At 14 years old, Shannon was suddenly faced with tremendous peer pressure to start using drugs. When she was introduced to heroin by a boyfriend, she found herself spiralling downhill, and fast.
“I was in and out of youth treatment centres, but didn’t consider myself to have a problem. Every time I left detox, I was convinced I could use drugs again,” she recalls. “My denial always brought me back to where I started.”
When Shannon learned she was pregnant, she knew her pattern had to change. She was admitted to Fir Square, a BC Women’s Hospital maternity program that helps pregnant women and their babies recover from addictions. Initially, Shannon’s parents did not want her to keep the baby and encouraged her to give it up for adoption, which caused a rift between them.
Shannon kept the baby and moved into supportive housing provided by Aunt Leah’s Place, where she began to rebuild her life. Aunt Leah’s has a 25-year history of helping new moms who are at risk of losing their babies to the foster care system learn how to care for them and create a healthy environment for themselves and their children.
Shannon credits Aunt Leah’s as the organization that really helped her through her toughest moments.
“I never had a baby, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “Being in a supervised and supportive environment, I felt like part of a community. Staff members were always there to answer any questions that cropped up. If it wasn’t for Aunt Leah’s, I probably wouldn’t have my daughter with me today.”
Living at Aunt Leah’s also provided a place for Shannon to build relationships with other moms who were going through similar circumstances. A combination of staying at Aunt Leah’s and visiting her parents on weekends offered an ideal and safe way for Shannon to reconnect with her parents.
After a lot of hard work and rebuilding of trust, today Shannon and her parents share a wonderful relationship. She now lives with her new boyfriend and they have two daughters. She keeps her life on track with lots of support from her family and by attending support groups. Whenever she returns to Aunt Leah’s to say hello, she is welcomed with open arms.
Thanks to Central City Foundation, now even more mothers can create safe and stable lives for themselves and their children. To enable Aunt Leah’s to expand its valuable programs, Central City has purchased a new building on 20th street in New Westminster.
The new property, one of Central City’s social purpose real estate projects, incorporates supportive housing, a retail training facility and thrift store that enables young people to finish school, train for new opportunities and build better futures.
For more information about Aunt Leah’s, visit www.auntleahs.org.