Eleanor is a regular at the Thursday Women’s Drop-in at All Saints Church – Community Centre. She is very outgoing and has a twinkle in her eye that helps to hide the pain she suffers from chronic medical conditions. When I asked her about the difference that All Saints makes in her life, she told me that she enjoys coming to the drop-in on Thursdays to play cards, have a hot lunch, do crafts, and visit the clothing bank. “I’ve lived in this community for over 45 years and I see a lot of people who struggle with mental illness. I worked at 416 (416 Community Support for Women) for years. The girls on the streets call me ‘Mom.’ My own daughter is on the street…she’s quite sick but she is being treated for her medical condition and I pray that she will get well. But now, with my disabilities, I’m in therapy and it’s hard to get out. If it wasn’t for the Women’s Drop-in, I’d be home all alone.” I asked Eleanor to tell me what gives her hope for the future. She said “I have a deep faith and I pray every day.”
The men of The BRIDGE Prison Ministry often talk about community and accountability. Don told me that the first step to becoming a community in which members are accountable to one another is talking about values. “School didn’t teach me anything about values but here we talk about values all the time. We talk about difficult things like guilt, shame and hardship in connection with others who have the same experience. I learned that change is a choice and that awareness of who I am and how my actions affect the others around me is a great agent for change. The BRIDGE helps me stay on track.” Don has a hope that, in the future, successful reintegration programs like The BRIDGE will be able to “change the minds of the media and the justice system. We are people, too.” For more information about The BRIDGE and its community reintegration programs, please visit their website.