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HOMELESSNESS IN PICTOU COUNTY: Woman recalls past difficulties, sees need for shelter and helping others

A back road in rural Pictou County is littered with graffiti and garbage that includes beer cans, pill packs and personal items. Police say it’s a popular spot for people who might have been car surfing and looking over their loot.
A back road in rural Pictou County is littered with graffiti and garbage that includes beer cans, pill packs and personal items. Police say it’s a popular spot for people who might have been car surfing and looking over their loot. - Submitted

NEW GLASGOW

Margaret could have used a shelter a few times over the years.

Life started out rough from the beginning. Raised by an alcoholic father who tried his best to put food on the table, she said there was never any guarantee there would be enough for everyone. She got pregnant as a teenager and later went on to marry young into an abusive relationship where her spouse told her every day he was going to kill her.

Yet, despite all this, Margaret says life is pretty good right now. In her 50s, she is living on a small family farm that she had to fight to save after her father went into a home. She got running water in 2004 and lives mostly off the food she grows. She has also reconnected with her children whom she had to give up during her struggles in life.

“I get a small pension of about $500 a month, but I remember the days when we hardly had any food,” she said. “You didn’t know where your next meal was coming from.”

Her marriage was one of the lowest points in her life. She could not be herself and lived in fear until one day she escaped by running to a neighbour’s home and pleading for help. Thankfully, she could go home, she said, but many others cannot.

“After all I went through, I thought I would never find love again,” she said. “It was hard for a while. I lost my kids and I wanted to commit suicide.”

She doesn’t need a shelter today, but she sees others who do. She has taken food from one person and given it another so they could feed their families. This past summer, while in downtown New Glasgow, she spotted three panhandlers who needed food.

“I don’t have much money myself and I don’t get much from assistance but I will give them some money or buy them something to eat,” she said.

She also took dog food out of her vehicle and fed a dog that of the panhandlers had travelling with him. She later learned he was from Quebec and passing through the county.

“There should be more awareness around here,” she said. “When life is good, no one sees it. Everyone thinks that panhandlers only use money for drugs and getting drunk, but you don’t know what they need money for.”

Margaret said she does work some now to bring in extra income and has good friends in her life who look out for each other. She has seen others go through difficult times and supported them in their time of need. One friendship started many years ago when she saw someone sitting alone in the hospital worried about a loved one.

They were in totally different worlds, but soon found out they have a lot in common, including their concerns about a family and homelessness.

“We have been best friends ever since,” she said.

Margaret knows the kindness and generosity she has found in her family and friends can be found in a community that will support Viola’s Place Society and its quest to open a permanent adult shelter.

“Viola’s Place will be fantastic when it gets up and running, there will be people there to help,” she said.

Donations to Viola’s Place can be made at any Scotiabank in Pictou County. More information about donations or volunteering can be done by emailing violasplacesociety@gmail.com or through its Facebook page at Viola’s Place Society.

Trenton contributes to Viola’s Place

The Town of Trenton is the fifth municipal unit to provide funding to Viola’s Place Society.

The society confirmed Wednesday evening that Trenton has donated $3,333 to their capital plan to purchase the former Life Shelter by the end of the month. The Municipality of Pictou County donated to the society about two months ago and New Glasgow, Stellarton, Trenton and Pictou made their own donations after the society submitted a revised business plan, for a total of $24,833.

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