Selim Esen has been trying to get his life on track. And in March 2017, he made a big step forward.
That’s when he completed a week-long peer counselling course at St Stephen’s Community House in Toronto, which provides social services to vulnerable people in Kensington Market.
When he got his certificate, he sent a photo of it to his close friend Richard.
“He was very proud of that,” Richard told reporters at a town hall on missing LGBT people at The 519 community centre on Aug 1, 2017.
Esen, who is 44, was last seen on April 14, 2017, close to his apartment building near Bloor Street East and Jarvis Street. Police are treating his disappearance as suspicious.
Richard first met Esen when he was reading in Barbara Hall Park.
“We started talking,” he says. “I had travelled to Turkey so we had a lot in common.”
Esen came to Canada from Turkey around three years ago for a relationship. But Richard says that Esen struggled with addiction, which he was very open about, and the relationship was often abusive.
In recent months, Esen was doing much better. He was winning his battle over his addiction and was staying away from his on-and-off boyfriend.
Richard says that because Esen didn’t have any family in Canada, they would spend holidays like Christmas and New Year’s together.
Esen is a kind and helpful person, Richard says. When Richard was in the hospital for ankle surgery, Esen would send him supportive messages.
“He was gentle,” Richard says. “We had a lot of discussions about good and evil, and philosophy.”
Richard says that Esen missed his family in Turkey.
“He was really trying to get his life back in order so he could face his family,” Richard says.
Toronto police say that Esen was active on dating sites, but according to Richard he doesn’t have a smartphone, so he would have to be on sites that have desktop versions.
If anyone has information about Esen, they should contact Toronto police at 416-808-5100, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.