When Susan ran into health problems that prevented her from working, and was ultimately evicted from her home, she wound up on the street, ultimately living in Nanaimo’s tent city.
After a trip to the hospital emergency department with worsened health due to living in cold and wet conditions, she discovered the support of a community organization whose primary mandate is to get a roof over people’s heads.
“Sometimes it’s easy to see people who are experiencing homelessness as ‘the others’ and not feel a connection to their story,” says Corrie Corfield, assistant executive director of Island Crisis Care Society. The organization operates seven shelter, housing and recovery sites between Nanaimo and Oceanside and runs 11 programs that support 150 to 200 people daily.
“The reality is, some folks have gone through troubles in their lives and simply haven’t had access to supports,” Corfield adds. Those supports, as in Susan’s case, often start with providing a temporary or transitional home or a healthy meal.
Everyone has a story
No matter where a person is at or what their life experience has been, they deserve the chance to be helped and be supported to help themselves, Corfield says. “All the people we serve have stories – many things can lead people to homelessness. Often it’s a combination of experiences, trauma and hopelessness.”
It can be difficult to ask for help, especially when people are at their most vulnerable, then “add to that the stigma that comes when the struggle you’re going through involves substance use and/or mental health challenges, which tend to be socially unacceptable issues” she says.
Long history of helping Islanders
For 30 years the Island Crisis Care Society has offered a hand up to those in need. Today it offers a “spectrum of care,” that meets people where they are, Corfield says.
“We have shelters that people access when they’re in those crisis moments and they need a safe place to be for that night or day; safe and stable supportive housing, recovery-based housing spaces and outreach programs. All of our programs allow people to move along at their own pace as they move through their journey.”
How you can help
If you’d like to help the Society provide support, shelter and safety for vulnerable residents and work to improve their quality of life, you can make a tax-deductible donation or volunteer in a variety of ways. “We offer a whole continuum of care, and when people donate they’re supporting that continuum of care,” Corfield says.