VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Deborah Carter inspires every woman she works with, relating to them like no-one else can, because, like them, she too was once addicted to drugs and living on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Now a homelessness prevention worker, single mothers facilitator, and outreach worker, Carter is also the Courage To Come Back award recipient in the addiction category.
“I believe in helping women where they’re at. So, even if it’s just, you know, handing out a clean pair of socks every day to somebody and that’s my relationship for two months, then that’s how we build it,” she says.
You could add miracle worker to her list of titles. And Deborah knows miracles. She’s lived one herself. Leaving an abusive relationship, she ended up in a rollover crash. The pain from it sent her in search of harder drugs, until finally, she was a homeless addict and just about to learn she was five months pregnant.
“I thought I was strong enough to deal with all of it by myself, you know, a single mom working, trying to go to school and it all caught up to me pretty quick. Within a couple of years I was pretty… involved in the drug life and trying to cover it up from my family,” she recalls. “And when they found out, we all discussed it would be best if I left the house, because the children were there and they were with my mom and from there I had nowhere to go.”
By that point she had endured so much already: a sexual assault that left her infected with Hepatitis C and HIV. But it was the birth of her youngest child that spurred on the change she so desperately needed. “It was that time of being in hospital, having clean time, that got me thinking about what was important and how to turn it around,” she admits.
Determined to regain custody of her daughter, Deborah found her way to the Crabtree Support Group to receive counselling. She started volunteering with the group and became an employee in 2008. “It was something I could join to be a part of, learn to be a parent again, and it was just from there… there were opportunities that came about here that I could participate in.”
Today, she helps women who are a lot like she was. Working out of the YWCA on the Downtown Eastside, she helps those facing homelessness, addiction, violence and poverty. She doesn’t quite wear the title role model comfortably, but that’s exactly what she is. “I think I prove that there’s hope and things can change. Things are not hopeless. You know, when we stop trying, then that’s when they’re hopeless. Just to keep trying.”
Deborah’s advice to her clients is the same she would have given herself, had she the chance. “Have the courage to ask for help sooner than later. Know that you’re worth it. And there’s people out there who are listening.”