A proper roof over Augustas Dennie’s head would go a long way. “It’s hard,” he says. “It’s real hard.”
Deported from Canada in 2013 after a long and public battle to stay in the country, Dennie has since been living in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Craig Cromwell, the refugee settlement coordinator at Toronto’s Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, describes Dennie’s current living conditions as little more than a shack.
Dennie says he can’t find employment because of injuries he sustained during a 2009 gay bashing in St Vincent. The incident has left him with memory loss, seizures, verbal tics and reduced function in his right hand, according to a 2012 report on Daily Xtra. Today, he still gets frequent headaches, but can’t afford medical treatment.
He also faces continual discrimination because he identifies as a gay man. He has faced threats and frequently avoids populated areas at night so as to not draw the attention of would-be harassers.
Dennie frequently wishes that he could return to Canada. “I was born in this country,” he says of St Vincent. “But I don’t feel free in this country.”
The chances of him ever coming back, however, are slim. So the focus now is on ensuring that Dennie is as comfortable as he can be in St Vincent.
Cromwell and Ranjith Kulatilake, a community health worker at Access Alliance, have set up a collection fund to provide the rest of the money needed to complete a proper home for Dennie — one with four real walls.
A small home has already begun to be built. Now they need only $6,000 to pay for building supplies, labour and to help cover some of Dennie’s medical expenses.
Cromwell believes that with a proper home, Dennie could get back on his feet. “He’s a pretty entrepreneurial, enterprising guy,” Cromwell says. “I think that if he’s able to get some stability in his life and a roof over his head, he’ll be resourceful enough to create some sort of self-employment.”
A home would not only have a stabilizing influence for Dennie — it could also help him manage everyday tasks that are currently very difficult for him. “My hand is not letting me do some things,” Dennie explains. Even simple tasks like doing the laundry are painful ordeals.
He says that if his new home is built, he hopes he can also purchase a washing machine.
It’s also important to Dennie that the world know what he is going through.