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Dec21FriWhen he didn’t have a roof over his head, William Jeddore found a home at The Salvation Army. December 21, 2018 by Kristin Ostensen
(Above) “I’m proud to call him a member of my church, but I’m also proud to call him my friend,” says Mjr Corey Vincent of William Jeddore, a member of Sydney CC, N.S. (Photos: Kristin Ostensen)
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Experiencing homelessness at any time of year is difficult. But as William Jeddore discovered, it is especially so during the winter on Cape Breton Island, N.S., where temperatures can stay below freezing for months.
When he became homeless about two years ago, his only refuge was the local shelter in Sydney, N.S. And while he was grateful to have a roof over his head, unfortunately, he could only stay there at night. During the day, all guests had to leave the shelter, and Jeddore found himself wandering the streets of Sydney with nowhere to go.
Until he discovered The Salvation Army.
“I was walking by the church one Sunday and thought I should come—the thought just automatically came to my mind,” Jeddore recalls. “So I decided to walk in and I’ve been coming ever since.”
Jeddore is a member of the Eskasoni First Nation of Nova Scotia, the largest Mi’kmaq community in the world, and grew up on the reserve, about 40 kilometres from Sydney. As a boy, he was close with his great-grandfather, who taught him to speak and write Mi’kmaq. But he passed away when Jeddore was eight years old. Four years later, he fell into the wrong crowd and began using drugs and alcohol.
“When I was on the reserve, I had what I call ‘substance acquaintances,’ ” Jeddore says. “The only time we hung out was when we were using substances. Otherwise, our relationship was pretty much nothing.”
Throughout his teens and 20s, Jeddore’s drug and alcohol addiction took a toll.
“I got beaten up and robbed more than once. I went to jail a few times, and I overdosed twice,” he shares. “The second time, I almost died. That’s when I gave it up.”
On the night of that second overdose, Jeddore also got into a fight, which landed him in jail. “They were going to put me in prison for four years, so I had to straighten up or get in more trouble.”
Jeddore has been sober since that day in August 2014. Instead of going to prison, he was placed on house arrest for two years and then probation for the following two years. During that time, he stayed with his father in Eskasoni, but the living arrangement had its own difficulties.
“I had a rough relationship with my father,” says Jeddore. “At that time, I wasn’t on anything, but he was, and that was hard on me.”
The situation came to a head one night when his father attacked him in his sleep.
“That’s how I became homeless,” Jeddore says. “It was either keep taking that type of abuse, or go stay at a shelter. I chose the shelter.”
Jeddore moved to Sydney and began to live at the men’s Community Homeless Shelter. He had been staying there about three months when he came to a Sunday meeting at Sydney Community Church and met Major Corey Vincent, corps officer.
“It was great,” says Jeddore. “I felt really comfortable coming here. It’s a welcoming atmosphere. Anywhere else you go, it’s not as welcoming as it is here.”
Along with the corps’ Sunday services, Jeddore started attending Messy Church, movie nights, community café and more. “I came to the church all the time when I was at the shelter,” he says.
“Any program that we could get him involved in, he’s been a part of it,” says Major Vincent.
“When he was living at the shelter, he was completely broken,” he continues. “He felt all alone, like nobody cared or loved him. It was heartwarming to see how the congregation embraced him and welcomed him as part of our church family.”
In addition to church programs, Jeddore often came to the corps to simply spend time with Major Vincent. “I was at Corey’s office almost every day,” he says with a smile.
“I’m proud to call him a member of my church, but I’m also proud to call him my friend,” says Major Vincent.
Working with the shelter and other community partners, Major Vincent helped Jeddore find an apartment, which he moved into shortly before Christmas last year. The Army’s thrift store provided vouchers for furniture, clothing and household items such as pots and pans. Individual corps members also contributed, giving him a Nintendo Wii system and a DVD player with movies.
And when Christmas came, Major Vincent and his family made sure Jeddore would not spend the holiday alone, inviting him to their home for Christmas dinner and sharing Christmas presents.
Looking back on that time, Jeddore is grateful for the corps’ kindness and assistance. “Between The Salvation Army and the shelter, I got a lot of help,” he says.
Along with the practical difficulties of homelessness, Jeddore’s time in the shelter was emotionally and spiritually challenging. During that period, the corps provided the spiritual home he needed, while writing provided a creative outlet. Jeddore writes poetry and songs in both of his languages, and was involved in a Wycliffe Bible Translators project a few years ago, translating parts of the Christmas story from English into Mi’kmaq.
One short spiritual reflection, which he wrote on a card and gave to Major Vincent, says, in English and Mi’kmaq, “I may be homeless, without a home, but Jesus lives in my heart.”
“It’s a prayer that was in my heart at the time,” Jeddore explains. “It’s all about the heart and soul. It’s where Jesus keeps you whole. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it.”
Since coming to the corps, Jeddore has forgiven his father and re-established a relationship with him, and in November 2017, he was enrolled as an adherent. “It felt good,” he says of his enrolment. “I don’t know how to explain it—it just felt right in the spirit, and I’m the type of person who believes that when my spirit tells me it’s right, it’s right.
“Being a part of The Salvation Army means a lot to me,” he goes on to say. “I could talk for hours and hours because there’d never be enough words to explain how good I feel when I come here.”
“It’s been amazing to see the transformation in him since he first came,” concludes Major Vincent. “God is doing a great work in his life.”