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A Day with Wayne

Posted on 30 July 2016

Article/video for context (via Global Calgary)

Today was a special day.  With the help of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Center (the “Drop-In Center”), as well as few great local Calgary businesses (Johnny’s Barber + Shop and Laurier Lounge), we were able to give a man, Wayne, a much deserved afternoon off.  Given the clientele we generally work with, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there is another group of people out there.  A group that doesn’t concern themselves with the everyday luxuries we can sometimes take for granted, but instead, are just trying to survive.  I think its natural for all of us to make assumptions about how this other group of people live, and what their stories are.  We all know the stereotypes.  This day was just as much about breaking through some of those stereotypes as it was about treating Wayne.

Starting a business for me is a lot about personal growth.  Whether the business succeeds or not, I want to come out of this experience better.  For me, better includes gaining invaluable business experience (I’ve already learnt a lot), but also being actively involved in the community.

As a startup company, I don’t have much money to give.  But what I do have, is product and connections within the Barber community.  This is what lead to a day with Wayne.

The basic idea – give someone in need a few hours off.  Talk to them.  Learn about them and better understand what homelessness in Calgary really looks like.  And of course, provide a few simple luxuries along the way.  Things that may not seem like much to many of us. 

Today we met Wayne and Jordan, the Manager of External Relations at the Calgary Drop-In Center, at 11am at Johnny’s Barber + Shop.  Here, Wayne was provided a haircut trim and hot towel shave by Stephen, one of the best barbers in the city who happily donated his time and skill.  If you have ever had a professional hot towel shave, then you know, this is the man’s equivalent to a day at the spa.  This part of our day wasn’t about talking.  It was about shutting out the distractions and enjoying a peaceful experience.   Wayne’s smile after receiving the shave was contagious.  We joked that the shave made him look 15 years younger.  He couldn’t stop rubbing the side of his cheeks, amazed at how soft his skin felt. 

After the Barber, we walked a few blocks to Laurier Lounge, the same place where Warren Buffet recently enjoyed a meal.  Here, Wayne was able to choose whatever he wanted to eat.  This is so simple, but important.  The Drop-In Center serves thousands of meals a day.  So, understandably, the clients aren’t able to choose what they want.  The ability to order what you feel like at the time is something we don’t think about much.  We all went with the same meal – the “Buffet Burger”, named after the unique custom burger Warren had ordered.  After the meals arrived, we were joined by Martin, the owner of Laurier Lounge.  Our conversation was wide ranging – the oil and gas industry, public libraries, whether we preferred e-readers or actual books, as well as cooking, travel and hiking.  It was during these conversations we got the opportunity to learn more about Wayne.

Wayne spent over 20 years working as an accountant within the Oil & Gas industry in Calgary.  He saw a lot of changes within the industry over those years.  Of the many companies he worked for, not one is around today.  He worked through many ups and downs through the industry, including the 1980’s oil glut.  His hobbies during this time included frequent trips out to the mountains for day hikes, as well as curling.  Wayne also shared some stories about his younger days.  When he was 17 he was hired as a gardener on the spot at a Lake Louise hotel based solely on the premise that because he had a pony tail, he must know how to garden.  He also told us about how he hitchhiked to the Calgary Stampede when he was 10 years old with 5 dollars in his pocket.  After spending a day at the park eating everything in site, as well as riding all the rides, he remembers having change left over.

For many of his adult years, his days were the exact same as anyone else’s -  wake up, go to work, then return home for dinner and relaxing with the family.  But one year, this all changed.  Within one year’s time, his wife and two children died.  All separate incidents and circumstances.  Understandably, this had a significant impact on Wayne’s life.  He struggled with depression after these events and quickly found himself needing support.  That support came in the form of the Drop-In Center.   Wayne wasn’t an addict or a criminal.  Just like many of the Drop-In Center’s clients, he was just a normal person who, due to totally unpredictable circumstances out of his control, needed help.  The Drop-In Center provided him with that help, as well as a home for nearly 5 years.  That’s right, 5 years.  They supported him any way he needed.  And in return, Wayne supported them back through full-time volunteering.  People may not realize this but the Drop-In Center doesn’t ask you to check in or check out.  And they don’t set time limits for their clients.  In Wayne’s case, the Drop-In center was his home. 

When I first met Wayne it was in the basement of the Drop-In center the previous week.  This is where he spent many hours working in the laundry room.  The Drop-In center could have more than 1,000 clients staying with them at any given time, so there was always work.  He joked that most people in the building probably didn’t even realize that he and his fellow workers were down there.   Volunteering and working helped give him a sense of purpose, and he was good at it.

After 5 years in the Drop-In Center, Wayne is scheduled to move into his own apartment next month.  His big plan for the first day?  Cook himself a nice meal.    

This day was more than just providing temporary luxuries.  It was a way to say thanks to Wayne for all his support at the Drop-In Center, and to help set the stage for his next journey in life.

Good luck Wayne!




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