The Campbell River and North Island Transition Society (CRNITS) saved Margaret Wilson’s life.
“For me, coming from a family of fisherman, when you are in dire straits on the ocean, you find a harbour or an inlet to shelter you, that’s what Rose Harbour is to me,” Wilson said.
Wilson, 70, is the resident elder at Rose Harbour, the transition home operated by CRNITS. She has been invited to live there as long as she wants.
This is a welcome change from the 10 years she spent living on the streets in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, followed by more years of couch surfing with no permanent address in Campbell River before ending up at Ann Elmore House and eventually Rose Harbour.
“I have found my stronghold, I have found the place I will be until the day I die,” Wilson said.
But it wasn’t an easy transition. Wilson lived with nothing in her apartment but a chair and a side table for quite awhile.
“It took me eight months to get my furniture out of storage because I was so determined ‘this isn’t for me, I don’t belong here,’” she said, laughing at her own stubbornness.
Now you couldn’t pry her away.
Despite the hardships, she said she wouldn’t change her life for anything because the friends she made living on the street inspired her to not only to survive but to “eagerly await a new day.”
Wilson moved to Vancouver after her husband died. She said she fell asleep for two weeks and when she woke up she couldn’t imagine living in their home without him, so she left.
But Vancouver was expensive and she couldn’t find a place to live, so she ended up on the street. And though she faced mental, physical and emotional abuse, she does not look back on the experience with regret.
“I got here because of the lessons I learned from the brothers and sisters I had on the street,” she said.
Wilson believes that every person is valuable and has something to contribute.
“I really don’t believe that any of us deserve to be homeless,” she said. “None of us deserve to be hungry. None of us deserve to live in a third world country in a rich place like Canada.”
All they need is a helping hand, Wilson said and she encourages people to step up.
“It’s just instinct to want to be able to make a difference,” she said.
An opportunity to make a difference is happening Feb. 24 – the Coldest Night of the Year, a fundraiser that supports the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society.
CRNITS is a non-profit society which operates the Ann Elmore Transition House and Rose Harbour Transitional Housing in Campbell River as well as safe homes in remote locations.
The Ann Elmore House is a short-term emergency shelter which provides shelter, support, food, clothing and basic necessities for women and children at risk of abuse or violence. They also offer detox, supportive recovery and stabilization programs.
Rose Harbour is a program which includes time-limited subsidized housing and services for clients who are impacted by homelessness, abuse, violence and/or substance misuse.
Programs offered include in-house life skills workshops, Rent Smart training, health services, a community kitchen and much more.
The society also offers child and youth support services, outreach services, a 24 hour telephone help line and more.
Participants can register via the event website, cnoy.org/location/campbellriver. The event starts at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Navy League Hall on 13th Avenue – registration begins at 4 p.m. – and circles through downtown, returning to the hall for chili and warm refreshments afterwards.