David Short ended up losing everything after a fall rendered him unable to work, or pay his bills. His saving grace? Cooking. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

David Short ended up losing everything after a fall rendered him unable to work, or pay his bills. His saving grace? Cooking. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Untold: How cooking helped a Kelowna man stay off the streets

David Short spent over a year on the street after suffering a seizure

This is the first article in a Capital News series entitled ‘Untold’. In partnership with Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, these stories will feature people who are or have experienced homelessness in Kelowna.

Overnight, David Short lost everything.

Two years ago he was walking home from working at a restaurant in downtown Kelowna when he fell and hit his head. When he woke up in the hospital, doctors told him he had suffered a seizure and fractured his skull.

From that point on, his life was forever changed. He suffered from memory loss as well as the function in his hands.

Worst of all, he lost his job, causing his mental stability to deteriorate. He managed for a month, but with his bank accounts drained, he couldn’t pay rent and resorted to living on the streets.

“When you lose all sense of your self-worth and your self-belonging and you’ve got no desire to do anything due to depression…it plays with your mind,” Short said.

From chef to homeless, his life was turned upside down.

“I’ve had everything I ever wanted in my life and I lost it all because I had that health scare. And I’ve been trying to bounce back from that for the past couple of years.”

Despite all odds, Short is climbing back to where he left off.

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For the last eight months, he has taken shelter at the Gospel Mission in downtown Kelowna.

While there, he eased his way back into the kitchen by volunteering to make breakfast two times a week. He was eventually promoted to kitchen assistant.

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David Short (middle) is pictured on Jan. 26 prepping food in the Gospel Mission shelter kitchen. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

David Short (middle) is pictured on Jan. 26 prepping food in the Gospel Mission shelter kitchen. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

January 26 marks his third week cooking at the Gospel Mission and his 20th year as a chef.

Those staying at the Mission receive three meals a day. However, each day the Mission serves about 500 meals, through its outreach, winter shelter and Welcome Inn programs.

Thanks to the Gospel Mission and the opportunity to get back behind the stove, Short is on the road to recovery. Just recently, he moved into supportive housing.

“For me personally, it was my drive. I’m the type of person who likes to have a challenge in life… I always seemed to knock myself down, but always pick myself up,” he said. “My advice for somebody that’s struggling with something, with their mental illness, is don’t give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to work towards it.”

Short has emerged from the last two years a much different man.

“Nobody really knows what it’s like to be homeless… When you’re on the streets, you have a different outlook on life. You have a way of survival. It’s survival for most people out here.”

He described it as a completely different world, compared to what he had before, adding those who have never been involved with a shelter or giving back, take things for granted.

“I think people should know that homeless people are just like everybody else. They’re like one of us. Some people got (sic) different reasons why they’re on the street. Mine was because of my health, and I wasn’t taking care of myself.

“My recommendation is don’t judge before you walk in their shoes.”

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David Short fetches vegetables from the walk-in fridge at the Gospel Mission shelter kitchen, on Jan. 26. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

David Short fetches vegetables from the walk-in fridge at the Gospel Mission shelter kitchen, on Jan. 26. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

However, for Short, it’s all up from here, as he claimed he’s already hit his lowest low. What’s more, he has big plans.

A year from now, he hopes to be teaching people experiencing homelessness how to cook. Most, he said, don’t know how to boil water let alone cook a meal.

Now staying at Heath House, Short often shows the men there how to cook. Teaching people life skills through food has reunited him with a sense of purpose, something he lost two years ago.

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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Homelessness