Visiting Street Haven put my problems in perspective

Lunch at Street Haven

Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to make me realize how fantastic my life is. My most recent foot-meets-butt incident was a couple of weeks ago when I joined a group of my fellow media types for a delicious and healthy lunch at Street Haven, a homeless shelter for women in the heart of Toronto. I’d never been to a homeless shelter before and it was an eye-opening experience.

While there, I was given the opportunity to meet some of Street Haven’s past and present clients as well as the people behind the scenes. I chatted with Catherine Beaver, a charming woman, about my age, sitting across from me and on the surface we have a lot in common. We’re both university-educated working moms in our thirties. But our experiences in this life have been so different. Catherine has dealt with addiction, homelessness, life as a single mom…She lived at Street Haven from 2004–2010. Hearing her story made me feel very, very blessed.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to make a list of the things that get me down most often — along with a few reminders about how lucky I am to have such problems.

1. I can’t believe I just binged on spaghetti/my kid’s Halloween candy/a bowl of icing, no wonder I haven’t lost any weight this month! Candy? Many of these women wouldn’t have food if Street Haven didn’t exist! Street Haven recently launched Operation Soul Food, a groundbreaking program designed to bring healthy food to their clients. On the day I was there, we had soup and salad — apparently salad isn’t something you’ll usually see in a shelter. You’re much more likely to see the cheap, starchy foods I crave. But would I really crave that crap if I couldn’t have any fresh vegetables? I’ve never felt so lucky to have salad!

Staff at Street Haven serve up a healthy lunch

2. Damn, being depressed/ having Generalized Anxiety Disorder sucks! Yes, they really do suck! But, my symptoms are relatively mild, especially when compared to some women who are bipolar and schizophrenic. My medicine controls my symptoms so that I can function very well. I can work. I can live an ordinary life. But many of this country’s poorest citizens suffer from mental health issues so severe that it’s impossible for them to work. And when they’re not “sick” enough to be hospitalized, they have no where else to go.

3. My husband/kids/mom is driving me bananas today! Yes, but I have a family who loves me. An increasing number of Street Haven’s clients are older women whose husbands have died — without his income, they can’t make the rent. I can’t imagine being so alone that I had no where else to go. Can you?

4. My kid won’t eat what I make for dinner!!! Yeah, but I have other stuff to give her. Did you know that one in ten Canadian children don’t (doesn’t? Help me out grammar snobs) get enough to eat.

5. I’m so lonely/I just want to be alone. Much of my moodiness stems from my interactions with (or lack of interaction with) others. I want what I want, when I want it — and sometimes, I actually get it! But, as I blog away in my big-old bedroom, I’m reminded of my tour of the rooms at Street Haven. One twin-sized bed and one locker. That’s it. Not to mention having to share your space with four  roommates. My need for peace and quiet is feeling awfully luxurious right now, so is my queen-sized bed.

Damn. I have it pretty good, don’t I? I am so blessed.

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