A cold and rainy morning

It was cold and rainy morning on the downtown streets of Vancouver. My partner and I were doing our routine morning outreach down Granville. On this particular damp morning, we came upon a young woman asking for change. As I looked to her weak body I could tell the cool temperature was taking a toll as she was shaking hiding beneath a canopy at the entrance way of a store. Her knees were pressed against her chest trying to conserve whatever heat remained. The closer we walked to this young woman I realized I knew her; her name was Stephanie, but we called her Steph. Part of me was saddened, as the last news I heard about her was she was living with her parents. I wondered what happened to her and was shocked as to why she was back on the streets downtown.

Immediately I called her name and asked her how she was doing. Initially she tried to hide her face from us, as if embarrassed by the situation she had fallen back into. She eventually looked up and I asked her how she was doing again. Steph then went on to describe to us how she had relapsed after being clean from heroin for 5 months. She had come back to downtown Vancouver with her Mom for an appointment but the memories of her past overwhelmed her as well as the cravings for a fix.


It was cold and rainy morning on the downtown streets of Vancouver. My partner and I were doing our routine morning outreach down Granville. On this particular damp morning, we came upon a young woman asking for change. As I looked to her weak body I could tell the cool temperature was taking a toll as she was shaking hiding beneath a canopy at the entrance way of a store. Her knees were pressed against her chest trying to conserve whatever heat remained. The closer we walked to this young woman I realized I knew her; her name was Stephanie, but we called her Steph. Part of me was saddened, as the last news I heard about her was she was living with her parents. I wondered what happened to her and was shocked as to why she was back on the streets downtown.

Immediately I called her name and asked her how she was doing. Initially she tried to hide her face from us, as if embarrassed by the situation she had fallen back into. She eventually looked up and I asked her how she was doing again. Steph then went on to describe to us how she had relapsed after being clean from heroin for 5 months. She had come back to downtown Vancouver with her Mom for an appointment but the memories of her past overwhelmed her as well as the cravings for a fix.

At an opportune moment she disappeared from her Mom in search of something that would make the pain go away. That night she missed the ferry ride, got high, and found herself back in the prison of her past. That morning we found Steph; she had been on the streets for 3 days and was panning for money because she dope sick. (Dope sick is when you are a heroin user who has gone without a fix for a period of time. The person will then go into a violent phase of sickness where basically they want to crawl out of their skin because it wants the heroin so badly.) My partner and I invited her back to Covenant House offering its services to her but she kindly refused them explaining that she knew we were there and would come to Covenant House if she needed help. My heart hurt as we walked away but I knew there was nothing more we could for her at that moment. She would have to come to us when she was ready.

A couple of weeks passed and one afternoon while at work, I received a phone call from Steph. I was a little surprised which soon turned to worry as Steph said she was calling from the hospital where she had been for the past week. Sometime after we had seen Steph on Granville, a severe infection had set into the bone of her leg due to the heroin use. Her leg had basically swelled up to 3 times the size of her other leg.

The situation Steph was describing didn’t sound optimistic at all; however, Steph’s voice was surprisingly hopeful. She told me that this relapse was a big wake up call for her. She realized that she needed to focus on her life and get it back together. She knows now that she desires and wants to be clean, that she wants that life for herself. Steph continued to share with me that everything happens for a reason and she believes she wasn’t meant to die that day. She was meant to do something much greater with her life.

The following weeks while Steph healed, we continued to visit her in the hospital during outreach. The doctors told us Steph was lucky to be alive and they weren’t actually sure how she was alive. During those few weeks in the hospital we had great conversations with Steph about her life, future plans, and what she experienced on the street. She thanked us numerous times for being a part of Covenant House and expressed what a great organization it was. She said Covenant House helped so much because they always supported her no matter what situation she was in, even if it was in the depths of her addiction.

Steph is now focusing on her recovery and continues to grow stronger emotionally and physically every passing day. She lives back in her home town where she has a place of her own, lives on Income Assistance near the hospital and her parents, and has a part time job. She is driven by her dream of one day passing on her life experience to others in the career of a drug and alcohol counselor.

Our outreach team meets young people "where they’re at" and encourages them to come inside and access our daily drop-in or shelter program