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'Christopher' struggles to find stability

Unemployed and homeless.It's a reality for Christopher, a 38-year-old who hasn't earned steady pay in more than two years.He claims potential employers are turned off by his limited education and criminal record.“I have a resume,” he said. “I have been out on interviews but I never get called [back] because I have made mistakes in my past.“I've been to jail for being on the street and selling drugs I was young and I made stupid decisions, so I have a record.“But I'm not a person who is going to jail every month or every year for something. I've been out of jail for seven years now and I am trying not to go back.”Christopher, who didn't want to share his real name, said he had a difficult life from the start.He became a ward of the courts after his mother gave up her parental rights.He was raised at the Salvation Army Children's Home and the Observatory Cottage, a programme for troubled teens.At 17 he was hired as a construction worker and his mother agreed to take him in. However she kicked him out after he lost his job, and his life as a career criminal began.Christopher was jailed for trespassing, petty theft and drug dealing in the years that followed.He then decided to turn his life around.He returned to construction work, but was made redundant and had to give his apartment up.The father-of-two now sleeps in bus stops or at Car City, a village of derelict vehicles in North Hamilton populated by the homeless.Family has helped a bit: One relative takes care of his two sons, aged 13 and seven.Odd jobs as a landscaper and a painter have carried him from day to day.“I am trying to cope and trying to do things by myself, but now it is getting too much for me and I don't know what to do and now I am at my wits' end,” he said.“The hustles are not sustaining me to be able to accommodate an apartment and bills.“I need to get something that is more stable and secure. I have lived so long doing things on the street [that now] I don't know how to cope.”No matter what the New Year brings he said his life of crime is over: “It's the easy way out, but I'm not trying to go down that road and end up doing more time.”His relationship with his sons has suffered as a result, he said.“I really can't see them or be there for them and do things with them, because [of how] my life is.“I think they have heard so much about me that I don't think they'll be too thrilled to see me, especially in my state right now.”His hope is that someone reading his story will take a chance and hire him before Christmas. In the meantime, Christopher is studying for his taxi licence.“I also have a heavy truck licence perhaps I can drive the limousines at the airport or get a job as a bus driver.“I'm hoping that this can make me more employable, because I really want to get off the streets.”He said he was aware that the Salvation Army operated shelters for the homeless but wouldn't consider seeking accommodation there as the environment seemed “too much like prison”.“It would break me for even a month or two,” he said. “I can sustain myself on the street for a month or two.“It is not where I would like to be, but I can find somewhere to rest my head and somewhere to get a shower.”He expects this Christmas will pass just like any other day.“Walking around and seeing all the lights and everyone running around, it is not getting to me in a good way, it is getting to me in a bad way.“Some days it feels like I am banging my head up against the wall and I'm not getting nowhere. I'm very depressed but I'm trying to stay strong to keep pushing and to keep hoping that something will come through for me.”