One of the young girls who has been coming to OCH for a few years shared her story at last year’s Breakfast on the Rideau. Her one story outlines what so many youth go in their lifetimes and why it’s so important to have services like Operation Come Home.
My name is Nicole and this is my story.
The first time I did drugs I was 10. I met an older girl and she asked me if I wanted to hang out one night and at that point anywhere was better than being home with my drunk mother. I met up with this girl and her boyfriend and we went to a forest called Mud Lake. She handed me a pill and said “are you ready to have the time of your life?”
Those words were all to true. I remember how my body felt numb and how I didn’t feel pain. I was hooked. I went home around 6am covered in bruises and scratches and passed out on my mom’s living room couch. I woke up to police and CAS ready to take me to the hell I would call home.
Age 12: I was a full blown addict who was being passed around group home to group home, the way parents pass down second hand clothes to their friends’ kids. I went from school to school but it always stayed the same, I was bullied because I smelled like smoke and because I “broke the rules”.
Age 13: I met my dad for the first time. He flew me out to Edmonton for a week. It still to this day was the best week of my life. I had a dad.
Age 14: CAS moved me to a group home in Cumberland. Their logic was that it was too far to run from but close enough to get to school. Like I wouldn’t run from school, right?
I went into high school with no friends and suddenly everyone wanted to be my friend, mainly because I was popping pills in the smoking section and drinking booze in the school bathroom.
I had met a girl named Shannon in my math class. Little did I know that she would become my rock. At this point nothing that I did took my pain so I started to self-harm. We had common enemies. We both drank, smoked, did drugs, cut and we both came from broken homes. Soon after meeting her, we were placed in the same group home. When one cried, we both cried. When on cut, the other was there to clean up the wounds.
March 4th, 2004: Shannon had taken her own life.
My 15th birthday, I watched my best friend be put 6 feet under.
15: After Shannon died, something snapped. I tried to stop cutting and doing drugs, but it only got worse. I spent 6 months in the psyche ward. I was sober and had started talking to my dad again.
16: I moved in with my dad and signed myself out of CAS. It blew up in my face and I moved back to Ottawa dadless and now homeless. I was introduced to downtown. Rideau Street. The people there became my family. One morning after sleeping on Major’s Hill, someone brought me to OCH. I finally got to eat some food.
17: I was still using and still homeless. Everyone morning I was able to go to OCH and eat breakfast. It was somewhere safe. At night, outreach would come onto Rideau and give us food, water, socks and in winter hats and mitts. They even hooked me up with a sleeping bag!
18: One of the staff at OCH got me into the Young Women’s Shelter and I started the Job Action Program. They taught me to make resumes, cover letters and we did mock interviews. I also got my first aid and Smart Serve through that program.
19: I now had a home and was doing better than most days. One day I was at my mom’s boyfriend’s house with my friend. My dad messaged me and I was so excited.
I remember thinking “I have a dad again”. I was dead wrong. He asked me if I wanted to sleep with his friends for “good money”. My own father wanted me to sell my body.
Needless to say I faceplanted.
20: I was doing harder drugs than coke and ecstasy. I moved on to ketamine. It was amazing. It made my world fade every time. I was sleeping around because at the time if someone else briefly loved me, I forgot how much I hated myself.
When I decided to get sober, I started going back to OCH. They were always there to talk and help me as best they can. They saved my life.
I am 22 now. I am still going to OCH and I am 3 months sober and counting. I applied to the job program but if that doesn’t work, one of the staff and I have already set a plan B to find me work.
OCH is always growing with new kids that come in the door and the new students that work with us for a time and its nice to see the outreach OCH is capable of giving.
The only thing about going to OCH for so long that I don’t like is connecting with a staff and then they have to leave. The staff are amazing at what the do. Without them, there is a good chance I wouldn’t be here anymore.