Street Haven at the Crossroads offers pathways for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness, through a variety of integrated services, in which women support women. www.streethaven.com
Diary of a Homeless Woman is is the stories of women who use the services of Street Haven at the Crossroads, Toronto’s first women’s shelter. Street Haven is a multi-service agency that provides wraparound services for women experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness. Serving an average of 1,400 women each year, Street Haven, provides women with a place to sleep, a place to heal, a place to grow and a place to live independently with access to a service continuum that includes the emergency shelter, meals, clothing, supportive housing, addiction services, counselling, and a learning centre. For more information visit: www.streethaven.com.
In high school, I was placed in a special education program instead of regular classes because I couldn't learn like the other students. I felt I was being "left on the shelf" -- not important enough...
My family regarded me as a worthless and dangerous person in need of being chained up. In my country, mental health is not understood as it is in Canada. It is considered dangerous and weak. My family began to speak out against me and I knew that I had to flee my country in order to be safe.
It can be an especially challenging time of year when you are not in contact with your family. I spent most of my youth estranged from my family, feeling isolated and living in poverty. Christmastime can serve as a painful reminder of what is missing from your life.
To everyone around me, it looked like our family had it all. The truth was that I lived in a house that was filthy and piled high with debris and animal waste. I was 11years old when my father began to sexually abuse me. I had become accustomed to keeping so many secrets by then that I just added this one to the list. I hoped the abuse would stop. I was terrified and lonely. I am living proof that it takes a community to lift a person up. The day I left my abusive family home was the day I stepped into uncertainty and poverty.
I'm one of those alcoholics who became an alcoholic from my first drink. My life truly went downhill from there. I made bad decisions, made myself a bad reputation and drank more to ease my depression. Having alienated myself from people to stop them from witnessing this mess I was, I started to drink alone. I would binge for days at a time. Enough drinks in me would get me into the beds of complete strangers. It would not be considered consensual in a legal sense with my state of intoxication, thinking back to it now. The guilt and shame overwhelmed me. I had to keep myself intoxicated to keep my depression and anxiety at bay.
As we prepare to go to the polls for the federal election this October, it is relevant to note that each party has a different approach for combating homelessness and providing relief for chronic poverty. While we cannot tell you who to vote for, we can ask that you include housing policy as one of the areas you compare when researching the various party platforms.
When women are then forced to face homelessness and poverty after fleeing abuse, desperate behaviours are often the result. Suicide attempts, devaluation of self-worth and comparisons to others cause untold pain and suffering, and serve to continue the cycle of struggle with mental health.
A lot of people ask me why I'm still on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program). People think maybe I'm lazy or just don't want to work. I want to work. I want to work so badly and live with that freedom and independence I had before, but I can't. No one wants to hire someone with a grade six education who can't understand all the things they should.
A lot of people have the perception that shelter life today is for the junkie, the uneducated, the criminal or the battered wife seeking refuge from her abusive partner. In my experience, most of the people I have met in the shelter system are there for a variety of reasons. In the shelter I have met bank tellers, writers, students and even retirees.