Dwayne introduced Joe Roberts who used to push a shopping cart around Vancouver but since 1998 has shared his story with over 2,000 audiences. 

Joe said he was somewhat emotional as it's the first time he's been back to Midland in years.  And well dressed too, as he was when he was the defendant.  Joe has been on a journey.  His grandfather had a radio station in Midland and his mother had 4 brothers who were raised with lots of laughter.  But we all face challenges, experience changes in our lives, our health and in our families.  Humour does let us shift the context and lighten the load.

But, in 1989 Joe had all his possessions in a shopping cart and was sleeping under a viaduct in Vancouver experiencing the vicious cycle of addiction - hunt down recyclables, cash them in, score, get high.  This had lasted for years because he believed a lie about himself and, effectively, manipulated himself into the situation.

He was born into a typically middle class family and, to him, his dad was a hero.  He coached Joe's teams, he took the family camping, he worked, but in 1975 he died, leaving his wife with 3 kids and no income.  She struggled but ended up in a situation with a violent, alcoholic police officer who made the home dangerous.  At school Joe felt he didn't fit in.  By 15 he was out of the house, by 16 he had a police record and by 17 he was into drugs.  In the 80's he moved to Vancouver where he was homeless.  He couldn't tell his mother because the depravity and dereliction he was living with was in such conflict with his training that his shame held him back.

One day in 1989 he was cold and wet and going through withdrawal and in desperation for a fix he sold his boots.  Something about this, the added level of suffering, was the catalyst for change and he became willing to become different.  He prayed and he made deals with himself and reached out.  His mom got him back to Ontario, into a Salvation Army treatment centre in Belleville and, after 6 months sober he went back to school.  His perspective was a little different from most students - he'd been outside everything for years - and his first reaction on the campus was that there were lots of cans lying around.

He made connections with others.  The professors became mentors and he graduated with a 3.9 grade point average.  He was lucky there but mostly in his mother who never stopped loving him and was there for him when he was ready.  He is driven now by the knowledge that there are kids out there without that kind of support.

A brother had moved to Vancouver and invited him to start there but after a few weeks his sister-in-law started 'suggesting' he make a move and told him Minolta was hiring.  Homelessness had given him an off beat fashion sense so he showed up in wide wale cords, a herringbone jacket with one elbow patch and a plaid shirt.  The interviewer told him he had to have conviction and he figured he had lots of those.  He ended up cold calling stores for copiers.  He sold three in three months, realising more money than he had ever made legally.  Years later when Joe was being profiled in major magazines this interviewer was asked why Joe got hired.  He said it wasn't for the outfit but that you can't teach hungry.

After another year he moved to a different company as a sales manager and then to being the business development manager for a tech firm that rode the 90's boom and sold in time. 

He said we live in an amazing country - his health care and education were paid for and now he's in a position to pay back.  Success was not enough.  He's led seminars and street experience programs - taking CEO's panhandling and sleeping overnight - but now he wants to raise awareness.  He's going to push a shopping cart across the country, starting this spring.  He's already done a trial run, from Calgary to Vancouver to establish it can be done.  So we'll be hearing more about Joe pretty soon.