“It is overwhelming what you see on the streets. The pain, the suffering, and the children. My God, the children who are out there by themselves in the middle of the night. It’s terrifying.” — Miatreya
When you first meet Miatreya, the vision of her working on an organic farm and raising her two sons isn’t difficult to imagine. In fact, she fits the part perfectly.
And, for awhile, that was her life until drugs and addiction took it all away.
Miatreya was born in Victoria, but spent most of her formative years further north in Port Hardy. When she was 19, she moved in with her husband, Chris.
Living on a farm, Miatreya enjoyed a quiet and relatively isolated life, raising her two sons (one is now 14, the other 11) while Chris worked in construction.
When work dried up in Port Hardy, the family moved to the mainland — and that’s where everything changed.
Seven years ago, the 40-year-old and her husband began experimenting with crystal meth, a highly addictive stimulant that delivers almost instant euphoria, followed by an increase in energy and alertness. The side effects, however, include severe anxiety, paranoia, and insomnia.
The long-term effects are even worse.
Miatreya’s gaze drops to her hands as she talks about losing everything to drugs — including her two sons.
The boys were taken into foster care after their parents were arrested for possession of drug paraphenalia, including the necessary equipment to manufacture crystal meth.
Both boys have since been adopted.
After their arrest, Chris and Miatreya found themselves lving in a van for over a year, couch surfing with friends, and then living in parks and under bridges.
“It was horrible,” Miatreya says. “And that made us use drugs even more. I didn’t want to sleep, so I used meth to stay awake. When Chris was working …” her voice quavers and tears fill her eyes. “That’s when I was raped.”
As she talks, it becomes clear the assault wasn’t an isolated incident. She refers to the men who live in the parks and prey on others as Creepers.
“Living on the street is where I discovered all the different types of homelessness,” she says. “Poverty, addiction, medical, criminal . . . there are so many ways people end up in the discard pile.”
The worst, however, is the children. Miatreya practically shakes as she remembers the faces of adolescents and young teens roaming the streets around Surrey and downtown Vancouver.
After going through detox at Creekside Withdrawal Management Centre in Surrey, Chris and Miatreya moved back to the island.
“We had to get away,” she explains. “I couldn’t go back to those parks.”
In Victoria, the couple — known as The Otters — found themselves camping in the green space behind the provincial law courts. “There were only three tents at the time,” says Miatreya.
But as the small community grew into a raucus tent city, Miatreya’s anxiety levels skyrocketed. The couple packed up and headed to Beacon Hill park.
“Thank God for Our Place,” Miatreya says. “We ate there three times a day. I don’t know what we would have done.”
It wasn’t just food that Miatreya found, however. It was also compassion.
“When my anxiety was out of control, the outreach workers and spiritual care team would settle me down, and give me a quiet place to eat. Everyone treated me really respectfully.”
Living at Choices — Our Place’s transitional home in View Royal — now, the couple has been drug free for over two months. Chris is back at work in construction, and Miatreya is reconnecting with her children.
“Having an address and stability helps,” she says. “I’ve been getting letters and emails from them.” She is also holding out hope for a visitation soon.