Tina’s story is part of the Good Neighbour series where we share the stories of individuals and agencies impacted by homelessness. The individuals at risk of homelessness, the souls who have experienced homelessness and are seeking a way forward, and those who are the “hidden homeless.”
No one chooses to be homeless. No one hopes to find themselves living on the edge – wondering if they can afford food or rent, searching for a safe place to sleep at night, finding somewhere to settle.
Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a story. Everyone matters.
Tina sits down and begins to explain why she’s taking a computer class. “I asked them (ICCS) to take it because my 8-year-old granddaughter is, ‘hurry up Granny, you should learn!’. So, I’m going to be starting that right away,” she says with a chuckle.
Tina is full of cheer and spirit. Whether she’s speaking about her granddaughter or her dog, Bear, both elicit the same sense of love and laughter.
“My story? I didn’t have anywhere to live, so I was at tent city. I was one of the first people to arrive at the Terminal, the first bus.”
Her story doesn’t just begin at the tent city. It’s a longer story that comes out in bits and pieces while she chats about her current life, love for Bear, and for her family.
“My mom chased my dad to the Island,” she says, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “I was born in Vernon. I was 4 or 5 when we came here.” Subsequently, Tina has moved back and forth between the Island and Sugar Lake, near Vernon.
A life filled with adventure and family
“I moved back to Sugar Lake when I was 20 with my son, so 32 years ago. Wow! Does time fly. That’s crazy,” she laughs. She also spent time as a logger on the Island, “It was physical work. We took a boat into camp. I still like to poke around and log, but I have to replace my knee, so can’t do that so much. I don’t know why I took such a shine to it but just loved it. Take my dog up with me.”
Tina has spent a lifetime working hard and raising her two children, a son and daughter, who she is quite close with to this day. She also helps her brother and his wife with their five children when she can. Most of all, she sees her granddaughter, who lives in Nanaimo, quite a lot.
As she recalls her life’s journey she comments, “Things are sure different than when I was a kid. Find it harder now. I don’t know why but it is. Way harder.”
Facing life in a tent city
Around six years ago, Tina was renting a room from a friend. “He started drinking too much and wasn’t well. He’s not listening to me, and I didn’t want him to hurt himself anymore, so they took him to care. I had to look after myself, but I couldn’t find any rentals, right. None. There’s still none.”
Not able to find long term housing, Tina ended up in the so-termed “tent city” in Nanaimo. She was there for around three months when it was forcibly shut down. That’s when she relocated to Newcastle Place, or “Terminal”. She has been living there ever since.
“It’s a good place to start, for sure. Getting clean and the opportunities are there. The staff are fantastic, just fantastic,” she says.
Tina has also found support in Newcastle. When she was in the hospital after a stroke, followed by pneumonia, staff and fellow residents helped take care of Bear. “It’s quite a community. Everyone knows Bear. It’s so funny because he has more friends than I do!”
A place to call home
Having a bed and roof over her head has given Tina an opportunity to explore more education. “I would like to learn as much as I can, so maybe I can take a course. I’d really like to up my skills and level as much as I can. If I can get a course, I’ll probably apply to take another course. I think I’ll do alright. I’ve just never had anyone to take the patience and show me.”
While she works on improving her skills, Tina is also hopeful to find a place at the new housing project. “I’d like a one-bedroom with the dog,” she says.
Despite the challenges she faces, like a bad knee and other health problems, Tina remains positive. “One day at a time is all you can do,” she says with a shrug and a smile. She also is making plans for down the road that include more time with her family.
“I just want to stay alive to spend some quality time with my kids and grandkids, you know. I want to see my granddaughter thrive.”
The future looks brighter for Tina than it did five years ago when she found herself living in a tent. She’s enthusiastic about improving her life with new skills, spending time with her family, and the possibility of moving into a one-bedroom place with Bear. Having stable housing has allowed her the opportunity to pursue those goals, something she wouldn’t have had before moving to Newcastle Place.
Funding to agencies through The Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, administered by United Way British Columbia on behalf of Community Advisory Boards, help people like Tina in our local communities.