WATCH ABOVE: Michael Amos reflects on how he moved away from Driftwood Crt and how he wants to give back to the community
TORONTO – Growing up on Driftwood Court in Toronto’s notoriously dangerous TCHC project near Jane Street and Finch Avenue West, Michael Amos knew from an early age that he wanted to find a way out.
Now working on a career in acting and writing, Amos grew up a witness to violence and drug use. Many in the community were gripped by a sense of helplessness to change the situation, but neighbours told him to leave the community and do something better.
“Stuff takes its toll on you, but I had a lot of supportive people in this neighbourhood,” said Amos.
That support made all the difference. Amos found a way to break the cycle – but not without difficulties.
On his last night on Driftwood Court before moving to London, Ont., Amos’s friend’s brother was shot, and he spent the night supporting his friend in a hospital waiting room.
Despite wanting to leave Driftwood and start a life elsewhere, Amos hasn’t forgotten the neighbourhood where he was brought up.
“You become, I guess resilient to things that happened to you,” he said. “You don’t have to have a negative influence on people. So that I mean, you can see your friend’s brother get shot or you can see somebody die or hold somebody who died in your arms, but that doesn’t mean you have to take actions to do retaliation for things.”
“You have control of your own actions and thoughts and that’s all you can really do.”
Amos attributes much of his success to his high school track coach, Andre Metivier, who he calls a mentor and friend.
“When you have a mentor, a coach, a coach like my coach, telling you to pull up your pants, go to class, thinking – man this guy’s on me all day but, you know it was for the better. I’m standing here now in part because of my coach.”
Amos now wants to be a positive role model for children from that same neighbourhood. Amos’s new book, Both Sides of the Fence: Surviving the Trap, is a mercilessly honest portrayal of his childhood experiences and the difficulties Amos has had to overcome.
Amos sees potential for improvement on Driftwood Court, but says it needs help from the surrounding community.
“A ten by five block radius to shape your entire world and your perception of reality, and until I got out of this neighbourhood, I didn’t realize that the world is much bigger than this ten by five block radius,” says Amos.
“If we can get Toronto or the Ontario Government and the three levels of government to actually fund areas like this, and partner with local high schools, then we can actually create change.”