Residential school survivor Alex Watts was back doing good works again this Christmas Day in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood.
The Union Gospel Mission outreach worker and former homeless man and his friends were handing out hundreds of meals, clothing, and blankets at the corner of Main and Hastings streets as part of the Hope & Love 4 U event.
Watts, who's from the Nisga'a village of Kincolith, launched this charitable endeavour on Christmas Day in 2014 and has continued the tradition ever since.
“I know all too well what it’s like to be homeless, what it’s like to be struggling with drugs or alcohol," Watts told News 1130 today. "Or not being loved on Christmas Day, or just being forgotten on Christmas Day, because I’ve been there.”
In a recent videotaped interview (see below), Watts reveals that he was sexually assaulted and verbally abused after he was put in a residential school at the age of 8.
He also recalls that he was told as a little kid that he would "never amount to anything".
"So I grew up with that in my mind," Watts says. "They told me I'm in this school because my family hates me."
He notes that these experiences led him to start drinking as a means of escape. Alcoholism resulted in him being homeless on a few occasions before he turned his life around.
According to Watts, this cycle of addiction can continue through subsequent generations if it's not addressed.
"Residential schools are a big factor behind why our people drink a lot," Watts states. "That leads to homelessness."