“I was supposed to be dead.”
These were the words of 40-year-old Carl Mc Intosh as he recounted the chain of events which led to his being shot by bandits, having a leg amputated, spending almost five years in hospital and being homeless for six years.
On November 15, 2009 Mc Intosh left his full-time job at Bermudez and was plying his private car for hire when a man got in at the Carenage taxi stand at South Quay, Port of Spain and asked to be taken to a street in Carenage.
“While I was driving in the street, the man asked to stop by a dustbin. I just felt his hand come forward and push the gear into park. Two masked men, one with a gun, come out of nowhere.
“One snatched me through the window and point the gun at me.”
Fearing for his life, Mc Intosh begged the men to take whatever they wanted without harming him. But after they took his car and some valuables, one of the men said he believed Mc Intosh would be able to identify him and insisted that he be killed.
“One of the men started to shout, ‘He see my face, boy. He done see my face already.’ I was studying to get up and run and that was it. I just heard a loud noise.”
He was shot several times and left for dead. The next thing he remembered was a man he described as “a German guy” putting him into a vehicle to take him to the Port of Spain General Hospital.
Mc Intosh was warded in a critical but stable condition, fighting for what was left of his life. He was shot in the head, face, leg and back.
“Bullets ruptured my fibula and tibia (bones in the lower leg). That’s why they had to cut my left leg off, and a bullet damaged my spine – that’s why I’m in a wheelchair.”
He said from there his life spiralled out of control. He tried to end his life when thoughts of having to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life consumed him.
“I started to ask the nurses for sleeping tablets and when I got them I would save them up until I had ten. I took them all. A nurse like she recognised I was sleeping too long. I just remember waking up in casualty – in Accident and Emergency.”
Mc Intosh had his stomach pumped. This was his only suicide attempt. From there he decided to find ways to cope.
As time passed, he found comfort.
“God played a big part, but music helped a lot. I always had my headphones and would lose myself in all kinds of music. It takes me out of it. I didn’t have the moral support and I was all I had at that time.”
When he was eventually discharged in 2014, Mc Intosh had nowhere to go.
With no savings, job or support, and unable to care for himself, he couldn’t leave the hospital.
“There was a department called ‘environmental’ at the back of the hospital and most the guys from there knew me. They used to leave the department open for me so I could bathe and sleep. I stayed there for years and it was no problem to them.”
During his stay, he received food and personal items from a few friends he made there. He didn’t plan on living behind the hospital for long, but it was the safest place he knew and he eventually grew comfortable there. But that didn’t make life any easier.
“There was one time a man came and took my bag and throw me out of a chair. Some guys saw what was happening and came to my rescue. It was tough. I wouldn’t wish this on my enemy. I never had a proper night's rest. I always had to be alert and sleep light.”
He tried several times to access a disability grant from the government but was told he needed at least to provide proof of address.
“I was told I couldn’t get any assistance because I had no place of abode. They couldn’t give a grant to a man living on the street. So I had to find a place to get the grant.”
Desperate, he considered selling drugs or going around begging for help.
“But that just wasn’t my thing. I never really know about begging or selling drugs on the street. I just live by the goodness of people.”
A few years later he met founder of the NGO Homeless Office Assistance Anthony Salloum, who helped him.
One year living in the hospital grounds turned into five, and five into ten years. But in 2020, he had to leave because that section of the building was earmarked for renovation.
With help from friends and Salloum, he was able to find a reasonable apartment and get the disability grant. He has been there less than a month and Mc Intosh said it will take some time for him to get accustomed to being comfortable. Newsday has agreed, for Mc Intosh’s safety, not to identify the location of his apartment.
Now that his situation has improved, he recalled looking at the world with resentment, disgusted by the way people would pass and judge him.
He pondered on the times he would be frustrated by the situation he was left in while trying to make extra cash to build a better and more comfortable future after experiencing a tough childhood.
His message to the public is not to judge people they see roaming the streets but to “see yourself in their eyes. Think of your children or other close relatives. Some people don’t know how to get themselves out. For many of them, life happened, just like it did to me. Just look at them and you would know.”