In the photo: Patti Zettel, Sheway Manager and Karen Leanne Starr, Sheway Client
When Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Sheway—a pregnancy outreach program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—on September 25th, Karen Leanne Starr will have a front row seat.
“It never crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to be in the presence of the royal couple,” says Karen. “My world is so different, but I’m excited that they want to hear stories about struggle and addiction.”
Karen had a dysfunctional childhood in foster care. She was exposed to drugs and alcohol at a young age. She suffered physical and mental abuse and at times considered suicide. She reached out to Sheway when she was 17 and pregnant with her first child.
“Sheway was the family I never had. The staff never judged me, they treated me with respect and taught me how to be a parent,” says Karen. “When I was using drugs they made sure I was fed and had clean clothes.” Karen is now the mother of four children. “Two of my children will be with me when I meet Prince William and Princess Kate. It’s an honour to meet them,” says Karen.
Sheway provides health and social service supports to pregnant women and mothers who are dealing with drug and alcohol issues. It’s operated by Vancouver Coastal Health in partnership with the BC Government, Vancouver Native Health Society and the YWCA of Vancouver.
“Sheway has embraced a woman centred, harm reduction, trauma informed model of care for the last 23 years. The integration between the four partners, along with Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society, is integral to how Sheway is able to truly affect change for the women and children we serve,” says Laura Case, Chief Operating Officer, Vancouver Community, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
- Daily hot lunches
- Weekly food bags
- Nutrition counselling and prenatal vitamins
- Grocery store food/milk coupons
- Practical support for securing medical care, housing, advocacy and social benefits
- Prenatal and postnatal care
- Child and adult immunizations
- Parenting support
- Alcohol and drug counselling
- STD/HIV counselling and testing
Sheway is a Coast Salish word meaning “growth.” Using the tools she acquired at Sheway, Karen Starr has grown into a stronger, more independent woman. “Without Sheway, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Karen. “They reached out for me when I couldn’t reach out for myself. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to raise awareness about the possibilities that exist because of Sheway,” says Karen.
As part of the Second Generation Strategy
, Vancouver Coastal Health and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) are committed to providing culturally sensitive programs and services for women on the Downtown Eastside. Helping, serving and empowering women like Karen, is what our teams do on a daily basis.