A few years ago we met a young First Nations woman who was 30 years old.
Anna had been an active drug user, survival sex trade worker and a member of our community around the corner of Hastings Street and Campbell Avenue since early childhood. Many of our staff would see her standing on the corner trying to pick up a trick or sometimes flailing from the effects of the drugs she had consumed. All of us would encourage her to come up to our office for nutrition , less revealing clothing or just a safe place to sit and have a coffee away from the rigors of the street.
Eventually she courageously made her way up the stairs and appeared in our foyer where she was welcomed by our receptionist Karen, who met her basic needs and began to create a sanctuary. She finally convinced Anna to complete an assessment form and become eligible to see a counsellor. She was assigned to see this writer and so begins my story. It turned out Anna did have family on one of the local reserves where she was sometimes able to take refuge and most of the relatives were supportive and kind. Sadly, there were some safety issues, so she was not always welcome there. Housing was a huge issue; she said and I quote “all I want is a place of my own I have never had my own home”.
It took a while and a lot of advocacy but we did get Anna referred into a low barrier hotel on Cordova St. She was very proud and empowered that she had the key to her own room. No more nights spent on the streets or in doorways or some one else’s room where she was always vulnerable to being put back on the street if she didn’t do as she was told. We also supported her to connect more solidly with her mother in an independent healthy manner. Although Anna has not reached her goal of total abstinence, her drug use has decreased and she appears to be better dressed and carries herself with what appears to be more pride and dignity. Personally, it warms my heart and brings a tear to my eye when I see her and I feel confident her life will continue to improve.