How My Friends Saved Me from Unemployment and Homelessness

November 21, 2022 Mel Bender

My Friends Saved Me

In August 2021, after watching my performance deteriorate for months, I decided to quit my full-time government job to deal with burnout and take care of my mental health. Living alone in a basement apartment during the pandemic had made my depression and anxiety worse, and I'd been finding my job increasingly stressful. Leaving without another job lined up was risky, but I felt I had no choice. I'd reached my limit.

I only worked sporadically in the months that followed. On December 31, 2021, unemployed and unwell, I moved to a friend's house in the suburbs of Burlington. I thought I'd only be there for a few weeks while I got myself together. I ended up staying for six months.

I desperately wanted to return to Toronto, where I'd lived for 15 years, but I was having difficulty finding somewhere to crash. I was barely making any money, so I couldn't afford to rent a place. The best I could do was find an apartment-sitting gig for a few weeks in April, then back to Burlington I went.

Unfortunately, the day was coming fast when I needed to move out of my friend's house; she needed the room for a family member. I still had nowhere else to go. My situation felt hopeless. I started getting suicidal thoughts and ended up spending a night in a psychiatric ward in Burlington.

Not long after, however, some friends in Toronto pulled through for me, offering me shelter and employment, and my life took a turn for the better.

Networking Through Social Media Helped Me Find Shelter

Things started looking up after I joined a Facebook group for members of a non-profit organization in Toronto called Workman Arts, which I've been involved with for a long time. I was able to network with fellow artists with lived experience with mental illness, some of whom I'd known for years. I posted about needing a place to stay. Someone immediately invited me to cat-sit for them for a week starting July 13, and I soon had a lead on one or two other apartment-sitting opportunities, too. Finally, I was able to pack up my stuff and return to Toronto.

It's a miracle that I've been able to stay in the city for over four months now. Week after week, fellow artists and past coworkers have offered me a place to stay. I'm currently staying with an old coworker, her husband, and their two cats in downtown Toronto. I've been there for over two months now. I worked with her years ago at an art supply store. I've only had the opportunity to reconnect with her because I was able to get my old job at the art supply store back.

Old Friends Saved Me: They Helped Me Start a New Chapter of My Life

I worked at the art supply store while I was in art school in Toronto, but that was 10 years ago. When I called the store, the manager told me they weren't hiring. I figured I'd stop by the store anyway to introduce myself. I was surprised to see that the manager was one of my favorite coworkers from back in the day.

Thanks to him, I got my job back. Thanks to that job, I was able to reconnect with the coworker I'm staying with now. I'll be forever grateful to my two art supply store angels as well as my amazing friend in Burlington. I may be working a minimum-wage job, living out of suitcases, and sleeping on someone else's couch, but I'm feeling much better now, and that's something that money can't buy. I'm not living alone in a basement apartment anymore, and I have a job where I can dress the way I want, be as loud and silly as I want, and live beyond the confines of a life I felt like I'd inherited. 

I'm forging a path of my own. I wish I knew a way to walk this path that was more financially secure and predictable, but if I knew exactly where I was going and how to get there, I'd probably just be doing what I've always done. I've gone to great lengths to do something new in the name of being happier and living a more authentic life. I finally have that, and I'm willing to fight for it -- with a little help from my friends.

APA Reference
Bender, M. (2022, November 21). How My Friends Saved Me from Unemployment and Homelessness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Mel Bender

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