As the night bus pulled away from the station, Cynthia* sat with her young son beside her with only the clothes on their backs. They made their way towards Vancouver with the hope of starting a new life, away from the stalker in her home town.
Cynthia, 26, knew she and her son had to leave Grand Forks that night. “I decided it wasn’t safe for me. Even the cops said it wasn’t safe – that it was just better if I left.”
They ended up in Surrey, where they stayed at a friend’s house for six months before she found a place of her own. There, for $750 a month plus utilities, Cynthia rented a spot in her own personal prison. All three windows of her basement suite faced concrete walls, bugs inhabited her laundry room, exposed wires beckoned her son’s tiny hands, and the noise from the suite above was incessant.
Income assistance was providing some money, but not enough to cover what they needed. Cynthia found herself choosing between rent, bills and food. “There was too much month left at the end of the money.” Excitement of starting over quickly gave way to despair.
Though she hated the basement suite, Cynthia was terrified she and her son would be without a home if they left. Trying to remain positive and hopeful, she applied to YWCA Alder Gardens, which caters to single mothers and their children, and links them to community services in a supportive housing model.
When they moved in on February 29, 2012, Cynthia immediately knew she had found her new home. “[Alder Gardens] is made up of amazing women in the same situation as I am, coming from all different walks of life.”
At Alder Gardens, rent is charged at a rate of 30% of Cynthia’s income. So, even on the income assistance she receives while looking for work, she has been able to get out of debt and still live a fulfilling life with her now 5-year-old son.
Cynthia has also begun to find a new confidence in herself. Alder Gardens has taught Cynthia that she can trust again, and she has passed these lessons onto her son. Instead of brick walls closing in on her, walls of security, home and family bring her peace.
Projects such as YWCA’s Alder Gardens are supported by the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject.
Written by Amy Ounsted