I was 16 years old when I became homeless in St Catherine’s, where I was born and raised. The first time I became involved with the police and the law was when I became homeless, and I would say that this was the beginning of my life spiraling downhill. The police charged me with Vagrancy C, for living on the street with no means of support. I was locked up in the Guelph Reformatory for 6 months. When I was released, I was scared to go back to St. Catherine’s due discrimination of my sexual orientation. So I decided to move to Toronto. I became homeless in Toronto, living here, there and everywhere for years. I slept under bridges, in bus shelters, parks, shelters, drop-ins, hotels, and sometimes stayed with friends. Pidgeon Park at Parliament and Gerrard was what I called home for a number of years.
Throughout the years of being homeless, I started using and selling drugs and I was able to have money to stay in hotels once in a while. I became comfortable around other homeless folks in Toronto. I felt like they were my street family. In 1984, the 416 Community Support for Women became like a second home to me. I was able to eat, rest, feel part of a community and feel safe. Despite being homeless, I was able to be a successful Avon saleswoman for 5 years in the late ’80s! Throughout my years of being homeless, City TV, Toronto Life, and the Toronto Police did a lot for me. I think that being homeless made me a stronger person. I became a survivor.
In 2009, after being homeless for four and a half decades, I finally found a place to call home. Staying in my own apartment for the first time was like heaven but I still had an addiction problem. I have to thank LOFT’s 416 program for helping me move out of my first apartment, which was a drug haven, into a seniors supportive apartment building. It balanced me off and reduced my consumption of drugs. I am still currently residing there and continue to enjoy it. LOFT’s 416 program continues to be my #1 support with basic supports: one on one care, health care services, and food bank. Plus they give me a sense of community.
I think that being homeless made me a stronger person – I am a survivor. I am almost 70, I’m still alive and happy to report that I have been able to live in my home for the last decade.