One of the most horrific things Keith Neil remembers seeing during his eight years living on the streets of Toronto was a friend die right in front of him from a drug overdose.
Neil was 16 when he ran away from foster parents in Newmarket and shacked up with some people he considered his friends in Jane and Finch where he spent the later part of his teens and early 20s living atop subway grates, in drop-in shelters and couch-surfing.
“It’s happened to me twice — seeing somebody die,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do, so I ran. I asked myself all the time, ‘Why am I not dead?’ The things I went through, the things I had to see — I shouldn’t be alive.”
He would often resort to illegal activity to make a few bucks to keep him afloat and became entangled in a cocaine addiction, Neil said. And he was diagnosed with epilepsy and anxiety.
Now at 24, Neil, who holds a steady job as a landscaper, said he would have been dead had he not turned to the help of 360 Kids, formerly known as Pathways for Children, Youth and Families of York Region. Counsellors have taught him some life skills to get to a better place.