YWCA Regina is Here for Her

 

We spoke with Nathalie Desjarlais about living in the downtown YWCA Regina residence from 2014 to 2018. Nathalie says she can’t stay away from the YWCA even now when she has a place of her own that she loves. Nathalie likes to visit all her close friends who live and work at the YWCA. This is Nathalie’s story.

When you’re couch surfing, and you don’t have a ‘home’ home, you’re losing your stuff like crazy… You’re always in need, need, need. It’s part of being homeless. You’re going to lose your stuff. People are going to steal.

You get so far into the dumps; it’s hard to climb back out again.

That addiction has a lot to do with it because when I drank, I didn’t care about anything, just drinking, but I used the drinking to cover up my stuff.

I don’t even think about drinking anymore. It’s not even part of my necessity anymore. I can deal with my stuff better. I can calm down a little bit better. Before when I got pissed off that was the reason right there to go and drink right away. I was really bad. I drank really bad.

My sobriety is very important to me.

Now I find my daughters are like: ‘I love you Mom.’ I hear a lot more of that now. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without my mom.’ It’s a good feeling. Before they were embarrassed: ‘We don’t want you here mom. You’re drunk.’ You’d feel like a nobody.

But I decided to stop drinking and that’s where my journey went. I just went to detox and…  I thought: ‘Well, what’s going to happen to me now?’ Because I didn’t have a home.

When I got to the Y- holy cow! I actually had the same address for many years. Wow! Instead of having all these different addresses and no photo ID. And once you get the ball rolling at the Y, you get all your ID back, your identity comes back, and then everything else falls into place.

Before that I didn’t know anything about the YWCA. The Y to anybody is the gym, working out, swimming pool. I didn’t know there was residence in there and shelter upstairs.

The Y was just a really amazing place for me. The staff was so caring and understanding.

You get to the Y and it kind of makes you feel like: ‘Oh wow, I am an important person.’

It was that warm, welcome feeling that you get because prior to that, I was couch surfing. I was living here and there I didn’t have structure. My day would be just all over the place. I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping, or even having a bath, or whatever. I had a rough time there for a while.

I finally had my own key, to my own door, to my own little space, as small as it was, I didn’t care. The bed that I have, the roof over my head, along with all the friendly people that were around me. I felt at home… It’s when you put that key into that door, shut the door and it’s your space – you can be yourself.

Most of all it’s all the women that are there to that are my close friends.

I’m just really grateful that the doors opened for me at the time in my life when I really needed it. If it wasn’t for the Y, to be honest, I don’t know where I’d be today. It just so happened that for me the doors open at that time and I stayed.

Outreach provides you with the necessities and the stuff that you need when you move into your place. They’ll also help you with appointments, or advocate for you, also to social services, or to a social worker, or whatever that you need. They’ll take you wherever you need to go. They’re really helpful in that way…  soap, towels, whatever. It’s amazing… The Y provides that, provides security and safety.

There’s people like me that actually take it seriously. They want to move on. They want to get help; want to get better. They want to be happy.

I’m enjoying life a lot more. I’m learning to love myself; take care of my self, respecting myself; being my own boss… I’ve learned how to say no and that it’s okay to say no… I have the control now of my life, of my wants, of my needs, not somebody else.

When Nathalie felt ready to leave the residence in 2018, the YWCA Regina Outreach Team helped her on her way. Today Nathalie lives independently in an apartment with one of her daughters.

When I moved out, they helped me with everything; the dishes, my beds; they helped move me. So, they don’t throw you out the door and say you’re on your own. They help you get out so you can make it out there.

I just love my apartment; my own little area; my own little space. I’m really grateful. I’m grateful to be on my own now.

YWCA Regina launched a campaign to raise awareness about our work including great big billboards around town. One of the people who has been integral to that campaign is Joan Beanlands. In the week of International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to share Joan’s story of surviving and thriving because she attributes much of her ability to turn her life around to the support she received from women of the YWCA – both the women who work at the YW and her friends in residence.

Joan Beanlands poses in front of a YWCA Regina billboard with her picture

Joan Beanlands, YWCA Regina resident poses in front of a billboard.

Joan Beanlands – Her Story

We spoke with Joan Beanlands in December 2019 about how she came to be a resident at YWCA Regina in 2013 and why she lives at the YW today.  The following article was edited from that interview. Here is Joan’s story.

“You can be rich, and you can still have a problem and your whole world can fall in a day and you might need a room at the Y. Hopefully, somebody directs you there.

I grew up in Regina and then I moved to Saskatoon and then Calgary and then moved back to Regina.

I have probably drank all my life since I was 14 years old… I didn’t come from a family of drinkers, abuse, or anything like that. It was just something I was hell-bent on doing it, like destroying my life, and in the meantime, I destroyed everybody else’s who chose to love me.

I think there was something in me like a loneliness type of thing that I never knew was there and I just drank it away.

I would be one of the last persons that I would have ever thought needed help.

My partner for 25 years, we had a successful business. We had the house with the pool, and I got a Corvette for Mother’s Day, so money wasn’t a factor or anything like that, but we both drank… Things happened and you split up and then I had another fancy house with somebody else, but my kids were growing up at that time and then once I split up from that relationship I just stayed on my own.

Every time I went to detox, I came out, I drank harder because I was screwing up more. So, the last time I went, the third time I went, I had lost my job. I had broken relationships with my family, with my kids. Used everybody. Told horrible lies.

I knew I was going to lose everything, so part of me thought: ‘I’ll just drink myself to death.’

I was drinking a 40 of vodka straight a day and I thought that was normal. Who drinks a 40 of vodka?

My sister found me in my apartment and if she didn’t, I would probably not be sitting here… My sister said: ‘You’re going to die and we’re not going to watch you, so you better make a choice.’

They took me to detox… When I came out of detox, and I had to go to a shelter because I was homeless, I ended up at MAP, which is My Aunt’s Place, and I was there for 26 days… My Aunt’s Place is a shelter for women going through anything from homelessness, to domestic violence, to – in my situation – I was going for my sobriety for recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.

The manager of My Aunt’s Place at that time helped me get a room at the YWCA downtown so that I could go ahead with my treatment and have a safe place to come back to… and I’ve been there ever since so that’s six and a half years and clean and sober.

I didn’t know what the YWCA was all about. I thought it was the place where you learned to go swim and that’s how naive I was.

They were amazing women that we’re working there at the time… They were just a bunch of compassionate women that really had your back… They saw how broke I was, and they wanted to help me, and I wasn’t used to anybody wanting to help me… They gave you a sense of belonging.

I can go home and see a smiling face is there. I’m not going home to an empty apartment. If I’m having a bad day, I know I can come flying down the stairs and go into the workers’ office and bawl my eyes out if I need to and the support is there.

I don’t think I would have made it out alive if I didn’t have YWCA… very powerful women just want to see you do your best and take your next step so I feel I have become the person I am because of the women of YWCA… They give me; they gave me hope.

It’s the resident women there too. We became kind of a family and we all are really there for each other… When the younger girls come in there if I can be helpful, just to be a mentor. It makes me feel more powerful and it keeps me grounded to who I was when I walked through those doors the first time.

I live at the YWCA and I still work downtown at my job at Tim Hortons in the Cornwall Center and I’ve been back there six and a half years and my life is good, but I still need the women that are there to keep me going.

I will never forget coming back from treatment and they were all so, ‘Oh I’m glad you’re back.’ It was like you come from some place so dark; it was so dark where I was, and it’s like you see the light and it was the YWCA; it’s women; it’s power and you know they’re there for you.

The YWCA to me is my safe haven where I know the women are there for me. It saved my life. I wouldn’t be here talking to you today if it wasn’t for the YWCA. Simple as that.

 

Leticia Racine started with YWCA Regina last year as a Resident Support Worker, but she was not new to the YWCA community. Leticia first came to YWCA in 2015 in need of a safe, sober place to stay. Just four years later Leticia was hired to help other women like herself in transition. Now every day on the job her own healing journey enhances Leticia’s abilities to empathise with her clients and support them on their way. Leticia Racine lives the YWCA Regina philosophy of “Here for Her”.  This is Leticia’s story…

I’m grateful every single day to have a job that I have, to be serving my community, and helping my people, and sincerely connecting with individuals that have been, or, that are in the same place that I used to be. I can truly relate to them and I have compassion for them.

I know that nobody is hopeless; nobody is a write-off. There’s always hope and if I can bring that hope in a position that I have, then I’ve done my job.

There’s an enormous need right now. There’s a homelessness issue but a lot of people don’t see and being frontline I see it every time I go to work whether it be addictions, or trouble with the landlords, or trouble with finances, a lot of its poverty, intergenerational trauma. We can go deeper, but it all kind of wraps up in and becomes homelessness and so that’s what we deal with every single day.

Whether you see homelessness or not, or are aware of it, it exists. It exists right here in Regina.

You never know what could happen to you and you would want somebody to be there for you… If your loved one was in need, and you didn’t know where they were, and they needed help right away, you would want that support.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to say: ‘Yeah, we have a bed available. Come on in. You’re safe here. You can access everything that we have here.’ That’s an awesome feeling to be able to help somebody. You just can’t do it all the time with the resources that we have available to us.

I really feel like the Creator has put me here for a reason. It’s part of my healing journey because I’m in a position where I serve and I think that’s probably one of the most rewarding positions to be in, to be able to serve. Right now, I work at Kikinaw Residence and I’m a frontline worker basically. I’m also a shelter counsellor and I serve women who are dealing with homelessness, a lot of women coming from the streets and just needing a safe place to be, a safe place to sleep, and a safe place to get on their feet and we offer the supports for someone who’s looking to start over again if they want. I also counsel people. I support them. I advocate for them and I stand beside them. I want to support them and help them to achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve.

I’ve been an alcoholic and a practicing IV user, I was a drug user. I did live on the streets as a youth. I was involved in crime. I’ve been there. I’ve struggled through the identity issues, the sixties scoop. I’ve suffered from the effects of residential schools. Both my parents went to residential school and I was adopted out and raised in an alcoholic home and abandoned at 13 on the steps of child services. So, I’ve been through a lot in my life. It has strengthened me. It’s given me wisdom and depth and understanding and empathy. Knowing that one day I would make it out of there, just having a hope and a vision for myself of how I would live one day, just a glimmer was enough to get me out. But I didn’t do it alone.

I ended up at the front office of the YWCA at MAP – My Aunt’s Place – a shelter in the community – and the first call I made I was able to speak to a woman and she said: ‘Yes, there’s a space available.’ I needed a space. I was starting out. I had nothing. I had a backpack. I’d left everything back where I come from and was starting over from scratch.

They welcomed me in, and I utilized every service they had there, which was a lot.

My healing journey kind of took off from there. I was able to stay for a month there… My Aunt’s Place, and utilizing the services at the YWCA, was a steppingstone.

I wasn’t on the streets. I didn’t have to resort to what a lot of women had to survive on the streets, especially with the amount of women that are going missing nowadays – what we’re facing with First Nations women, and women in general, the vulnerable sector. They’re facing violence and they’re facing a lot of really scary things on the street and I didn’t have to do that.

Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t have that support; if I didn’t have a safe and warm place to be? If I didn’t have that supportive environment when I was so vulnerable? It really let me grow and be myself. Be angry when I had to be angry. Be sad when I wanted to be sad. Be happy and they celebrated alongside of me. In every milestone of my sobriety, they were there, and they celebrated it with me.

It was just a good environment to grow in, to feel like I could grow and be safe and not feel like I’m pressured to do anything. I was just able to advance on my own timing. I wasn’t pressured or felt like I needed to do something every single day. If I needed to take a day off, I took a day off. It was a healthy environment… If I had a bad day I could just go into the office and say: ‘Listen, this is what I’m going through. I just need to vent, or I need to see a doctor. I need to see a dentist.’

And then they helped me get a place and apartment.

They continued to support me while I was in the community getting started… They didn’t just let me go out the door and say: ‘See you later.’ They were there continuously until I felt strong enough where I didn’t need their services anymore.

Four years later I’m working at the Y – same place that I had got the steppingstone from.

If I can give hope to somebody else, to anybody, to one person, then I’ve done my job. I fulfilled my purpose here… And that’s rewarding being able to help somebody… so it is part of my healing journey really to be able to help and give back… Being able to connect with these women, and them reflecting back at me where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, is humbling.

I’m just forever grateful for the YWCA. I can’t say enough good things about it… It’s an environment where I can grow professionally and personally. Supportive environment to work there, and being able to serve, and being able to help other women, there’s nothing better than to see someone grow, and that’s what the YWCA offers your community.

Please enjoy the YWCA Regina’s monthly newsletter for February 2020. Feel free to share our newsletter and tell your friends about the exciting things happening at YWCA Regina. In this issue:

  • Launch of Here for Her awareness campaign
  • Register now for Coldest Night of the Year
  • Nominate a Nutrien YWCA Regina Women of Distinction today
  • Childcare spaces available at Sally’s Place
  • Sign-up for a one-day prenatal class
  • Regina held coldest Women’s March in the world!
  • Thanks to FCC Regina Spirit Fund
  • National and international YWCA news
  • Happy Valentines Day!

Read More

Cadmus Delorme, Chief of Cowessess First Nation, is a Champion of YWCA Regina. We spoke to Cadmus recently about the contributions YWCA makes in our community and here is some of what Cadmus had to say…

I am a huge fan of the YWCA.

I’m a Cowessess First Nation citizen. Grew up on, live on Cowessess today, but Regina has always been my city. I have a lot of family and friends in Regina. Females are, have always been, people I have surrounded myself with regards to leadership and I’ve heard great stories, but sometimes I’ve heard some of the more challenging stories and the YWCA has always come up in the conversations regards to: ‘Who’s helping you?’.

As a chief I rely on places like the YWCA.

Everybody has their own journey, story. Some are succeeding. They’re living their dream. Some are aspiring to hit their dream and just one day at a time and there’s some who just are at that poverty level due to inter-generational trauma, due to ignorance, or privilege, just can’t seem to get up to that standard level.

You need places like YWCA to help address that inter-generational trauma, to address that history.

YWCA provides training to help deal with these challenges.

I don’t feel we share enough success stories on what institutions like the YWCA are doing for the Regina area.

There’s no limit to the benefits the YWCA can play. From an indigenous perspective females run the nation; they run the tribe.

Sometimes it’s the hardest person to be in this country, is an indigenous female, and so you have places like the YWCA that know the end goal. That Indigenous women, women in general, are the leaders and they’re there to dust them off.

The YWCA, being led by women, is strengthening the home fires. When you have strong women in homes, you have better homes.

There’s young men that look up to their moms, look up to their sisters, and so it’s not just a female that benefits from a place like YWCA; it’s the entire family because when you have a strong mom, auntie, sister, kokum – you have a strong family. And so the YWCA knows the vision, what this province needs and they’re implementing it one day at a time.

It is already a leader. It just has to be more emphasized at what the YWCA does and the impact that it makes.

Please enjoy the YWCA Regina’s monthly newsletter for January 2020. Feel free to share our newsletter and tell your friends about the exciting things happening at YWCA Regina. In this issue:

  • New Here for Her awareness campaign
  • YWCA Regina active in the community
  • Thanks to volunteers and donors
  • Space available at Sally’s Place 
  • 2020 Women’s March
  • Coldest Night of the Year
  • Nutrien YWCA Regina Women of Distinction 
  • National and international YWCA news

Read More

Happy Holidays!
Check out this month’s newsletter below to see what YWCA Regina has been up to lately and has planned for the New Year!

December 2019 Newsletter

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