By Stephanie Gauthier – Contributor.
Corey smiles easily. He laughs and he curses, and he’s hard not to like.
“I’m a joker,” he said. “I’ll do something so stupid out of the blue to put a smile on someone’s face.”
This is true for the staff at Ellis Place, a subsidized, supportive housing site in Kelowna where he now lives, just as it’s true for the people he’s shared emergency shelter spaces with over the years.
Time evaporates when speaking with Corey, especially when the conversation turns to motorcycles. He loves riding them and building them. He scrolls through photos on his phone, stopping on a video of himself riding a custom bike.
Corey uses a hand-operated clutch to shift gears in the video. He does so because he doesn’t have legs. They were both amputated above the knee in 2010. He doesn’t complain about this misfortune or feel sorry for himself. He jokes about it instead. He says it helps put people at ease.
“What disability?” He pads the seat of his chair in mock surprise. “My legs, oh god, where’d my legs go?”
Corey has a hereditary blood clotting disorder that led to the amputations. He shrugs about it now, saying he wouldn’t take back his legs even if he could.
“I do more with no legs than I ever did with them.”
Corey has a long history with drugs. He used cocaine for ten years and opiates for 25, but he’s put all of that behind him.
“I still like to get some coolers on the weekend,” he said. But, he’s left the harder substances in the past and he’s changed his lifestyle in a lot of other ways. He volunteers with his church now instead of running with motorcycle gangs. These changes tie back to Corey’s mother, who died from lung cancer in 2017.
“I was at her side when she passed away,” he says. “She always said to me, ‘life’s too short to be miserable, laughter’s the best medicine, and pay it forward.”
Corey has lived at Ellis Place since December 2021. Before that, he was in an emergency shelter.
“In the shelter, you’re just in open pods so if you go to the washroom people are in your pod stealing. Here you have a locked door and workers that look out for you.”
Visit the Journey Home website to read the rest of Corey’s story.
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