Woman gets a home to call her own after life of despair
Carrie Daniels’ one-bedroom apartment would fit into the family room of Calgarians who worship monster homes. For the 53-year-old mother of three, though, this cosy space is more than just her castle, it’s her respite from a life of despair, a miracle she’s been praying for years to come true.
“I’d pass by other people’s windows as they had dinner,” she says as she relaxes Wednesday in an easy chair in her living room. “I would think, ‘They don’t realize how fortunate they are to have a home.’ ”
In November Daniels joined the ranks of the fortunate, as the first resident of an inner-city apartment building purchased by the Calgary Homeless Foundation to provide affordable housing to homeless women.
It became a reality, thanks to a $1.59-million grant from the city, along with an interest-free $681,000 line of credit from First Calgary Financial.
The line of credit has since been paid, courtesy of David Bissett, a businessman who has given millions over the years to various Calgary initiatives.
Known as The Ophelia, the building offers 15 bachelor and one-bedroom apartments for about $350 month, with 80 per cent of the units designated for low-income women transitioning from the YWCA Mary Dover House program, and the rest from other agencies that serve women experiencing homelessness.
An hour before a cupcake ceremony celebrating the project, and with officials from government, the YWCA of Calgary and others in attendance, Daniels welcomes me and my Herald colleagues, videographer Rick Donkers and photographer Leah Hennel, into her new home.
But she does so much more than that. By sharing her compelling story, she opens her heart and soul to us, strangers, to educate us about homelessness.
Daniels, a 30-year resident of this city, has long been part of a segment of society that struggles daily with poverty.
Yet she always managed to keep a roof over the heads of her nowgrown family doing whatever she could, from babysitting to housekeeping.
Seven years ago, after her youngest son moved out, she found that a minimum wage existence wasn’t enough to pay the rent and bills.
“I slept in my car sometimes, other nights on friend’s couches,” she says. “I was lucky, I had a lot of good friends.”
Last summer, she turned to the YWCA of Calgary. The organiza- tion, as part of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, was involved in The Ophelia. A few months later Daniels was given the keys to her apartment.
“As soon as I closed the door behind me, I just started jumping up and down,” says Daniels, the tears starting to flow as she recounts that joyful day. “I just couldn’t stop crying. It was just a miracle. I phoned my best friend and told her, ‘You’ll never guess what? I have a home!’ ”
As Daniels shares her story, Robina King, the newest tenant of The Ophelia, joins us.
“I just kept moving and moving and moving,” says King, a 54-yearold grandmother of her yearslong struggle with homelessness. “You walk like you’re going somewhere, but you’re really not going anywhere.”
King says, through tears, she now walks with a purpose.
“I have a home to come to now, at the end of the day . . . You don’t know how good that it is until you go without.”
Before Daniels heads down to join her neighbours and the visiting VIPs for the cupcake ceremony, she makes sure to mention one more important part of her new routine.
“I say, ‘Thank you, Creator, for this place.’ ”