It is with pride that we share this report on La rue des Femmes and its unique approach ➡ relational health.
A huge thank you to La Presse and Studio XTRA La Presse for this comprehensive article, which demonstrates the importance of our relational and specialized care in healing homelessness.
Relational health – La rue des Femmes: healing homelessness
The number of women living in a state of homelessness on the streets of Montréal is growing. Fortunately, there are material resources available to provide for their basic needs, such as a roof over their heads, a hot meal, clothing and medication. Nevertheless, to heal homelessness and help these women get off the streets, we need to understand them better; to care for them better. This is what Léonie Couture and her team have been trying to do for almost 30 years.
If there is one conviction that drives Léonie Couture, Founding President of La rue des Femmes, it is that homelessness is not simply a matter of not having a roof over your head. “There are different degrees of severity of homelessness,” she explains. “When they come to us, these women are completely traumatized, broken and in a state of chronic post-traumatic stress.
They had experienced repeated violence long before they ended up on the street: “They are survivors of multiple traumas.
Wounds that cannot be healed with a bowl of hot soup.
Léa sees herself in the image painted by Léonie Couture. This woman, once an addict, found herself homeless in her 30s, after a painful loss. However, the real wound she was suffering from had been lurking inside her since childhood. This survivor’s life has been a long series of abuses: sexual and physical abuse from a young age by her father; assaults by men just as “broken” as her; a rape while on the streets… not to mention the intergenerational wounds she inherited as an Indigenous person. “I was in such a state of intoxication when I arrived at La rue des Femmes that I felt like part of my humanity had died,” she recalls.
One minute at a time
Léa slowly remade herself, with the help of the intervention workers and specialized workshops at La rue des Femmes. One minute at a time,” she says, recounting her long road to recovery.
Here, I was welcomed as a human being. I was given the unconditional love and guidance that I should normally have received from my family, had they not been dysfunctional.Léa, nurse and former homeless person
For the first time in her journey, the focus was not just on the symptoms – drug and alcohol abuse – but on the causes of her suffering. “It was the first time that the traumas that led me to become homeless were acknowledged,” Léa says. My healing began when I came to La rue des Femmes in 2013.
Relational health: An innovative approach
This approach, found nowhere else, is the brainchild of Léonie Couture. More than a shelter or a roof, La rue des Femmes provides care to women experiencing homelessness. At its three houses in downtown Montréal, teams of intervention workers are specially trained to welcome and care for these deeply broken women, so that they can put themselves back at the centre of their own lives.
For these women, there is hope. They are not condemned to exclusion, to shame, to not having a voice. By regaining their relational skills, they can be happy.Léonie Couture, Founding President of La rue des Femmes
Healing from homelessness takes time… time, qualified intervention workers as well as relational and specialized care, not to mention the material resources to provide essential needs while the women are stabilizing their situation. Women who attend the organization’s day centres do so for as long as they need. They participate in relational health workshops, art therapy, counselling, meditation, yoga, body therapy, and more. Then, when they are ready to transition to and maintain a home, La rue des Femmes accompanies them with adapted services.
The La rue des Femmes Foundation is currently in the midst of a major fundraising campaign to establish its flagship project: the LrdF Relational Health Institute, Canada’s first-ever centre for research and development in relational health and for curative and preventive care for women living in a state of homelessness. The goal: to better understand, better treat and better prevent homelessness. La rue des Femmes is preparing to open a care centre in the spring of 2023, which will enable it to double the hours of care and specialized activities it offers in relational healthcare. Léa is proud to have regained control of her life. After returning to school, she is now working as a nurse again and incorporating what she learned at La rue des Femmes into her daily life: “I don’t see a patient in crisis; I see a sick person who needs the system to treat them humanely.”