A case study of hope

Like many other places in the Lower Mainland, New Westminster has a homelessness problem. The problem isn’t just a lack of money for shelter, of course. Many, if not most, of the people huddled in doorways on Carnarvon and shuffling along Columbia are also struggling with addiction and mental health issues. These people can beRead More

Like many other places in the Lower Mainland, New Westminster has a homelessness problem. The problem isn’t just a lack of money for shelter, of course. Many, if not most, of the people huddled in doorways on Carnarvon and shuffling along Columbia are also struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

These people can be very scary. The worst of them are so full of rage that it boils around them.

This is the story of one such angry woman, called “Crow.” She took out her pain on both friends and foes until the day she turned her life around, calmed down and got clean.

She didn’t do it alone. New West Union Gospel Mission volunteers persisted through her black moods and their efforts were not wasted.

When she came for a free meal at the UGM, she was offered more than soup and sandwiches by her angels.

Eventually they helped her realize her spirit was starving. Drugs and alcohol were her way of numbing the pain she secretly felt.

“Most alcoholic-addicts are spiritually starving because of the trauma they suffered in their lives. Most of us escape that trauma through alcohol and drugs so we don’t have to feel, we don’t have to remember, we don’t have to do anything,” she said, surveying the crowded New Westminster mission following a pancake breakfast.

As she speaks, there’s a violent outburst from a man who’s come to eat, perhaps because he’s missed the meal.

“That used to be me,” said Lagarde, who describes herself as an animal when she lived on the streets.

It’s reassuring to hear of examples like this, of people who seemed hopeless and yet came through on the other side. And it’s a good reminder that those of us who are lucky enough to have opportunities others lacked need to overcome apathy and give back.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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