Long Road Home Leads To Giving Back
“I had been on a particular medication for years when I decided to stop using it… Big mistake. I became homeless at 55,” says Karen.
“It was the first time that I became homeless. Previously in my life, I was having the time of my life and talking about ‘Freedom 55’,” she explains.
She wanted to experience life without being medicated: “So I stopped taking my medication gradually over a six-month period. And by the time that was up, I had lost two jobs, I was evicted from my apartment, and I was in debt.”
“At first, I didn’t contact my family because I was just mortally embarrassed and ashamed about the whole thing,” explains Karen. (She was born in Nanaimo, grew up in Victoria, lived for 24 years in Creston and Vancouver, and has lived in Victoria most of her life.)
New to being homeless she didn’t know where the shelters were. “So I stayed on the street for a while, and I stayed at some friends’ houses, and then I figured out where the shelters were…”
Karen finally got a bed at Rock Bay. “Then I started to put my life back together a little bit more. It helps having a bed,” she explains. “And the meals are really good.”
Rock Bay also provides counselling and support, drop-in health care, activities, groups and a chance to give back as a volunteer.
Karen joined Cool Aid’s Rock Bay “Neighbourhood Clean Team”, which pick up litter, including needles and other drug paraphernalia, around Rock Bay and the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood, as well as removing graffiti. Her route is the area around the emergency shelter and the transitional apartments, and afterwards she joins in the community meal.
Karen now lives permanently at Mount Edwards Court. “It’s a beautiful, old home… we’re all excited about living there and making it a great place.”
“I started volunteering at Rock Bay when I was living in transition, so I just continued after I moved to Mount Ed. I could have stopped when I moved but I like the people at the shelter.”
Her advice for volunteers? “If you are open minded and non-judgemental then you’ll be fine! It’s a good place. There’s some staff that have been here for a long, long time. It’s incredible how dedicated they are and how much they care.”
“I think Rock Bay is incredibly important,” she concludes.
And we think that Karen is incredibly important!
If you need sidewalk cleanup in the Rock Bay or Burnside Gorge neighbourhoods, give the shelter a call at 250-383-1951.