Sal's Interview

Sal became a Fife House client in the mid 1990’s.

Like most of us – over the last 20 plus years Sal’s journey has been filled with up’s and down’s, but thankfully, he never had to worry about where he would live. Because of Fife House, Sal has been safely housed.

Today, Sal has a lovely apartment – very colourful – very clean with art with bold colours. His long-term close friend helped him paint, furnish and decorate.

Sal has an apartment with a bedroom, living room, dining room, bathroom and kitchen. “I’m happy here. Fife House is very nice.” the 70-year-old says with kindness.

Sal also has a roommate. Chuck is a very stately, friendly cat that announces his entry into a room with a grand meow, which is often quickly followed by Chuck getting his required pat on the head and full body rub. Chuck has been with Sal since shortly after he moved in. Chuck is also a senior citizen.

Chuck is important to Sal. “He is cheerful,” he says as he gently pulls on Chuck’s tail. “He loves me; he is my friend. We lay down here on the couch together.”

Fife House helped Sal find permanent housing after his doctor identified he needed help.

Sal had moved back to Toronto after an uncomfortable separation with his sister in Montreal. He had been living with his sister and her husband when he was kicked out “because her husband cannot accept the gay thing”. This was – and still is a severe blow, because he and his sister were always close (described by holding up and crossing two fingers).

When he returned to Toronto, Sal stayed with a female friend. Soon after, he noticed he was losing weight – so he went to his doctor. He was diagnosed with HIV… so Sal moved out. It was a time when little was known about HIV/AIDS. “I did not want anything to happen to her.” Sal was worried she may become infected. He is proud they are still friends.

When Sal found out he was positive he “took it the way it comes.” He did not tell his family – his sister did that, and it resulted in being estranged from the rest of his family.

Sal also has Epilepsy. In September 2012 he was walking down the street when he had a seizure and fell. Since then he has restricted use of his right arm and difficulty walking. He is a great cook and used to cook all the time – even making lunch for many of the volunteers. Now he finds it very difficult.

“Since my fall, Fife House has helped me very much. They do my laundry; if I asked they would do more.”

Sal does use the food service Fife House offers within the building. This gets him out of his apartment for lunch twice each week… and the café most mornings. “The café also gives me a chance to go downstairs… to get out” says Sal.

“It is wonderful knowing there is someone downstairs,” says Sal (he lives in a building that has support staff on site 14 hours per day… although he wishes there was someone on staff in the evenings). “Sometimes I have bad nights and it would be nice to have someone to talk to.”

A good night is when Sal sleeps. (10:30PM to 8:30AM).
A bad night is when Sal doesn't sleep. He gets cramps in his legs and is in pain.

He has hard days – emotionally and physically. He worries about going out and having another seizure/attack. “I don’t like ambulances or doctors… although Saint Mikes are very nice people. Nice because they understand.” Sal also mentions that when he fell in September, the ambulance driver and the doctors really cared and treated him with respect. “They talked to me and understood what I have – they treated me nice. When someone is nice to me it is like a gift from Heaven.”

Sal has nothing to offer except saying ‘Thank You’ and asking for their names – for Sal, knowing their names means you care and show respect. “I like to say thank you when someone is nice to me.”

“I like living in Toronto – my friends are here. I used to have good times – now I have bad times. Good times used to be going out dancing and/or going with a friend for a beer. Now I can’t dance and I can’t go for a beer because I don't have any money and I don't move so well.”

Many things are better now. He says that Barbara, Sue, Michael and the weekend Fife House staff are great. Barbara is wonderful; very nice. “They ask me how I am – they care. Barbara is cheerful.” Fife House also helped Sal fill out and submit his pension and CPP paperwork making sure that he can live as independently as possible.

“It would be tough if the Fife House staff were not there. “

Looking back over his apartment Sal says, “I like everything about this apartment. This apartment means welcome. Eh! I’m home.”

Fife House provides secure, supportive, affordable housing to men, women and families living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area.