Former homeless teen-turned-business-owner credits ‘Pops’ for his turnaround
When Father Emmett Johns, better known as Pops, passed away on Jan. 13, thousands of people who crossed his path started sharing their stories about how he changed their life.
Global News tracked down a former homeless teenager who now runs a successful business in Squamish, British Columbia. He credits his incredible turnaround to the priceless help he received on the streets of Montreal from Pops.
“I had a lot of self-confidence issues, drug problems and substance abuse problems and I was going down a pretty bad path,” Grant Babin said. “Then I met Pops.”
Babin is a fighter. The former Montrealer spent years mastering the art of Aikido, a Japanese martial art that requires discipline and self-control. In English, Aikido means “the way of harmonious spirit,” but he’s the first to admit his life has been far from harmonious.
Babin was a homeless teen, living on the streets of Montreal when he met a man who forever changed his life.
“I first met Pops when I was almost 18,” Babin told Global News. “I was a punk rocker, a lot of late nights nowhere to go and he would show up in the middle of the night with the van and he was feeding people and that’s how I met him.”
Through his compassion and lending ear, Pops gave him the confidence, motivation and hope he had been desperately searching for.
“I think just having someone to talk to and just someone who showed me support without judging was a positive thing in my life,” Babin said.
When life started to look up for Babin, he started volunteering for Dans La Rue and ended up driving the same converted motorhome he had spent so many nights taking refuge in. Pops eventually hired him as crew chief, in charge of volunteers.
“I really wanted to give back to him because he was doing so much for the community,” Babin said.
Pops was instrumental in getting him back into school and on his feet. He even recruited Babin and about 20 others to participate in a project where they started their own recycling company. That’s where he learned to build a business and find self-confidence.
“It really motivated me to pursue my dreams — made me believe I could do it myself,” the former homeless teen-turned-entrepreneur said.
The 46-year-old now lives in Squamish, B.C., and runs a successful martial arts studio where he teaches others about strength through self-control.
As painful as it is to walk down memory lane, he decided to share his story in an effort to keep Pops’ legacy alive.
“I’ve seen what he did with his organization — how it grew over the years and his contribution to Montreal is huge,” Babin said. “He treated everybody equally, it didn’t matter where you came from.”
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