This testimony has been edited for clarity

My grandparents raised me; I had a good home and good childhood. I was safe. Education was not important for me – I am not making any excuses, but it just wasn’t. I am currently an alcoholic. I say that but I have the will power to say no. I have one son; he is turning 11. I am currently trying to leave a ten-year relationship. The man that I was dating, he took my son as his own. He is a good man, a good father, but he just really isn’t there for my needs. I have learned many lessons, values in my life, with all the hardships that came with that. I have become more spiritual.

Last year, I came to [a big city] on a whim. I did not know anybody. I still don’t. I just wanted a new scenery, new air, new life, and a fresh start. When I first came down here, I had transportation, which made things a lot easier. I figured out the city, found work to keep busy, got a place, and everything was good. But it’s hard to let go, hard to get back up. About four months after having my own home, my boyfriend come back into the picture. After losing my job, it just went down hill for a bit. I lost my position as a carry aid. That’s where my heart is – helping people, humanitarian character. Five days before Christmas, he got on assistance with my help. He only got half of his cheque, or so he says, and we just couldn’t pay for rent. It was my breaking point; emotionally it was just toxic. I took my son and a backpack with whatever we had. I stayed with my family for a bit. He came and found me and my son in [another city]. I just want to stay away, ten years is a long time. As hard as it is, I just have to let it go.

Two days ago on my birthday, I came hitch hiking down here to the shelter. I have the will, I feel content now with my emotions. I miss my son, but I have a month here to figure things out and get back on track. I’m just looking to start fresh once again, find work, and get my life back in order. Coming here it’s like that push that you need. The ladies are nice, they are here for anything to be honest. I wish I could cry on someone’s shoulder, but I think I’ve cried the river already. These ladies have given me the push I need in life.

What would you like other women to know, who are thinking about contacting a shelter?

Don’t be embarrassed. Pick up the phone. There is more to life, there is a lot of living here. I have a lot of faith; I know I’m not alone. It’s what makes my journey a lot easier. I want to get back into school, I want to get my vehicle back, get my license back. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, I want to go back to church and get my halo back on.

*names have been changed for security