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‘He hasn’t given up. That’s the real story’

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Homeless in Bermuda: Howard, who has no home and who lost an arm in an accident (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Howard lost a place to call home and then suffered a traumatic accident when he lost his left arm, but he refuses to give in.

“It’s a struggle,” he said. “But I refuse to have my injury cripple me, and I won’t let it stop me from moving on with my life.”

Lorrin is a trained chef and, like Howard, won’t give up despite being homeless for three years.

“Just being off the streets. Stability, that’s all,” he says when asked what would help him the most.

Both men agreed to talk to The Royal Gazette about their life without a home. Many assume that homelessness is a choice. It is not.

Howard said he was living with his father, but the property became derelict and he had to move out.

“The house was not considered a house, so I couldn’t use the address to open a bank account ... to do anything, basically. Then I was in a bad bike accident and got disabled.”

He added: “Basically, I was living rough. Before my accident, I was OK. I had work, I had a roof over my head. It was OK, but after my accident I couldn’t walk to do anything. So life became hard.”

Howard was a painter, painting houses and roofs — he waterproofed tanks and is also an electrician.

Court case

Howard appeared in Magistrates’ Court recently and admitted causing a man grievous bodily harm by riding a bike on January 2022.

Explaining his story, Home director Denise Carey said: “My view on that is that these stories are complex. There are many layers, it is not as simple as someone got in an accident. There is a story behind what led him there and a human story behind that.

“I think he is brave to come forward and still share his story while he knew that [court date] was coming.

“So, he went to court and he pleaded not guilty. He came back to Home and I overheard him saying from his perspective what happened and I went out and talked to him and I said, ‘you have another victim who is going to be further victimised’.

“You know what you did, you are trying to get your life straight, you are going to carry on this case and you are going to continue to work with us, but if you are going to get jail time, you could have been serving that time.

“You cannot have us helping you to find employment and that employer invest in you when you have a debt to society, you have a debt to this victim.

“Part of this journey is being truthful. Being truthful with the community, being truthful with the court, being truthful with your victim.

“If you have hurt someone, you are supposed to say ‘I’m sorry’. You say ‘I am going to try to do better’ and you have to be true to that. And so that is this boy’s story.

“Yes, he messed up, he knows he messed up and he decided to go to court to tell the truth.

“This shows the complexities of the individual. It is a Black man who admits that he did something he was not supposed to. He has a lifelong consequence as a result of that; it will impact his employment prospects, his health moving forward, his family. but he has hasn’t given up.

“That’s the real story.”

“I’m pretty well-rounded, you know? And it’s different now not being able to do a lot of that stuff. I still try to.”

The homeless charity Home helped to stabilise his life, providing an address so he could get disability allowances. He is now living at the Salvation Army hostel for the homeless.

“I just want to live life. I can’t do everything I used to do before. It’s difficult because I’m disabled.

“I do miss being able to do things. You know, I still try to do a lot of stuff. But some people, they don’t, and they beat themselves up. I refuse to do that.

“You can’t change the past, you can only move forward. So I just keeping moving forward.”

Homeless in Bermuda: Lorrin admits homelessness takes its toll, but says “I wake up every day and just go” (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Lorrin, whom Home is supporting, explained that a few years ago he was living with his mother, who is now deceased. “Ever since she passed away, it’s just been a downhill spiral.

“The house that she was living in was owned by someone else, and because of her passing away, I had to move out.”

Despite holding down a job, he has been unable to find a place to live. “Well, one thing is we have a lot of landlords that don’t want to rent to individuals.

“You also have the high rent costs in Bermuda, which is a common thing across the board. The average studio would be just under $2,000, and it’s hard to get a stepping stone just to get to that.”

Lorrin has been homeless for three years, usually sleeping at the Bull’s Head car park, getting up at 5am to make sure he avoids early commuters.

“I always say that if you’re homeless, you don't have to act like it, look like it, or smell like it, you understand? But, yes, I’m still going to work and still trying to maintain some normalcy.”

Asked about his experiences while living rough, Lorrin said: “I’ve had people steal things from me. And because of the situation, you have to travel light. Basically, you have to live with a backpack, you know what I mean? And it takes its toll after a while, definitely.”

He said there was a mental toll, “definitely”. “But, again, you have to, as they say, pull your socks up and keep it going. What’s the alternative? Giving up. And I don't think anyone got this far to give up.

“I haven’t been on this planet 40 years to say, ‘this is it’.

“I wake up every day and just go. Once you start thinking about it, that’s when you really start to … how can I put it? It becomes depressing, you know what I mean?”

On what could be done to help the homeless, Lorrin said: “I would say people have to be more tolerant because we do live in a judgemental society. It’s just face value — when we see individuals, we assume the worst.”

He added: “I am able to just push through. I’m just speaking for myself. A lot of people that I know can’t, they really can’t cope with it. But for myself, I put my best foot forward.”

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Published February 12, 2024 at 7:54 am (Updated February 13, 2024 at 9:41 am)

‘He hasn’t given up. That’s the real story’

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