Transgender woman makes shelter more welcoming to all women

As a transgender woman, Jayce Carver has battled drug addiction and suffered from sexual abuse while living on the city's streets. After years of recovery, she's now a housing support worker at the Welcome Centre women's shelter, where she helps women find permanent homes.

'I want to use my lived experience as a woman to assist other women'

Jayce Carver is the newest member of the Welcome Centre shelter for women. She is the centre's first transgender staff member. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Jayce Carver hopes to make a Windsor women's shelter more welcoming to the LGBT community, while working to find homes for  women suffering from abuse. 

As a transgender woman, Carver has battled drug addiction and suffered from physical and sexual abuse while living on the city's streets.

After years of recovery, she's now a housing support worker at the Welcome Centre women's shelter, where she helps clients find stable homes.

"I went through many of those same things (they did)," Carver told CBC News. "I want to use my lived experience as a woman to assist other women."

Ensuring transgender women are supported is important to the centre's executive director Lady Laforet, who said transgender women are at a higher risk of experiencing violence and becoming homeless. They also often have more barriers to education and employment.  

Lady Laforet from the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"If we support (transgender) women and provide these services to them, how does it not make sense for us to have a transgender women providing those services?" she explained.  

Making the transition

Carver has extensive experience that she said will help her understand the struggles many of the women at the shelter are going through.

She left her abusive home as a teenager and moved in with her boyfriend, who she would later marry. Shortly after getting together, Carver told him she was a transgender woman.  

But the couple decided Carver could live as a gay man and stay in their relationship. It wasn't until 2012 that Carver decided she could no longer live that way. 

"I already am a woman and I just have to make some changes in order to do that," she recalled about wanting to start her transition.

After seeing a therapist, she was given multiple diagnoses and put on medication, instead of getting help to transition. Carver's struggles continued and she developed a substance abuse problem by 2015. 

I feel like the women already feel more confident to come to me for support.- Jayce Carver

When she tried to get help, she wasn't recognized by the facility as a woman. Instead, she was placed in a men's program. 

"It was scary and isolating. There was a lot of bullying and I was too afraid to say anything," she said. "I really just needed to withdraw and figure out what my next steps were."

That isolation continued as Carver battled her addiction. Eventually, she fought for and received an accommodation plan, which was a small step in the right direction. But her treatment again forced her to be on her own.

She went to programs alone, she lived alone. That's when she knew she had to focus on her transition. 

She started hormone therapy, but her addiction continued until she was eventually hospitalized. She attempted suicide and ended up living on the streets, where she endured physical and sexual abuse.

Finding help

Carver eventually used her experience as a human rights advocate on herself. She treated herself as a client and turned to Windsor Pride to find a mentor in the community who could support her. 

Together, they found a new doctor to help Carver heal from childhood trauma, abuse and addiction. She was eventually accepted into a women's relapse prevention program and became the first transgender woman to graduate the program.

Jayce Carver survived abused and drug addiction. Now she's using those experiences to help women at the shelter. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Clean and sober, Carver developed a clinical-based service navigation and advocacy support program, which helps people isolate what they want to work on and what they need help with.

"We assist them with making those initial phone calls, because that's where transgender people often feel like they can't take that next step," said Carver.  

Working at the Welcome Centre is an opportunity Carver wants to take full advantage of in her quest to help other women. 

Initially, she worried the clients might not feel comfortable working with a transgender woman, but after two weeks on the job, she already feels like a part of the centre's family. 

"I feel like the women already feel more confident to come to me for support," she said. "I feel like I've created some relationships with the staff here as well."