September 27, 2013 was a very special day for Eva: it was the day she moved off of the streets into her own place. It was a small room, but it was hers. And it was the first time in years that she had a place to call her own.
Eva left home in her early teens. Eventually, she became homeless and addicted to drugs. As a young woman on the streets, she was quite vulnerable. But she learned how to take care of herself and when I met her on outreach several years ago, I quickly discovered that she was one of the strongest young women I had ever met. Despite having to be in “survival mode” on the streets, she still had a loving and generous spirit. She would often point out others who needed help, or tell me places to go where she knew I would find more people needing outreach. She often joked that she should do outreach, because she knew how to find people.
I soon learned that Eva was artist, and in fact, she was one of the first youth to join the art group. One time at art group I remember talking with her about her future, about getting sober and going back to school. She told me that she would never stop using drugs. When I asked why, she told me that last time she tried to get sober she became suicidal. Using drugs was her way of coping, and she was scared to take away that coping mechanism.
But a year ago something changed. She started making small changes in her life, which led to big changes like stopping her drug use, reconnecting with friends and family, and starting to think more about her future and what it could be.
This September marked some big landmarks for her: not only did she celebrate one year of living in her apartment, but she also re-enrolled in high school for the first time in years.
September 25th marked another incredible moment: it was her first night doing outreach as an OIM volunteer. Together, Eva and I walked the streets of Ottawa handing out sandwiches, socks and drinks. Most of the people we met on the street had to look twice at Eva, often saying “Hey it’s you!” or “I knew you looked familiar!” before congratulating her on becoming an outreach volunteer.
They were so proud of her.
And we are too.
I’m so excited to see what the future holds for Eva.
Her new outlook on her future? She plans on becoming an addictions worker.