Thank you, Simon, for trusting us with your story. It takes a lot of courage to speak about a recent trauma and such a vulnerable part of your life. By sharing stories like yours, we at Ample Labs hope to demystify homelessness and build empathy for the invisible homeless.
Meet Simon, a smart and articulate young man. By day, he’s a corporate account manager for an IT solutions firm. At work, he puts on a serious face but by night he’s a dog cuddling movie buff. He likes to cook for his mom and spend time with his family. Confident and courteous, if you talked to him today you’d never guess he struggled with homelessness.
It’s not something he likes to talk about.
Majority of people who’ve transitioned in or out of homelessness don’t want to talk about it. It is a traumatizing and shameful part of their lives. However, stories like his are vital in changing public perception and creating change.
Last July, Simon was laid off from his job.
It was a complete shock. Two months later, he lost his home. He had a well-paying position at Samsung, coordinating with stakeholders and training all the frontline staff in the experience stores across Ontario. When a third-party vendor pulled out of their partnership with Samsung, there was no place for him.
He didn’t know how to take it in and it threw his entire life off balance. Simon was doing extremely well in his position and he knew the entire scheme of his work like the back of his hand. The expertise he gained, the strong ties with his co-workers, all severed instantly.
Naturally, Simon applied to jobs as soon as possible. He reached out to his network, applied for employment insurance and took all the right steps to get his life back on track. Even so, the lay-off hit him hard. Besides his rent and living expenses, he was also sending money regularly to the Philippines to support his family. He’s not a father yet, but the sole breadwinner for his two sisters who are single mothers. Between his rent and feeding his six nephews and nieces, he chose the latter.
(Left to right: Simon, his mom, nephew, older sister, and younger brother)
“The worst part was the shame. I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone and hid the situation. I’m the only one in the family who really makes money and provides for the rest.”
When it came time for interviews, they always went well until a certain point. Every time an interviewer asked him why he left his previous job, he couldn’t fight the lump in his gut. Losing his job had pushed his life out of control, and it was hard not to show it. Being a month behind on rent, not wanting to disappoint his family, the piling debt — the uncertainty was all too much. All the stress and negativity was clouding his mind and he knew it was getting to him.
Although it hurt his pride, he had to seek help.
“ I finally told a friend I lost my job and didn’t know what to do. My sister in the Philippines cannot support her four children on her own and I had so much to pay off. Eventually, I had to tell her I needed a grace period from sending payments. My friend recommended I talk to CG.”
The first time Simon met CG, he didn’t expect her to bring the Ample Labs team as well. He instantly had a support group with no judgment for his situation. Everyone wanted to hear him out and help him get him back on his feet. Even as he was moving in with a friend all the way in Whitby, CG would go there with him to help with the move.
“When I met the Ample team, what struck me the most was the open mind they had about what I lived through. ” — Simon
Before Simon’s experience, he never even thought about homelessness. It was just a fact of life that he got used to. Like most of the public, he had the notion most homeless people were volatile and aggressive. In reality, many are ashamed and hide. Seeing the dedication CG and the Ample Labs team had given Simon the passion to get involved.
“I never knew people who are homeless can look and act like us. When you talk to them, all they want is a regular conversation like a human being.” — Simon
He became part of the research team to make navigating resources easier through an app called Chalmers. It’s a chatbot which allows people in trouble to message questions in a more user-friendly way. When someone like Simon becomes homeless, they are already under stress and the difficulty in navigating information only adds on to it. What Chalmers does is take what is manually put in websites, and automate it so people can ask specific questions and get the results they need.
“We want to create a more natural experience for the transitioning homeless to find their way. I believe we need more human-like interface with accurate data that can lead to better solutions. Chalmers does exactly that.” — Simon
As a professional in the tech sector, Simon understands how big of an impact Chalmers can make. The information people add on to the platform allows it to mature and respond to what matters most to users. With a full reporting system on issues like overpopulation in shelters, homeless abuse, and specific needs, our team can address pain points with them. This is massive in helping the government and other non-profits narrow down priorities and co-design solutions with the homeless community.
Ample Labs is working to get funding so people like Simon can be compensated for their time in helping us with user research. If everyone reading this can donate 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 100, we can build a society that empowers their most vulnerable and find solutions together.
This is Simon’s message to those struggling with homelessness.
“It’s never easy to be in that situation. You become really ashamed but you shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you lose hope. My suggestion is to engage and learn new things. With Ample Labs, there is so much potential for us to help make your life easier.” -Simon
There is a whole population of hidden homeless that nobody knows. This time in Simon’s life wasn’t a healthy one. It’s both mentally and emotionally exhausting for him to even talk about and we’re grateful he understands the importance of having this dialogue.
“To people who don’t know about this issue, I hope we can have a conversation. I wish people and the government could talk more and this is normalized.”