March 22, 2021
Trans-Forming in Canada: Lula’s Story

Lula moved to Canada to escape LGBT2SQ+ discrimination. With the help of a caring Community Support Worker, Lula is now living an independent and dignified life.

Lula, a transgender woman from Yemen, came to Canada as a refugee.  She escaped a long-standing history of homophobia and transphobia in the Middle East. “Yemen is a dangerous country for the LGBT2SQ+ community. Three of my friends died because of Al-Qaeda,” she says.

Before coming to Canada, Lula moved to other countries looking for a better life and safety. In Saudi Arabia, Lula was sent to jail for a year and was subject to flagellation for being transgender. In Indonesia, the government was equally unwelcoming of her gender identity.

Upon arriving in Canada in 2019, Lula moved into Toronto’s Emergency Shelter system. Her resourceful nature led her to various community service providers, including LOFT. “When I first arrived in Canada, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have anything. I was homeless,” she explains. “Then a doctor told me about LOFT Community Services.”

At LOFT’s McEwan Housing and Support Services, Lula was provided with a Community Support Worker (CSW). “I’m the person I am today because of Kathleen,” Lula shares with gratitude. “She supported me with everything I needed.”

Working together, they located a transitional housing program that quickly accepted Lula.  She moved into the program in late 2019, and the increased stability allowed Lula to flourish. She was able to focus on other facets of her life, improving her English skills while receiving support for her mental and physical health.

Lula informed her CSW that she loved cooking, and dreamed of pursuing a career as a chef. This revelation led to a free pre-employment culinary program with the Toronto District School Board. Lula completed the 11-week culinary program, and quickly found employment at a local restaurant. Working full-time, she continued to connect with her CSW.  Lula’s goal was to find an affordable one-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto, close to her support system.

In March of 2020, the global pandemic struck Toronto. Much of the hospitality industry closed, and Lula found herself temporarily unemployed. She used her time wisely, working with her CSW to secure a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Toronto’s Gay Village. Lula also landed a position as a full-time chef at a local community service agency, preparing food for seniors and the homeless.

Since securing permanent housing and a full-time career, Lula continues to connect with her Community Support Worker. She is able to share her dreams while building a bright future for herself in Canada.

LOFT’s McEwan Housing and Support Services is a co-op house for adults with HIV/AIDS in combination with mental health and/or addiction issues and a history of homelessness.