Testimony from a woman in addiction on the Downtown Eastside

"I battled this demon for 15 years, in and out of prison, completely lost, no friends, no hope, no purpose, no life.

My children did not know me, my mum died while I was in rehab, and I lost my dad before I could make it right with him.

I tried everything: narcotics anonymous, alcoholics anonymous, counselling, psychiatric treatment, group therapy, new places, new friends, rehab. I’d get a job, get well, but, keep making the same mistakes.

But then, I took a bible given to me by an outreach person on the street and I started to read about a man called Jesus. 

Something miraculous happened to me and I have now been clean for over two years.

The bible taught me to trust, to love to forgive and not judge.

Most of all, it gave me a purpose which I had lost as a teenager. The spirit of depression got lifted off me, I stopped smoking,  and swearing and using.

If you are struggling with heroin, crack cocaine, cannabis, cigarettes, alcohol, mistrust, anger, judgement, you too can be healed!"

My walk with the Good Shepherd Ministry 

(Written by Summer and Laurel)

Sirens wail. Police cars and ambulances tear by. I stand among the homeless, among crack addicts and alcoholics, among sex workers. It is a long way from my cosseted life in Shanghai.

Before I came to Canada, I imagined it as a land of safety and prosperity. But soon after I got to Vancouver, my homestay parents warned me to stay away from Downtown Eastside, explaining it was rife with drug use, sex trade, crime, and violence. Local students gave similar warnings.

Then, in 11 th grade, I heard about Vancouver Good Shepherd, an NPO that helps people in Downtown Eastside.

Clearly they did not think it was a place to be avoided. I talked to one of the founder (also as the school coordinator) and was moved by their mission. I felt it calling to me. I got involved.

My friends, and my homestay parents, warned me against it. But I was resolute. I joined up, taking my first walk in winter 2016. I walked along the street and gingerly gave out candy bags, as well as socks and scarfs.

Passing by one person, two persons … and ten, I grew calmer. True, many of the people were dressed in little more than rags, and some clearly had mental health issues. But so often I saw true appreciation in the eyes of those I encountered, and heard their mumbled thanks. I had stepped out of my comfort zone, and it felt good.

As I get more familiar with the ministry and the people. I learn more — many people there come from broken families and have a past they regret. Contrary to what some of my friends think, they did not choose to be drug addicts or alcoholics. Many have experiences of pain, abuse, and shame. Working with Good Shepherd has changed me completely. I see that everyone has a story and deserves to be treated with dignity, and I know hope can be found in the unlikeliest places. Maybe that’s the most important lesson I’ll learn in my lifetime.

We sometimes think that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the most terrible poverty. We must start in our  own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. 

- Mother Teresa