Sixty-one-year-old James Caughill and his dog Muckwah have experienced something most people likely never will – homelessness.
And speaking to Caughill on Monday, August 8, 2023, he has no regrets.
“Being forced into homelessness was literally the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Caughill sitting on the front porch of Susan Wilsdon ‘s home in Newcastle.
Homeless James and Muckwah have walked from Ontario to British Columbia, then took the train back to Ontario and are heading to the East Coast to complete their cross Canada journey.
The purpose of the trip is to raise funds and awareness for a shelter for the homeless and their pets
Homeless James set off on his journey of homelessness in 2016.
When he went to see his welfare worker who put him on the Homeless Help Centre Waiting List which was eight months long at that time.
The worker told Caughill that in order to keep his benefits he’d have to move in to a homeless shelter because you have to have an address to collect welfare benefits.
But when the conversation went south is when the woman told Caughill, “you got to get rid of that damn mutt.”
At that point Caughill told her what she could do with the welfare cheque and lived on the streets of St. Catharines for three months. With his tent set-up in a unused dumpster and eating “best before” food.
“I was trying to find out a place where I could go with my dog and this is where I found out there are absolutely no homeless shelters in this entire country that would take pets.”
“So I decided to fix it.”
Caughill decided to walk for awareness across Canada and began his journey on September 24, 2016.
The pair walked up to Parry Sound, Sudbury and kept trekking out west. Tragically Muckwah died of cancer near Vermillion Bay in the winter of 2019.
Caughill got another dog which is half Siberian husky and half malamute and named it Muckwah.
Together the pair took four years to walk from there to Vancouver. The entire trip took just over six years and during that time he published six books through Amazon.
“Walking to the Rockies with Muckwah” is on Amazon, 90% of the royalties are going into a trust fund, coupled with 90% of the royalties from the “multi-million dollar movie deal waiting for us when we finally finish this,” is going to fund three shelters for the homeless and their pets in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Then the pair took the train back to Ontario, when the second part of his journey starts heading to the East Coast which he estimates will take another three to four years.
Caughill will be in Newtonville tonight (August 8, 2023) and is hoping to be in Welcome, Port Hope and Cobourg the following days.
“That’s the thing – everybody asks me and I’m not on a time schedule.”
Caughill describes his journey has incredible.
“90%, freaking, phenomenal, fantastic, people.”
And he wants people to know, “there is a story behind every individual,” whether you’re homeless or not.
“You cannot stereotype it. And a lot of people do that and I’ve run into complete idiots.”
“Nobody gets up in the morning and things, “Gee I’m going to get rid of everything I’ve got and become homeless.”
Caughill does say, alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness are not the cause of homelessness.
“They are the effect.”
“Most people forced into that situation don’t have the capacity to deal with it. So they either turn to drugs or alcohol or lose their damn minds.”
Going what he’s been through, Caughill has zero belief in government support.
“They don’t help at all.”
Caughill says that the Federal Government, “spent $2.2 billion on the homeless, but he left out the word Canadian.”
“So he brought in homeless from every other frickin country on the planet costing the Canadian taxpayers $2.2 billion and yet Canadian citizens, people born here are homeless, starving, because he won’t spend a fricken dime.”
But looking back on his journey, Caughill has no regrets.
Caughill admits he was a functional drug addict for 25-years, hard-core crack addict. Now I’ve been clean and sober for seven-years.”
“My life began at 54 – I’m about to turn 61.”