and avoids contact with us. I never knew my mother and my step mother is dead.My half brother is a jerk and my step brother is in no position to help, besides, I'm pretty independent and there's not much help that can be given to an addict until he decides to help himself, which I finally did. I haven't seen my son since he was 3. I went to court twice to get access and each time the judge granted me the right to have him every second weekend and one month each summer, but his mother, who introduced me to crack wouldn't obey the court orders and there are no enforcement procedures in place other than jailing her for contempt of court, which wasn't an option.
Anonymous#9 June 12/09
Read your very interesting story. Amazing. Do you have family and have they helped and supported you.
Thank you for reading. My family is not close. Haven't seen them in 15 years. Would never ask them for help when I already know the answer even though they never had to ask when they needed help. I just did it.
Anonymous#8 May 27/09
I read your entire blog and was very happy to read you kicked the habit and now have your own place. I am sure the adjustment to an apartment was a tough one. And I know about the Hep C battle as I lost my parents to it, at 54/56. My dad said it was the 60s catching up with them. It is disgusting that in Canada anyone should be forced to be homeless. If that is your lifestyle choice, cool - but not to have it forced on you. I refuse to buy into the bullshit that it is because the person made mistakes...last time I looked the government is doing a fine job of making ample mistakes. Hang in there...continue to tell your story and stay strong!
Thank you so much for your comment. I’m amazed. How long did it take you to get through the whole site?
I’m so sorry about your parents. The 60’s were a strange time. It was illegal to be in possession of a syringe back then. Because I used one in my work I had a permit for one and dozens of us shared it daily. Lucky for us that AIDS hadn’t been invented yet. Thank God they now have Harm Reduction efforts in our society. We haven’t made much progress since the 60’s, but harm reduction is definitely one area where advancement has been successful.
I fully agree with you that every individual should be allowed the freedom of choice in his lifestyle and not be forced into society’s vision of an acceptable one.
Anonymous#7 May 13/09
awwwwww this is sad i now have a lot of respect for hobos
Thank you so much for your comment. It pleases me when a visitor to my site says something like this. Your comments are what I use to evaluate my work. I will feel successful in my endeavours as long as I know that people’s opinions of the homeless situation are becoming more compassionate.
Anonymous#6 May 10/09
Your writing is an inspiration and has been a great help to me.
I am not too far from being homeless myself, and your positive attitude and honesty and hope are a real challenge for me.
I saw the title "from businessman to homeless" and I realized I was almost in the same situation. I lost my job as a corporate executive a year ago and my wife is gone now. I admit I have become depressed by the lack of response to my job hunting.
Your site is a wake up call. Few people wuld recognize me as the impeccably dressed corporate exec in the pinstriped suit, the silk tie and the polished Ferragamo shoes that I used to be.
I have gained 50 pounds - food is my thing - so my suits don't fit at all anymore - and have grown a beard. I spend too much time watching TV and go barefoot most of the time. If anyone had told me - who used to be so dapper - that I would go barefoot I would never have believed it.
I realize now I have been feeling sorry for myself and I have to get myself together. You have come through a lot more than me.
I may never put those Ferragamos back on my feet but I can apply for a job as a handyman or as deliveryman to keep my house. Pinstriped suit not needed! But at least it will pay, if I get it.
I've really been humbled. Jobs for excutives are hard to come by right now. I never thought I would be laid off or divorced - but I am not going to let it destroy me.
thanks for the inspiration.
Thank you so much for your comment. Far too many people still think, “It could never happen to me.” Perhaps as they read your story, they will realize that in this current economic meltdown, no-one is immune. If so, your story may save them a great deal of suffering.
I hope you won’t mind a little advice to help you survive this crisis. People don’t seem yet to realize the magnitude of the predicament. I believe that the world wide economy will continue to flounder for many years to come. This is just the beginning and things will get far worse before they improve. Therefore, if you are to survive and avoid homelessness, NOW is the time to take drastic steps to that end. You are right on track when you say you will seek any employment that will help you to maintain, but more will be required. If you are carrying a large mortgage, it would be better to let the house go now rather than deplete your resources in an attempt to keep it. Believe me, it will be easy enough to replace it when the emergency has passed and you will be far better off during the crisis if you ration your resources wisely. I made the mistake of depleting my reserves in a vain attempt to maintain my property and other possessions. I may not have become homeless if I had downscaled my lifestyle radically at the outset. You should divest yourself of all the fancy trappings of the lifestyle you have become accustomed to and make survival your only priority. Find an inexpensive room to rent and sell everything you can for whatever you can get for it. Stop making payments on ALL your debts and allow the creditors to repossess everything that is encumbered. Don’t worry about the consequences of this. Millions of people worldwide will be in the same boat at the end of this and debt forgiveness will be one of the first things that will occur if the system is to come out of it at all.
On a personal level, activity is the key to avoiding the depression that will destroy many people in these hard times. If you don’t find steady employment, take whatever you can get even if it is delivering flyers on a day to day basis, and Volunteer. You will be amazed how much better you will feel about yourself when you are actively helping others in need and volunteerism often leads to paid employment. If you need someone to talk to, I am always happy to do what I can. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take it from there. Good luck.
Anonymous May 8/09
thanks for sharing your story,
so much to learn
You are strong,wise and a true inspriration
Thank you. It was nice speaking with you yesterday.
Anonymous#5 Apr 26/09
It's Boni from
The minute one enters social services one is not a "person" any more, one is a "client" or "patient" or the most patronizing of all, "member"--as if such "members" were part of an exclusive club with voting privileges.
The fact is, shelters are just a socially acceptable prison system for those who commit the crime of poverty.
We're not "Homeless" our home is Toronto.
We know how to build a house, if the authorities would stop knocking them down on us.
What we *are* is de-housed refugees in our own city.
We're not necessarily "mentally ill/addicted"--we're supposed to be "citizens". If we suffer from some of the same struggles as those who are housed, somehow we are, as a group "less than" our cousins in Rosedale.
Keep up the great site.
Thanks my friend. You make some very important observations. I never considered myself “Homeless.” Just because a person doesn’t have a municipal address they label us and then they can discard us. I particularly like the terminology you use when you say we are, “de-housed refugees in our own city.” I couldn’t agree more. We are political and economic refugees who are denied even the comfort of a refugee camp.
Anonymous#4 Apr 13/09
Anonymous#3 Mar 26/09
thank you so much for what you are doing. A dear friend of mine is homeless in Toronto from last November '08. I read your story via twitter/blogTO here in Ireland. Anything that can be done to make a difference will go a long way.Best wishes Eva
Thank you Eva. There’s a long way to go. I hope I live long enough to see homelessness and poverty eradicated world wide.
Steve Mar 21/09
can both relate to the crack addiction (mine was heroin and crack, along with
cannabis, acid, tees n blues and just about any other opiate I could get my
hands on - no bathroom medicine chest was safe around me!) Helluva story
Ron; would love to put a link on Stone Soup Station if you'd allow me to!
Get in touch ol timer; we got some stuff to talk about!
Congratulations. It’s a very interesting and informative site.
You have my permission to use anything from my site that you feel will be
helpful provided you credit the source and I would appreciate permission to use
information from your site under the same criteria. By the way, the links for
the photos under
Anonymous#2 Mar 6/09
work and take de cares..!
Thank you. Glad you like my work.
Thomas Mar 6/09
you for sharing your experiences as difficult as they are. You have changed how
I see drug addiction and the problem of homelessness. Wishing you all the best,
Thank you Thomas to read that I have made a difference in your outlook is all the reassurance I need to continue my efforts.
Anonymous#1 Feb 11/09
I sincerely want to wish you the best of luck with your life.
Thank you anonymous for your kind wishes.
Index of Ronzig's web pages
As well as Ronzig's Gallery, Ronzig built and maintains Down But Not Out,
a website dedicated to social activism and providing information about
many of the current issues that threaten to destroy our planet and the
social structures we have developed. This link will take you to the Home
page of Down But Not Out
which was recently ranked as the 12th best website about homelessness
on the internet and the following information will explain each of the
pages on the website. You will have the opportunity to comment on what
you learn here and read the many comments of other visitors to the site.
Learn more about Ronzig
and why he created Down But Not Out and why it began as a website
discussing the issues of poverty, homelessness and addiction and how it
evolved into much more, encompassing issues a wide ranging as politics,
war imperialism, conspiracy, economics, health, the environment and
Having been a crack addict for nearly 2 decades, during the 2nd of which I was homeless, I have acquired an in depth understanding of addiction, how & why it begins, what it does to a person, what is involved with getting free of this curse and the social implications of this ever increasing plague on civilization. I disclose some little known and often ignored information and insights that will assist you in coming to a better understanding of what addiction is all about.
I have created a page where visitors to Down But Not Out can contribute
by telling their story about how the issues discussed on the site has
affected them or someone they care about. I encourage you to read what
others have to say and please tell us your story. You can remain
anonymous if you prefer.
There is an extensive examination of the economy
on Down But Not Out with discussions about the recession, economic
collapse, the increasing disparity between the rich, the poor and the
middle class. I delve into the phenomena of the shrinking middle class
and the emergence of a 2 class society where an economic elite rule and
the rest of us are rapidly being relegated to economic slavery.
Whether you call it Global Warning, Climate Disruption
or choose to adopt one of the euphemisms that opponents to addressing
this impending disaster use to seek to reduce the significance of the
crisis to protect their ill gotten financial profits, it is a scientific
fact that our global environment
is on the brink of collapse. If meaningful and immediate action is not
taken the human race along with almost all other forms of life on the
Planet Earth will soon face extinction.
Whenever I have time I try to post notices of significant events
that you may wish to attend including rally's, protests, political
meetings, or other relevant items here. I also use this page to post
notices of upcoming art shows where my work will be on display.
The social, economic and political issues revolving around health and healthcare
are currently creating an environment where universal healthcare in
Canada is under attack. It is evident that the elite no longer wish to
ensure adequate health services for an aging population. They see no
need to preserve individual health when there is no shortage of
replacement economic slaves to step in when one of us succumbs to
preventable illness and dies.
There is a worldwide epidemic of homelessness
that has emerged in the past couple of decades to plague society and
the wealthiest nations, ones with more than sufficient resources to
provide housing for their populations are the worst at addressing the
situation. Having lived long enough to realize that even when our
society was steeped in relative poverty compared to today's situation,
homelessness was never a significant problem until recently as the elite
grab more and more of the world's wealth and resources, leaving the
rest of us to struggle just to keep a roof over our heads.
With the advent of the internet,
hope for a just society has been restored, yet there are sinister
powers threatening to crush that hope. Just when internet should be
reaching the point of universal global access, these powers are forcing
an increasing internet divide, where surprisingly millions who once
could afford access are being economically deprived of this crucial
commodity, for a commodity is what it has become and it is for sale at
price not reflective of costs, but of what the market will bear. Perhaps
we should be considering defining internet as a Necessary Service that
is available to everyone at affordable rates of free of charge.
With the corporatization of mainstream media,
it's difficult to find any honest reporting in this media, as they tend
to stick like flies on flypaper to the elitist party line. However even
the most cynical of these outlets of information are forced to include a
modicum of honesty in their reports when faced with the vast amount of
conflicting evidence distributed freely on the internet. It is
beneficial also to be up to date on what they are saying in order to
point out the inadequacies and outright lies that they distribute.
Over the years, Ronzig has been in the news
on several occasions, both as the subject of articles and as
interviewee. Of course I've commented on many news items as well. you'll
find some of these pieces on my news page.
There is a disturbing trend in politics
that is increasingly threatening the very fabric of Democracy, or the
sorry excuse for such that we have adopted. I'm speaking of the merging
of the Capitalist manifesto into the political agenda to the effect
that today's politicians see their job almost exclusively as serving the
requirements of capitalism and corporate profits rather than the needs
of the citizens who are the true backbone of any nation.
Ever wonder how it is possible that in the richest civilization that has ever existed on the planet, extreme poverty
is reaching epidemic proportions? The answer is obvious. Every single
year for the past 3 decades the wealthiest 5% of the world's population
have taken control and ownership of a greater proportion of the world's
resources leaving less for each of the remaining 95% of the people who
have to live on this planet. In every industrialized nation the middle
class is under attack and is shrinking annually as people are forced
down the economic scale into the burgeoning poverty class. The truly
terrifying aspect of this is the fact that the members of the middle
class which is the primary target of this attack believe that when the
middle class is eliminated they will be part of the elite upper class of
rulers rather than economic slaves of these rulers. Because of this the
middle class votes consistently for politicians who serve this elite
ruling class and don't even realize they are voting for their own
In a society which professes to be primarily Christian
is it not a paradox that we have created such an un-Christian attitude
toward our neighbours? By assuming the philosophy of "Looking our for
number ONE", we find it easy not only to allow our brothers and sisters
to suffer and actually perish because they can not afford to pay for the
basic requirements of survival, nourishment and shelter, but many of us
are arrogant enough to hate them for their predicament. How are we to
overcome this tide of apathy and animosity which in the end will destroy
us if we fail?
If you group is interested in Ronzig's experiences and philosophies, I do speaking engagements
and will talk on any of the topics covered here. I have had great
success with audiences while speaking about homelessness &
addiction, Democracy & politics as well as photography & art and
would be pleased to accept a request to speak to you group.
Go to Ronzig's Gallery digital photoArt, photography, video, photographic & video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto, Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images and art on ceramic tiles top home page.
Ronzig and Ronzig's Gallery: What is digital photoArt? Ronzig's
guerrilla photography and video. Art on Ceramic Tiles. Collector Series
Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images, Mini Video Tours
of Toronto. And photographic and video recording services.
You can contact
Ronzig's Gallery by email, telephone or by snail mail to his
address to inquire about Ronzig's digital photoArt, photography,
Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images.
video, photography &
video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto and art on
ceramic tiles or to purchase his products or services. You will also
find numerous links to other websites where Ronzig has a presence.
Read the Legend of Ronzig the Wizard
and his battle with his evil twin brother Ronzak the Sorcerer in the
story of the ongoing struggle between good and evil that has been going
on since the creation of the universe.
This is where you can order Ronzig's products and services from Ronzig's Gallery such as digital photoArt, photography & video recording services, Mini Video Tours of Toronto, art on ceramic tiles & Collector Series Postcards featuring an assortment of his best images.
Ronzig creates spectacular panorama works
either as photographic images or as Digital photoArt that are available
in standard sizes up to 44" x 13" on either canvas or archival quality
photo paper (larger sizes available by special order).
Ronzig's Gallery will also embed a panorama image into the glaze of a
series of ceramic tiles to create a unique wall or floor covering
surface to your specs.
Ronzig's Digital photoArt & photographic images from Ronzig's Gallery cover a broad array of subject matter and themes resulting in highest quality art works to suit any preference. These images are all available on ceramic tiles & Collector Series Postcards as well a more traditional canvas and archival photo paper in a wide range of sizes to suit your requirements.
All of Ronzig's best work is available on Collector Series Postcards
on archival photo paper, suitable not only for mailing a unique
greeting to friends and loved ones, but also for framing as a group to
hang on your wall.
Ronzig has done work for a wide range of clients
from law firms to developers, health services facilities and the City
of Toronto, all of which would certainly provide excellent references to Ronzig's Gallery.
Most of Ronzig's best work, be it video, photography or Digital photoArt is available as stock video clips or stock photo & art images at extremely reasonable prices for royalty free applications that you are producing.
Most of Ronzig's best work can be embedded into the glaze of ceramic tiles,
resulting in virtually indestructible art works suitable for
architectural uses such as surfaces for walls, floors, counter tops,
back-splashes, fireplace surrounds or mantlepieces. As home furnishing
uses they provide unique surfaces for tables or any other flat surfaced
furniture. There is a series of 4" x 4" tiles with a protective backing
designed for use as coasters that are bound to intrigue your guests as
you entertain. Of course they make timeless stand alone art suitable for
framing or placing on a stand for display.
Ronzig produces a wide range of videos,
including Documentary works, event recording such as children's
birthdays, activism and social protest works, art films, Mini Video
Tours and special effects clips. Ronzig's Gallery is fully equipped and
has access to support professionals to create original works with
multi-camera filming, still photography and custom music for any
production. He is presently working on a special fx movie, The Legend of
Ronzig the Wizard, for which he the writer, art and costume designer,
producer director and star.