City program helps women find homes

A London woman who was first homeless at 13 and only recently found stability shares her story of finding housing with the help of a city program for women at risk.

One woman shares her story of living on London's streets, and how she's come through the hardship

Jaclyn Seeler is the case coordinator of the Street Level Women at Risk Program, which works to get women housing and then intensive support to help them overcome challenges and meet their goals. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

At 13, her mom kicked her out of the house. 

She couch-surfed. She spent time in youth shelters. 

"Back then there were buildings that were empty that we'd sleep in," Liz, 32, told CBC's London Morning.

She was homeless for years but has recently been helped by a program run by the City of London and by agencies that offer intensive in-home supports for people who want to find housing. 

"Scary. When you're 13, to live outside, it was scary. You're alone. You don't have anywhere you can go to feel safe." 

CBC News has agreed not to use her last name. 

Liz didn't get her own place until she was 16, a tiny basement apartment in the city's south end, so short she could barely stand up in it.  

"But it was my own place so I didn't care. It was nice to have my own home." 

The only person she had to rely on? Herself. 

Years of being homeless and being in-and-out of jail would follow for Liz, until an officer with the London police service's Persons at Risk team heard that Liz was struggling and looking for help.

"The sergeant heard that I was homeless again. I was in jail and while I was there, I lost my place. When I got out I came home to nothing and was bouncing around," Liz said recalling how the police officer put her in touch with the Street Level Women at Risk program.

It includes 25 agencies helping to get women off the street, housed, and then working with them to deal with their challenges and goals. 

The Street Level Women at Risk program has helped 30 women get housing, though there are 150 others currently living in London who could benefit from the program. 

"We need to get them the right housing at the right time, with the right level of support, so we can work on the goals and challenges that led to their homelessness," said Jaclyn Seeler, a coordinator with the program. 

"We feel so honoured to work with the women in this program. Their strength and resiliency is just so incredible."

Liz's worker has helped her with everything from getting to her probation appointments, the doctor's office and the methadone clinic. 

"Having someone who can keep a schedule and can keep track of things and say 'do this and do this,' is really good because I'm not really good at keeping track of time," Liz said. 

"I'm off probation now. I have a really nice place." 

Liz is applying to go to school to be a social worker. 

She wants to help women who, like her, have struggled. 

"I think I can help girls see that you can come through it, that you can eventually do something with your life," she said. "(My social workers) are really great. They've helped me so much. They help a lot of people."