Feature Story Saturday December 10, 2011
Back In The High Life Again
The Village is open and changing lives already
Craig Hill/Voice photos
Eric Hunken's life changed in September when he moved into the Village pictured behind him.
e would come home drunk and stoned to a tin trailer without heat or a kitchen, shower or laundry.
Life for Eric Hunken was a bitch. There's no other way to explain it. He was a mess. Addicted to almost every substance known to man from marijuana to methamphetamines and spending all his money getting bent-out-of-shape. It was an easy escape and way to numb a life riddled with pain and self-abuse.
It was a miracle that he lived.
Then one day he made a choice and hasn't looked back since. He signed-up for Miracle Valley and somehow weaned himself off drugs and booze. And if that wasn't tough enough, he even gave up smoking.
Once the monkey was off his back, he applied for accommodation with BC Housing and the rest is history.
The Village, is a 33-unit subsidized supportive housing complex operated by BC Housing, was officially opened Friday. It was constructed from trailer units from the Whistler Village during the Winter Olympics. Local dignitaries and representatives from the provincial government were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
It’s all so different for Hunken now. Even though he’s in his 50s, it was like being born again. The Village on School Street in Chilliwack has changed everything for him. This is the break he needed. He has something worth living for and for the first time in many years he wants to come home. He wants to be there. He wants to live.
Hunken was the first one to move into to the Village September 1st into what he calls “the penthouse.”
“I actually printed (a door sign) the penthouse out on my computer, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve got a Christmas wreath on the door now.”
The rules are tough in the Village. No smoking in the rooms, visitors are limited to 14-nights annually. But this doesn’t faze Hunken. He loves it there and he plans to stay.
“This is my home now, my permanent home now, unless maybe I win the lottery,” he says with an optimistic laugh.
The Village is a perfect fit for him, and most importantly, it fits his budget. He was paying $550.00 a month for part of a house that he says “wasn’t very good with drugs and everything else”. Now Hunken pays $375.00 a month and that includes heat and electricity and even laundry.
“It totally suits my needs and I live on disability so it’s really affordable and I have money left over to buy food,” he said.
He tried to take his life quite a few times over the years.
“I’ve been challenged with living for a long time,” he says. “I suffer from a mental illness, depression, major depression and I’ve been very suicidal, with a borderline personality.”
Since September, he’s become a new man. He’s also staying fit by riding a bicycle, even in the cold weather.
“It’s made already an amazing change and my whole life is hopeful now,” he says. “I see it in my fellow tenants too, it’s just incredible.
He’s even started work at the Oasis Outreach Society as a paid employee.
“I started out as a volunteer and now I’m working there three days a week.”
The Village is manned by staff 24/7 to keep the riff-raff out.
“It feels like a really safe place to live, very supportive, we’ve got all the support from the Creative Centre Society and staff that work here,” he says adding that “it’s 24-hour support and if we need somebody to talk to, there’s someone to talk to 24-hours a day.”
See more photos below.
© Copyright (c) 2011 The Valley Voice
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