"Bethlehem assisted me in becoming more secure with my life and finding peace."
Growing up Valerie moved from home to home as her mother worked on the ships in Ontario. At the age of 15 years old, she left home and worked as an exotic dancer in order to provide for herself. When she reached an age where she could support herself more, she became a waitress and worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years. “By my 20’s, I was in an abusive marriage with two children.” Her partner controlled every aspect of her life and she had very little freedom. Although Valerie worked her entire life, her partner controlled all of the money. Along with finances he also controlled the children, her friendships and her relationships with family. He became abusive, both physically and verbally, and Valerie began to fear for both her and her children’s safety. Feeling like she had nowhere to go, Valerie turned to alcohol to help cope with her problems.
Valerie struggled with alcoholism for much of her life but in November 2012 things took a turn for the worse. “My younger brother passed away while serving time in prison.” Because of her struggles with addictions she had spoiled relationships with her friends and her family. Valerie felt alone and her life began to spiral out of control. Unable to handle the grief of the loss of her brother, she continued to drink to numb the pain. By 2014 she was homeless and living on the streets of St. Catharines. During the cold winter months she decided she had enough and she looked to get help. Valerie stayed at the YWCA and during her stay they introduced her to Bethlehem Housing and Support Services, where her journey to recovery began.
The YWCA put Valerie in contact with support workers at Bethlehem and in July 2015 she had a place to call home at Bethlehem Place. At Bethlehem Place she was able to talk about trauma, the disease of addictions and how to cope with both so that she can move forward in life. Valerie attended many of the life skills programs provided at Bethlehem, which has made her feel useful again. Through the positive mentoring and support she has seen a change within herself and a change within the other people living at Bethlehem. She noticed children began to smile again and women began to raise their heads with confidence. “Bethlehem assisted me in becoming more secure with my life and finding peace within myself.” The support of the community has provided her with a sense of belonging, giving her a more positive attitude towards life. The support from the workers at Bethlehem, along with their hard work and dedication, is why Valerie is at the place she is today. Once living in complete fear, Valerie now feels a sense of security in her life.
Seeing her younger brother struggle with addictions and spend his life in prison is what encouraged Valerie to seek help. She isn’t only doing it for herself but for the memory of her brother as well. Valerie believes that faith plays a huge role in encouraging her to live a more spiritual and grounded life. “Because I have been able to grow spiritually, I see myself helping others in the future so that I can help guide others out of the life I once lived.” This encourages her to stay sober and keep moving forward. At one point Valerie was asked what it was like to live at Bethlehem Place and she replied, “It’s where miracles happen.” Valerie loves living in St. Catharines and because of the support and guidance from Bethlehem Housing, she now feels like she is a part of the community.
Both spiritually and emotionally, Valerie is at a wonderful place in her life. At the end of July she is moving to a place of her own and she is so grateful to Bethlehem Housing for helping her get to this point. Bethlehem has given her the opportunity to heal her relationship with her children and she keeps in contact with them regularly. “Both of my children are university graduates and they are also very thankful for the new beginning that Bethlehem provided their mother.” Valerie’s face lights up with joy when talking about her children and the accomplishments they have made.
If there is one thing Valerie wants anyone to take from her journey is that if you are struggling with homelessness, addictions, or domestic abuse, you are not alone. “Bethlehem Housing is here to support you and guide you towards a better life.”