Woman’s Way | Relational health-La rue des Femmes: fixing homelessness

The number of homeless women is increasing on the streets of Montreal. A roof for the night, a warm meal, clothes, medicine: fortunately, there are material resources to ensure their basic needs. However, in order to treat homelessness and help these women get out on the streets, we need to understand them better, take good care of them. This is what Léonie Couture and her team have been trying to do for almost 30 years.

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If there’s one conviction that drives Léonie Couture, founding president of La rue des Femmes, it’s that homelessness isn’t just about being homeless. “The homelessness situation has varying levels of severity,” he explained. When they come to us, these women are completely traumatized, broken and in a state of constant post-traumatic stress. They live through violence after violence, before they find themselves on the road: “They are survivors of many traumas. Wounds that cannot be healed in a bowl of hot soup.

Leah’s journey

Léa recognizes herself in the picture drawn by Léonie Couture. This woman, formerly homeless and addicted to drugs, found herself on the street at the age of thirty, after a difficult mourning. However, the real lump he had experienced had lingered inside him since childhood. The survivor’s existence was a long series of violence: the sexual and physical abuse inflicted by his father from an early age; attacks by people like “poqué” him; suffered rape in the streets; not to mention the intergenerational wounds he inherited as a Native… “I was in such a state of intoxication when I arrived at La rue des Femmes that I had the impression that part of my people had died”, he remembers.

One minute at a time

Quietly Léa rebuilt herself, in contact with the workers and in the course of special workshops. “One minute at a time,” he said, recounting his long road to recovery. “Here, I am welcomed as a person. I was given the unconditional love and guidance I usually receive from my family, if it hasn’t been damaged. For the first time on the homeless woman’s journey, we focused not only on the symptoms — drug addiction and alcoholism — but on the causes of her suffering. “This is the first time we’ve been aware of the traumas that have brought me into a state of homelessness,” Léa argues.

When I arrived at La rue des Femmes in 2013, that was the beginning of my recovery.

Leah, nurse and formerly homeless

A new approach: health relationships

This style, which cannot be found anywhere, is due to Léonie Couture. More than a shelter or roof, La rue des Femmes provides care for homeless women. At its three homes in downtown Montreal, a group of workers are specially trained to welcome and care for these women who are very serious, so that they can return to the center of their lives.


Léonie Couture, founding president of La rue des Femmes

For these women, there is hope. They are not destined to be rejected, embarrassed, and voiceless. By regaining their relationship capacities, they can be happy.

Léonie Couture, founding president of La rue des Femmes

Recovery from homelessness takes time. Time, qualified workers as well as relational and special care, not to mention material resources to ensure basic necessities while women strengthen their status. The women who attend the organization’s day centers will do so as much as they need to. They participated in relational health workshops; doing art therapy; take advantage of counseling services; learning to meditate and practice yoga; recover their bodies through body therapy … Then, when they are ready to move into housing and maintain it, La rue des Femmes supports them with appropriate services.

Gentle circle

The La rue des Femmes Foundation is currently in a major fundraising campaign, to build its major project: the LrdF Relational Health Institute, Canada’s premier center for research and improvement in relationship health and for curative and preventive care. women. The goal: to be better understood, better treated and better prevented later. Rue des Femmes is therefore preparing for the opening, in the spring of 2023, of a care center that will allow it to double the hours of care and special relationship health activities. Léa is proud that she has regained her life. After returning to school, one who worked again as a nurse combined what she learned on La rue des Femmes every day: “I don’t see any patients in crisis; I see a sick person who needs a system to treat them humanely. »

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