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Diane is a single mom of five kids. For six years she has been on the run from an abusive ex-partner. During those six years, she has been homeless four times. Strained relationships with previous landlords, limited support provided by the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and raising her children with the limited funds provided by income assistance left Diane fed up with her living situation.

“I was tired of not being able to afford things for my kids – of living under the poverty line,” she said.

When Diane had trouble finding a place to live, she and her kids would stay at local shelters. But finding shelters to stay at was sometimes a challenge, as her teen boys were too old to stay at women only shelters. Yet exceptions were made once Diane explained her circumstances.

“It’s really hard because everybody judges you. But there’s a lot of situations where you become homeless, and I don’t think anyone should be judged, because it could happen to anybody. It’s just the choices that you make – it’s not always easy.”

Two years ago, Diane started coming to Surrey Urban Mission (SUM) for meals. What she didn’t expect was to receive the sort of support she never got before.

“Here, they meet you where you’re at, and they help you as much as they can. There is no discrimination. There’s no harsh attitudes or feelings, which really makes a difference,” she said.
“People actually take the time to listen to you, to understand where you’re coming from.”

With the support of the staff at SUM, Diane took advantage of subsidized housing and went back to school to study health care. “My first practicum was at SUM. It means a lot to me and my children to be able to come here and receive these services. Giving back is nothing compared to what SUM has provided to us,” she said.

After her practicums, Diane was offered two jobs, both of which she accepted and now works to make ends meet. While she is no longer on income assistance, she still faces some of the financial restraints that comes with raising a family. For example, she still has to choose whether to pay for rent or hydro first, each month.

“I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it,” she said. “It’s hard for people to come forward and ask for help. If they do, respect that.”

And with the help and respect of SUM, she firmly believes that she can only move forward.

by Sheetal Reddy

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