Homelessness and poverty are always in the media right?
Every day we hear about statistics and initiatives, prospective policies and political debates on how to address these…
What we rarely hear about though, is the negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness and lack of belonging that impede personal development.
Even though all of us experience self doubt and personal hardship, we like to pretend that emotional health has no bearing on economic success.
“Just get a job” they say…
Sarah’s* childhood was brutal. And her marriage no better, leading her into a downward spiral. When her marriage finally ended, lacking the tools and strength to go forward Sarah turned to the street. Survival was the only objective. And even then, that was negotiable.
Sarah’s story is hard to listen to. The circumstances and physical realities of her past are devastating. As Sarah shares her story with me, she talks less about the physical realites of her life and more about the pain and pieces of wholeness that were missing. I hear one defined more by relationships and the lack thereof than by physical circumstances. A story of grit and faith that overcame brokenness thanks to the compassion of others.
When VisionWest finally met Sarah, she was pregnant and ready to put the future of her unborn child first. Full of doubts and misgivings about whether these people could really help, Sarah did show up for her appointment and had her first encounter with Mark Woolley.
Sarah sits back in her chair and throws up her hands, as if this is the end of the story. Sarah’s meeting with Mark proved to be a catalyst moment.
“He was real.” Sarah states matter of factly.
When I asked Sarah what this meant, she says there was no judgement. No condescending looks or disgust pointed in her direction. Just a conversation. No agenda.
And while its been a bumpy road, Sarah has stayed. In the nine years Sarah has been living in her current house, she has had regular contact with VisionWest including lots of volunteering over the years.
A pivotal moment came in Sarah’s life when Lisa Woolley, CEO at VisionWest asked her to speak at a community housing conference about her life experience. Sarah was floored by such a suggestion but as terrifying as it was, she did it. Proving that we all bring something to the table that can contribute to a better society.
Sarah now works for VisionWest, bringing her insider knowledge of street life to the work we do in reaching out. Although this brings new challenges all on its own.
When you’ve been living life on your own terms, you don’t just walk in and pick up on how to manage work place relationships. “When I hear the word supervision I think of CYFS. Not discussion and mentoring.”
Along the way there have been other people who have made a difference for Sarah. “Straight shooters” Sarah calls them. She lists them by name and one of them is Sonya Coop. Now a colleague at VisionWest, Sarah sees Sonya as a Mentor of sorts. Helping her to navigate the unpredictable and soul crushing world of societal norms. Also known as etiquette.
Sarah’s story is one of triumph, personal growth and profound soul searching. A woman of amazing faith and wisdom, Sarah is incredibly self-aware. She knows what her weaknesses are and where she lacks, freely admitting that she has much to learn about diplomacy and when to speak up.
But hey, if we’re honest, don’t we all?
Dedicated to everyone who rose to the challenge, who treated me like a human being, respected me by giving me a clean bed, oriented me to a better life.
Gave me council through others to grow and prioritise my life.
Who taught me how to love, to know love, to know how to treat love, to like me and honor me when I did not deserve it.
Who have given without expectation.
Who have given me a foundation in true humanity and my God.
Who taught me how to adore my babies.
Who fed us when no one else would.
Who have shown me what is ethical is to throw away the victim and join life.
What maturity is.
What forgiveness is.
What kindness is with no hidden agendas so that I blossom.
*Names have been changed