Michael Sieux thought his life would only get worse when his home burned to a cinder and he was left without an address.
He was wrong.
“Out of the blue a young couple said they would make room for me in their home and give me a place to sleep,” said Sieux, Wednesday, while spending time in his new backyard.
The 69-year-old has been staying with a couple who asked that they only be identified as Don and Val, saving him from the homeless shelter he ended up in just days earlier.
“It’s turned out to be more than just a room,” he said. “They bend over backwards and they make me feel welcome… I am totally overwhelmed.”
Sieux was one of a dozen residents of the Walnut Grove Motel, and the 130 of the Water’s Edge condominium, who were left homeless July 8 when a fire, sparked in a building under construction, spread and ripped through their homes. The cause is still under investigation, but it’s widely believed to have been sparked by a construction worker.
Sieux, who lived at the motel for 13 years, described himself as a hermit, having forged no social bonds in the last decade. He thought he had no one to turn to when his home was razed by fire.
“‘Scary barely scratches the surface of how I felt,” he said. “When you get so far down, you can’t think of something good happening because you can’t grasp the idea of what good is. I hit bottom and couldn’t find a way to think about going up. I was just stuck.”
Now, Sieux said, he’s feeling “unstuck.”
“It’s going to take awhile to realize that people recognize me as a human being, not just as a statistic about a bad thing that happened,” he said.
Don and Val he said, have put him in a dynamic he hasn’t experienced in years and it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
“They take me out in the car to do some of the things I need to do, like shopping and getting food,” he said. “At best, I was hoping for a room I could just sleep in. Now instead of a room, it’s almost like I’ve become part of a family. I had minimum expectations and have been given something bigger than I can grasp and I can’t get my head around it.”
It’s not just his new living arrangement that’s changed his life. His neighbour Kerry Flynn, who before the fire was mostly a stranger, has become his champion.
Flynn helped Sieux look for a home and was by his side “getting desperate” with him when it started to look like he’d never find anything.
“He’s totally amazing and I can’t think of a way to thank him,” Sieux said.
“A person saves you from drowning and you say ‘thank you, we will be friends for life.’ But what do you say when someone gets up every day and goes on and on with help? He’s almost as old and in worse health than me, but he still got up and helped every day. Without him and this couple I am staying with now, I would have just given up.”
Both Flynn and Don and Val have say they were just doing what needed to be done.
“He lived in the hotel for 13 years and he is the kindest most generous person you’ll ever meet, he didn’t choose the situation he’s in,” said Don. “You can’t say you’re willing to help someone and then pass him off to the next person. It wasn’t a decision. We just had to deal with it.”
Sieux is not being charged rent for the time being, but the living arrangement is just temporary.
“There are a few people to help him get back on his feet, he deserves it,” he said. “He’s a wonderful man.
Give him five minutes of your time and you’ll find the one.”