This blog post is an interview with Charlotte, a manager of the drop-in in Saskatoon, operated by Servant Partners and House For All Nations. She speaks of her journey of finding home in the community while two guests at the drop in find home in her care.
On March 1, 2021, Charlotte lost her home to a house fire. She was living just outside of Saskatoon and would have lost her life if not for her dog, who ran back and forth three times to drag Charlotte to safety. While she was in the hospital, Charlotte realized that she had nowhere to go afterward. She had no shoes, furniture, or insurance. She just retired and had no means to make money. Charlotte had lost everything in that fire.
Thankfully, a young man living on the west side of Saskatoon heard about Charlotte’s situation and immediately offered his home to Charlotte. Charlotte was grateful for his offer, but also heartbroken over the loss of her home. She never cared for the city, preferring the calmness of the countryside instead. Furthermore, Charlotte had lived in many places in Saskatoon but never in the core neighbourhood “just because I never understood it,” she explained, “And if not for that tragedy, I never would have learned… the special people who live here.”
Charlotte shared how, for two to three months afterward, strangers came to the door with food and clothing. Charlotte was overwhelmed by the generosity that was extended to her and her family. Tears come to her eyes every time she recalls the blessings the neighbourhood gave her.
Later, she found work at a community drop-in centre, opened by Servant Partners and the House for All Nations, where she came to love the people in the neighbourhood even more. She said, “[the people here are] genuine, truthful, honest, and raw. They don’t hide anything… They’re beautiful people.” She was especially touched when she came in for her shift after months of working there and two guests immediately commented on how nice she looked. “It wasn’t the compliment itself,” she explained, it was the kindness of the guests that showed her how far their relationship has come. “They wouldn’t have done it before… but they trust me now.”
Living in the core neighbourhood has been life-changing for Charlotte, who “never expected to learn so much near the age of 60.” She said, “I can never tell you how much [coming to the centre and meeting everyone that I have] has changed my life. Healing came from strangers in my life. I know everyone is genuine and I can speak freely and it has healed me immensely.” A beautiful takeaway Charlotte shared from her experience was that, “there’s so much good in the world, but if you let [the bad] take you, it’s hard to see it.”
Since moving to the neighbourhood, Charlotte has seen how her transformation has extended to others as well. She highlighted the stories of two women. The first was Aden*. Charlotte said, “[Aden was] very rough around the edges, very outspoken, very forward. She’d been in trouble, in jail, and was very hard to get close to, but when I met her for the first time she just took to me and asked if I would take care of her.” So, Charlotte did.
Aden would regularly go to the drop-in centre and borrow Charlotte’s phone to call the people she needed to call. Charlotte has a soft spot for her. She said, “I could see what’s really down underneath there: a small child trying to make her way through so many trials.” When Aden got into an incident at the drop-in centre, Charlotte stepped in to de-escalate and she told Charlotte, “if you’ll stay with me until they take me, I’ll stay, I won’t make a fuss.” So, that’s what they did.
Charlotte didn’t see Aden for two to three weeks afterward, but when she saw her again, Aden threw her arms around Charlotte, telling her how much she’d missed Charlotte. Aden told Charlotte that “everything’s good now. I don’t have to use the phone anymore and I’ll try to be good. I don’t need to head back to the centre anymore, but I want to come back and see you. That’s my safe spot. That’s where I know someone cares about me.” Charlotte was so moved as Aden let her feelings out, clean and sober.
The second was Nina* who came to the drop-in months ago to do some volunteer work. She wanted to build up her resume but never came to the scheduled shifts so they lost touch for a bit. However, Nina went to the drop-in on Thanksgiving months later and “[looked] so healthy and good,” Charlotte said. Nina told Charlotte, “I want to thank you for accepting me as a volunteer even though I never made it.” Nina went on to share how she has since moved back home and is continuing her high school education. She said, “I want to do what you have [done for me]. I want to make a difference [in someone else’s life].”
Charlotte was astounded by the young woman who put so much trust in her, even though they did not know each other well. Charlotte shared, “when we’re at the centre, there’s a closeness… everyone is there for everybody. There’s so much good news in there. I have been to many places, but the centre is the most welcoming that I have known.”
Charlotte has since become a manager at the drop-in centre and is excited to invest in the neighbourhood for the foreseeable future. “This is home,” she said, “This is home.”
*names have been changed