Faces of the Downtown Eastside: Michael and James' stories

Dec 19 2017, 11:00 pm

For the past month, we’ve shared the personal stories of Jay, Verna, Brian and Emmy, some of the Faces of the Downtown Eastside. Today, we share Michael Zawitkoski and James Hamilton’s stories, current residents of The Salvation Army Harbour Light.


Michael Zawitoski


Image courtesy of The Salvation Army

Zawitkoski is a 36-year-old First Nations man who follows the Red Road. In July, Zawitoski was released on bail to participate in the 90 day treatment program. This is how he arrived at The Salvation Army Harbour Light.

His conditions were so restrictive that the Chaplains have accompanied him to court three times and his counsellor has met with his court worker and written several letters for court appearances. Through collaboration and with Zawaitkoski’s hard work and effort, he is now a supportive member of The Salvation Army Harbour Light.


Zawitkoski now participates in the Leadership program, volunteers at Foodline and runs the Crime Addicts Anonymous every Monday night.

Due to The Salvation Army Harbour Light, he has been able to start to reconnect with his children and support his mother through her breast cancer treatment.


Zawitkoski still can’t believe all of the help and support he has received and is extremely grateful for the Salvation Army.

James Hamilton


Image courtesy of The Salvation Army

Originally from Ottawa, James Hamilton moved to Vancouver about a month ago and is now living at The Salvation Army Harbour Light. The staff at the facility made Hamilton feel welcome from the moment that he arrived as he mentioned that he is generally scared whenever he goes anywhere.


Now, Hamilton has his own room and receives three meals, which is a luxury to him especially compared to his time in prison. Hamilton works regularly with a Caseworker and an Outreach Worker in order to improve his life.

Hamilton now volunteers with The Salvation Army Harbour Light as part of their Volunteer Work Experience Program and is also involved in work experience. He will likely get a job soon and move out from The Salvation Amy Harbour Light.

He has now realized that living an honest life is far greater than living a life of crime. As Hamilton continues to take one day at a time and struggles with his depression daily, he now has less to fear.

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DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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