Alfred first encountered Face à Face by accident. He had recently been released from the penitentiary when he came across a sign outside their door advertising free coffee. Twenty-five years later, he still comes around, “I go into to Face à Face to let them know I’m still alive, and to cause trouble, to get them in a laughing mood,” he says jokingly. Alfred is currently in the hospital. His heart is very weak. Throughout his interview, he often pauses to catch his breath. But his spirit remains strong. This is a man who is straightforward, witty and a survivor. He is also unwavering in his loyalty to Face à Face. He understands their impact, because he has experienced it first hand.
Over the last 25 years, he has used Face à Face’s services many times. He has faced adversity throughout most of his life and has struggled to cultivate a place for himself where he felt healed and balanced. He has lived on the streets, apartments, motels and back again. In all that time, Face à Face has supported him, listened, referred and championed him. He has since become something of their unofficial spokesperson, agreeing to give talks at several of their fundraisers, and promising to participate in any future events, “even if I’m in my bed at the hospital, I’ll get there somehow.” Although his tone is light, public speaking is difficult for him. Often, much of his past comes up in his talks – a history of abuse, and the death of his sister still haunt him. “I’m working on it,” he says. Despite this trauma, Alfred still chooses to tell his story, and this because of his mission: “I want to make sure Face à Face never closes, that’s why I do the fundraising.”
Face à Face has meant everything to Alfred. There he feels at peace and has found people he can trust – it is, quite rightly, “the only organization that actually treats me with dignity and more than just a guy with problems.” This is the perfect way of summing up their extraordinary humanity – what sets them apart from other service providers and warrants their conservation.
Written by Emma Telaro