Devon’s Story

“That hour with my daughter is the only thing I have in my life.”

Devon’s Story

It only takes one hour a week to give Devon a reason to keep on fighting. It’s during those precious 60 minutes that she gets to see her 2½-year-old daughter.

“She’s my everything,” says Devon, her eyes alight with love. “She’s so full of life and so intelligent. She’s a non-stop chatterbox and absolutely loves dinosaurs. She’s just the light of my life. And she is the only reason for me to keep going.”

Devon, 39, gets to see her daughter just once a week because she has been in foster care over a year.

“They took the other half of me that day,” she says. Years ago, she had already given up care of her other daughter, 19, and her 12-year-old son to her parents. Devon is not only a mother who is heartsick over the loss of her children, she is also a drug addict and living rough on the streets of Victoria.

Devon took her first hit of crack cocaine when she was 18, and has been using hard drugs on and off ever since. She lived in “small town nowhere Alberta” where, with her boyfriend, she first became homeless six years ago.

“We lived in a van in Alberta until he went to jail,” Devon says. “I lived in that van by myself, depressed and doing drugs, in the freezing cold, waiting for him. Before that, I had never been homeless.”

When the boyfriend got out of prison, they decided to head to Victoria. “My father and my grandfather were in the Navy, and this is the last place I ever remember being happy,” she says. “My boyfriend had never seen the ocean, so we came here.”

Homelessness and drug addiction continued although they both tried to quit several times. On the streets, someone told them about Our Place, and they started to use the community centre to meet their basic needs. It became a real community for them, too, as they got to know people and felt welcomed. Soon, they began to call the 900 block of Pandora Avenue home.

“There are people down here that have been more my family than my own family,” she says.

She rattles off names of people who live on the block, as well as Our Place staff members. She tells stories of the things they do for each other as neighbours. She also tells stories of heartache, watching peoples’ lives be taken away from them in myriad ways.

“Misery loves company,” she says. “We find people like us. They’re beautiful and we love each other. I never knew them as anything but who they are, and they’re my best friends.”

When people started getting housed three years ago, Devon was offered housing in Our Place’s Muncey Place hotel. That’s where she learned she was pregnant. “I found out at 9 weeks, and quit drugs by 10 weeks,” she says. “I stayed clean the whole time, even while I was dealing with my boyfriend and his opiate addiction. I worked my ass off to be able to take my baby home from the hospital.”

After leaving the hospital, she found housing and stayed clean for 15 months. Everything had been going great, until the day her boyfriend left the baby alone outside in a stroller for a half hour while he was doing opioids. Devon lost everything that day – it was Mother’s Day.

“In that month’s span, they took my boyfriend to jail, they took my home, and they took my daughter,” she says. “As if that wasn’t enough to kick my ass back to drugs. So, I was back out, homeless on the street, by myself.”

When her boyfriend got out of jail again, they got back together, but it’s hard for Devon to talk about him now because he has become increasingly violent due to his increased opioid addiction.

“He’s not himself anymore,” she says. “There’s nothing left. I fell in love with this man., but when he’s dope sick… I don’t know what else to say. The violence started when the opiates got worse and the homelessness got the better of us. That is what life on the street is like. It turns us into people we never wanted to be.”

Devon won’t leave Victoria though, despite there being very few options for real, life-changing treatment, especially if you are a woman living on Vancouver Island. If a woman wants to get clean, she must sacrifice everything and go to the lower mainland. Hardly any women will actually do that because it means giving up their children, and what little they have.

“I wouldn’t get my hour if I go,” says Devon. “That hour with my daughter is the only thing I have in my life.” Devon sees hope in that hour, and it helps her to dream of a world that could be within reach if only given the opportunity. “In a perfect world, my life would look like my kids’ home. It could be just a two-bedroom apartment, but to have my kids with me, that would be my perfect world.”

Together we can help people like Devon see how to find their perfect world, whatever that may be, and a better future.

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