5 min read
01 December 2021

How the First Step to Home program gave this client a second chance at life

Jennifer Mayville, Marketing & Communications Manager

Who doesn’t like a feel-good story during the holiday season? We have a wonderful one to share with you about one of our clients: Marcus Deyo.

Marcus has been a resident in WoodGreen’s First Step to Home transitional housing program since 2017, after having spent a number of years without a home – living on the street and in shelters. Today, as the New Year approaches, he is getting ready to move into his very own apartment!

Here's his story.

Marcus didn’t have an easy childhood. Part of a family of 10 children, his parents separated when he was eight. His father was abusive and his mother left – abandoned him out of the blue one day when he was at school. Marcus experienced a number of mental health issues and, as a teenager, spent time in a group home. Fast forward to adulthood and life was pretty good for a while. Marcus had a steady job as a trucker and was enjoying developing his talents as a musician. He even built a music studio in his basement.

Tough years ahead


However, in 2013, his life took a hard turn for the worse. He lost the trucking job he had had for eight years. When Marcus asked for a leave of absence to go into a rehab center for treatment of his substance use disorder, his employer refused to hire him back. Marcus said he had become addicted to painkillers to combat his sleep apnea and the persistent cluster migraines that were taking a toll on his physical and mental health. This led to opioid addiction and eventually he was mixing Methadone and OxyContin. Things were quickly spiralling downward. He lost his licence and his car. He lost his beloved music studio. He ended up on the street. He slept at City Hall, in storage rooms or sometimes in shelters.

In 2017, the tide began to shift. Marcus found his way to WoodGreen’s First Step to Home program at 650 Queen Street East. Here, in this four-year transitional program for men 55 and older who have spent hard years on the streets, the residents live in modern bachelor apartments.

The program provides a full range of wrap-around supports. The men receive on-site health care, nutrition programs, counselling, social and recreational activities, life-skills retraining, volunteer opportunities and more. A caseworker supports each resident in developing a plan to respond to their individual challenges, in order to rebuild their lives, so they can move to permanent housing.

First Step to Home helped Marcus to find his way back to himself


Through First Step to Home, Marcus has found a part-time retail job – a major step in his journey back. Better still, it has rekindled his love for music. He has recently acquired a Yamaha keyboard and is finding great pleasure in playing gospel music. As Marcus neared the end of his four years in First Step to Home, he had been anxious about transitioning to the next phase in his life. A WoodGreen housing manager found a suitable apartment in one of WoodGreen’s affordable housing buildings. Marcus was overjoyed when he learned he had been accepted! “I can’t tell you how relieved and thankful I am. It’s like springtime...a new season for me. I found healing here,” he said.

Marcus has even composed a song of thanks for the many people that have helped him on his journey. You can watch him play it on YouTube.

Marcus is now getting ready to move – to finally have his own home, once again. He is looking forward to being able to cycle to work from his new apartment and is excited about setting up his keyboard and playing his music in his own place. He has already bought headphones so he won’t disturb his neighbours.

When asked if he had anything to say to people who don’t understand how people can end up on the streets, he responded, “Addictions are real, mental health troubles are real, and homelessness is real, and sometimes you end up dealing with all three at the same time. Please don’t give up on us. People can change when given a second chance.”

Do you want to learn more about the First Step to Home program? Visit this page.

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