'I want to be a part of my family again': Man using Christmas cards to shine light on homelessness
KITCHENER -- Andrew Swan moved to Cambridge two years ago looking for a fresh start.
He says he had difficulties keeping a room and found himself living in a tent along Hespeler Road for months, the result of an historic battle with addiction and homelessness.
As many people's focuses are turning to the holidays, the 54-year-old doesn't look forward to them in the same way.
"I’m a work in progress, and I will always be a work in progress. I'm not a great success right now but I'm getting closer to the goal. I’m getting closer to where I want to be," Swan says.
"I want to help people, I want to open eyes, I want to make it easier or more accessible for people who are facing hardship to reach their own goals, because I know how hard it has been for me to reach my goals just because of prejudices and stuff."
He's spent most of his recent Christmases in a tent or away from his family and friends. Christmas, he says, reminds him of all of the things he doesn't have.
Swan says his last Christmas memory is from two decades ago. In it, his sister pointed out that he could buy the bottle in his hand but couldn't buy their mom a gift. He remembers it tearfully.
"What kind of Christmas memory is that for me? What kind of Christmas memory is that for my sister? What kind of Christmas memory is that for my mom? It’s not. It’s not what either one of us deserves," he says.
"It’s not and I want to improve on that. I want to make that better, I want to make things right, I want to be the son that God created me to be. I want to be the brother that I’m supposed to be. I want to be part of my family again."
But this year, Swan is trying to work toward some more positive goals.
He has teamed up with a local company to produce Christmas cards aimed at bringing attention to homelessness around this time of year.
"The first endeavour would be to open up the eyes of people that, the Christmas they experience is not the Christmas everybody experiences, particularly people who are homeless or struggling with addictions," he says.
"Sure, there may be problems created by homeless people or whatever, but deep down inside we're all human and we all care and we all want to be loved and we all want to love."
Photo Source: The Community Company
The Christmas cards are in partnership with The Community Company, a Guelph-based company to help those overcoming adversity including homelessness.
The company pays people to create the products and gives them 50 per cent of profits from their products.
Swan's Christmas card, which reflects a Christmas spent in a tent, is in collaboration with artist Jacquelynn Chartres.
"I was really worried honestly in the beginning that, because his story was so emotional and so raw, I guess I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to interpret that into a drawing to convey his emotion kind of," she explains.
"He did a really good job at explaining these really good details and stuff that I could include to be very specific to his situation and they turned out great and I'm really glad that he loved them."
The cards are available on The Community Company's website for $5. Also for sale is a tote that Swan co-designed, depicting a frog in a glass of water over a fire.
With reporting from Tyler Calver.