The Doc Project

Free radicals: Two men, two ways out of the darkness

Penny O'Radical is using his YouTube channel to stay clean and shine a light on homelessness in Hamilton. After COVID-19 ransacked his career, Wesley Altuna is returning to his love of food and sharing it with others to find his way forward.
Penny O'Radical speaks with a man in front of Gore Park, in downtown Hamilton, as he gathers footage for an upcoming YouTube video. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

Like so many other people that he meets living on the streets of Hamilton, ON, Penny O'Radical has spent years battling drug addiction. In 2019 he decided to try a new approach to staying clean: documenting his recovery in a remarkably candid YouTube channel, and turning the lens on the people he's gotten to know in shelters and on the streets.

Wesley Altuna delivers a Bawang order to a happy customer. (Andrew Budziak)

When Wesley Altuna was growing up in the Philippines, food was always connected to his sense of home. But when he came to Canada as a kid, wrenched from his mother's arms at the airport, that picture of safety and joy was also left behind. Wes struggled to find his way as a teen, and got into some dark business. But when things were at their worst, Wes would cook to ground himself. Now that the pandemic ransacked his career, he's realized that returning to his love of Filipino food and sharing it with others is his way forward — and his way home.