“It feels a lot safer here,” says Bev who’s just recently checked into the Women’s Integrated Supportive Housing (WISH) in Calgary. The WISH centre provides support services for women such as emergency and transitional beds plus a variety of skill building programs. Prior to arriving at WISH Bev was sleeping in her car. “Coming here was like a weight off my shoulders.”
Bev knows what it means to be constantly moving around. Her father was in the Canadian Armed Forces which meant the family was often being relocated. Later in life she decided to settle in Alberta and raise a family. After a few years, she separated from her abusive partner and fled with her daughter to Edmonton. Unfortunately, the home was in a bad neighbourhood, and her new boyfriend didn’t make things any better.
“He made me feel unlovable,” she says choking back tears. “He tried to convince me that I was an alcoholic!”
For the record, Bev says she’s never struggled with alcohol or drug addiction. With a stern look, she declares, “Just because someone is homeless, it doesn’t mean that they are an alcoholic or a drug addict!”
Demoralized and scared, she found her way out of her situation in Edmonton and moved to Canmore, but her life didn’t get any better. She developed mental health issues which made it difficult to work. Broken, homeless and struggling to survive, she relocated to Calgary seeking refuge at inner-city shelters.
Bev sought help from The Salvation Army on three separate occasions. It was during her second stay at the women’s residential program in downtown Calgary that she began to find a glimmer of hope. With a smile she vividly remembers a project she worked on.
“It was awesome,” she recalls, “In a group we were taught how to make a video called ‘Photo Voice.’ It was very therapeutic in that it helped us to tell our story. I still have that video.”
Feeling better and ready to try again Bev moved back to Canmore with her partner, Regent, and found work at a senior’s lodge. But not soon after, her health problems flared up, this time sending her to the hospital where she spent a month in critical condition.
After addressing her health issues, she moved to Red Deer. Life seemed to be going okay for her until a woman from her past had tracked her down and began threatening her life. She recalls the warnings from her friends, “She wants you gone, out of the picture!” After years of living in a stable environment, she found herself homeless once again.
It’s been a difficult journey for Bev moving in and out of shelters, narrowly escaping abusive relationships, and for years now, unable to work due to muscle and nerve damage. But regardless of the many challenges, she refuses give to up. She wants other women battling homelessness and mental illness to never lose hope.
With a gentle smile she says softly, “I found my hope. You may think there’s nothing out there anymore, but just take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and it will come.”