Homeless man who applied for euthanasia is now the author of a book.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Earlier this year, Tyler Dunlop gained international attention for all the wrong reasons. He was the ‘Homeless, hopeless Orillia man’ who was seeking euthanasia. Now, he hopes to make a similar impact for all the right reasons. Therefore Choose Life—My Journey from Hopelessness to Hope was published on November 17, 2023.

“Therefore Choose Life” is available from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition for $20 for 1 book or $50 for 3 books (+$5 for shipping per book).

Order the book using this link (Order Link) or call the EPC office at: 1-877-439-3348.

Ali Al Ashoor interviewed Tyler Dunlop in an article that was published in the National Post on December 29, 2023 concerning his book.

Ashoor reported:

In January 2023, Tyler Dunlop was in the depths of despair.

He had been homeless on and off since 2010 and was walking around cold, hungry and sleepless. He decided to apply for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

The eligibility for assisted suicide was set to expand to include mental illness in March 2023. The government has since pushed that date back until March 2024.

Ashoor continues:

Dunlop never did go through with his assisted suicide. In January, he told his story to OrilliaMatters. This story, in turn, made its way to Tim den Bok, an author from Collingwood, Ont., who has worked for years helping homeless people. His daughter Leah is a photographer who runs a project called Humanizing The Homeless.

“That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard in my life, and I interviewed probably hundreds of people experiencing homelessness. It really struck a nerve with me,” den Bok said.

Den Bok got in contact with Dunlop. The two have since become friends and together authored a book entitled Therefore Choose Life: My Journey from Hopelessness to Hope.

“It wasn’t very difficult, in part because Tyler was such a good writer to begin with,” said den Bok.

Ashoor reports that others have helped Tyler.

The other healing presence in Dunlop’s life is Barbara Fichette. In November 2022, she met Dunlop at a Toronto park while taking her dog for a walk. He was drunk and hobbling. It was Fichette who helped Dunlop get clean and move to Orillia, and she has written the introduction to the book. These days, Dunlop refers to Fichette as his mom.

Ashoor asked Dunlop about his journey.

I came from a troubled background. It was a dysfunctional home. I grew up kind of on the edges of society, and I used to play in a rock band years ago for many years. However, it didn’t work out. Since that time, around 2007 or so, I started to self-medicate a mental illness that I was diagnosed with. After that, I began to experience homelessness. I’ve been coast-to-coast twice. I’ve been to countless cities and small towns. I’ve been struggling with my issues. I’ve been all over Canada and a lot of my book talks about what I’ve seen on the streets and the social conditions in Canada right now and how frightening they are.

Dunlop spoke about his experiences.

There’s a growing wall between the affluent and the poor. I have seen a lot of people on the streets that really didn’t deserve to be on the streets. Many years ago, when I first started experiencing couch surfing and kind of tramping around, you might say a lot of the people had a kind of common theme. They were addicted to drugs or alcohol, or they had an unmanageable mental illness. In recent years, however, what I’ve seen has been alarming. I’ve seen senior citizens, veterans, working professionals, and students on the street because of the prices of housing. It’s become so astronomical. Just nobody can afford it. There are people living together with strangers just to make the rent. I think it’s a big crisis that needs to get addressed.

Dunlop explains the reality of homelessness.    

The homeless life is far from charming. There are shelters in Canada, but the shelters are so saturated in drug use and violence that a lot of street people don’t want to stay in them. So, they ended up using emergency services, trying to get into detoxes and treatment centres, or basically anywhere where they could get away from the cold. It’s a hard life and it’s getting harder. A lot of homeless people resort to panhandling and crimes of desperation. Wherever I go in Canada now I see a lot of tent cities springing up in various communities. It is getting worse and the leaders of Canada don’t seem to be paying much attention. I don’t think that’s entirely their fault. I think there’s just nobody has an easy answer to what the homeless life is like.

The worst-case scenario is in the winter. The first thing a homeless person will do is they’ll try to find a warm shelter, usually a hospital emergency room or a bus shelter. Then they wait for things to open until people start coming around and hoping for generosity and maybe some change. Many people will find a spot where they can panhandle, hoping to get through the day or get something to eat or maybe a coffee.

Most people try hard not to see you, and you might get a few insults during the day. Some of them are harassed by law enforcement. Many homeless try to panhandle in front of a business they’ll be asked to leave. They’ll just basically do the rounds and go to various spots within their community where they can get anything to eat.

You have the belligerent homeless people and the nonbelligerent homeless people. It’s very hard to blend in. It’s very hard to not look homeless. It’s very hard to strike up a conversation with them because there’s this unspoken kind of rule that poverty and homelessness are like an airborne virus. Nobody wants to deal with you. It’s a very lonely experience. There’s a lot of walking. Oftentimes your feet will be so sore that you’ll sit anywhere just to rest. If you go into a business, you’re oftentimes treated as a thief or a problem of some kind.

In the warmer months if I had a guitar, because I’ve been playing for 32 years, I would set myself up on the street corner and would just play music.

Ashoor then asked Dunlop why he was seeking death.

What caused me to want to end my life was, once I was walking around in the cold, no family or so-called friends could put me up. I hadn’t slept in over three weeks. I was dirty. I was hungry. But one thing I’ve always had is my faith. I’ve always been Christian.

What persuaded me was my talks with Tim den Bok. That kind of philosophical conversation helped me see the light, so to speak. We had a lot of long discussions. He’s very well versed in philosophy and I’m quite familiar with it myself. So last winter, we did a lot of talking together and some arguments got pretty heated. Eventually, he helped me see why life is fundamentally worth living. It was a good experience that brought me back to my senses. When I chose MAID I was in a state of complete brokenness and hopelessness. My hope was restored and my faith in humanity was restored by the kindness I received from many people.

Dunlop explains why his favourite chapter is “Welcome to My Nightmare”:

It shows what I have struggled with in terms of mental illness and alcoholism. It takes the reader through a typical cycle of addicted, mentally ill, chaos and struggling to find housing that I went through. It also takes the reader through the many hoops that you have to jump through to try to access services whether they be homeless services, treatment services, or mental-health services. It speaks for a lot of Canadians.

The article concludes with Dunlop explaining what home means to him.

A home is a place where you stay permanently, and hopefully you’re surrounded by loved ones and support and encouragement. That’s a word that I haven’t been able to use as much in the last 14 years. It’s something I eagerly hope for and am trying to obtain one day. Yeah, home is a permanent place that I can afford.

“Therefore Choose Life” is available from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition for $20 for 1 book or $50 for 3 books (+$5 for shipping per book).