“My whole life was nothing but a tragedy,” aren’t words you ever hope to hear someone say. But for Janice, looking back gives her incredible gratitude for where she is today. Since coming to UGM’s Sanctuary, Janice has overcome the vicious cycles of homelessness, addiction, and abuse that once controlled her. Today, she has woven God’s transformative love into the fabric of her life — and is using her gifts to help other women and mothers reclaim their lives, too.
Every child deserves to be loved and nurtured, but as a little girl, Janice wasn’t
My mother was my world, but she completely rejected me. She repeatedly told me I was vain and evil, and that I was the devil’s daughter. She didn’t show love to me, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t change that.
Not being shown love by your mother is probably the most devastating thing that could happen to a small child. Mother Teresa says that’s the worst poverty there is — being ostracized and set apart to be all alone.
My mother wasn’t well — there was obviously something wrong. But the way I was treated by her is so destructive and disturbing.
Not only was Janice neglected, but she also survived physical abuse
There was so much anger in my house, and I was the scapegoat. Everyone blamed me for what was happening. There was so much violence, and I was always the brunt of it.
My mother let my stepfather beat me until I blacked out. I remember waking up in a daze, and everyone acting like nothing happened. This went on all the time.
The violence and abuse was overwhelming. I didn’t eat or sleep. I had so much anxiety, stress, and fear, and was terrified of the dark. I’d look out my window at night and search for God to save me.
As a developing child, this had a deep impact on Janice’s psyche
I was depressed from the time I was seven. Unworthiness was embedded into me. I didn’t feel human, and I was utterly alone. It was hard to be in the world.
To make things worse, when I stayed up at night, I’d see children starving in other countries on TV. The injustice of it added to my depression — if no one was looking after those children, then who would help me?
It was devastating, and at 11 I tried committing suicide. I found a full bottle of pills, took it all, and thought I’d go to sleep, go back to God, and I wouldn’t be suffering anymore.
But it was a bottle of antibiotics. Nothing happened. I was shocked — and now, I felt like an even bigger failure, loser, and fool. I felt even more worthless.
Janice developed unhealthy coping mechanisms after being forced into adulthood
I stood up for myself for the first time when I was 12. After beatings and beatings, I threatened to call social services on my stepfather. But my mom picked him over me, and she threw me out of the house.
I moved in with my brother, and by then, I was addicted to coffee, had found alcohol, was smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and dropping acid.
By 13, I was working in a restaurant and hanging out with adults. It was open till three in the morning, and we drank till six, dancing and smoking pot. Although I never had a childhood, I was now an adult.
Despite all the pain, Janice did discover self-worth in one thing: art
I rarely woke up for school, but one class I never missed was art. Art was the one place I had value. Something inside me knew I was really good.
In home economics, I picked a project that was way beyond my ability: a pair of corduroy gauchos. I’d never sewed anything in my life, but somehow, I sewed them perfectly.
That’s what gave me any worth: that art was natural for me, I had a talent for sewing, and I got A’s.
Janice continued searching for the love all humans are wired for and deserve
At 16, I started a relationship with an older guy who had kids. I instantly became a stepmother, and ended up having my first child with him at 18.
But he was never really there for me; there was no relationship. Because I’d never had a healthy relationship and I was so desperate for love, it took 2.5 years to finally leave him.
Throughout those years, I wasn’t in addiction. Instead, my children came first. I was there all the time, and I gave them everything. I sewed all their clothes and made home-cooked meals — I was the best mother.
Motherhood gave Janice the purpose she was longing for, but then, it was taken away
I got into a car crash on a blind date. The guy had too much to drink; he hit the power post, and my whole body got slammed.
My breastbone and ribs were broken, I had soft tissue damage in all my cells, I got a head trauma, and I now had PTSD on top of my PTSD.
All I could do was cry. No one looked after me, and I had four kids at home — from eight months to 10 years old, with a daughter who was yet to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Because I was in so much pain and loneliness, I picked up drugs again.
I went into recovery and got sober, but pretty quickly, I lost my permanent custody of my children in court to my mother. My mom had money, and the ministry just wanted to wipe their hands clean of me.
My mom looked at me and said, “These are my kids now.” That tore my soul to shreds, and for the next 20 years, she told my children I was garbage and didn’t love them.
Losing her children and identity as mom sent Janice spiralling
I was not okay after that — my addiction was off to the races. I’d drink at least two two-litre coolers just to bring me up to par, then consume copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.
My addiction took me to the street. I was sleeping on couches, on cement, in parks, doing sex work, and went through a lot of bad relationships.
I would stay up for a week at a time, and I wouldn’t eat or drink. I was immersed in a severe drug addiction — in and out of treatment centres, and on and off crack for 23 years.
Through that dark time, Janice still experienced glimpses of hope
I used to come to UGM for food when I had nothing to eat. When I needed a winter coat, they gave me one.
When UGM first opened the doors to the Women’s Centre, I attended the day shelter. After working all night, I knew where to go. I could come and shower, and rest in bed.
I kept coming to the drop-in to sing my lungs out, and worship God. I’ve never let go of UGM.
Janice’s life started transforming when she came to UGM’s Sanctuary in 2014
At The Sanctuary, I didn’t just get a nice clean bed, pyjamas, and a hot bath. I got support and real connections. I had people to talk to, people who really cared. The women genuinely loved me.
I hadn’t had relationships like that before, but that’s how I discovered what real love is — it’s the love of Christ, and it came through those women.
That finally connected me to a real relationship with God. Through the women, He was showing me how valuable and worthy I am. I’d had enough of carrying the burden of what others thought of me; God says I’m good enough for him.
Though Janice had a nearly fatal relapse and faces health issues, her past no longer defines her
I relapsed for nine months, and I was emotionally frozen and in physical hell. Since then, I’ve stayed committed to my recovery, and committed to God.
God’s helped me absolutely forgive my mother; that’s where my freedom and healing is. He’s brought three of my children back into my life — which is a miracle, from where things were before.
I’ve let go of what lies behind, and now I strive toward what lies ahead. With God, I’m in perfect peace. The water’s nice and smooth; it’s still, and I can finally relax.
Now, Janice is wholeheartedly committed to helping other women in recovery
Every day, I pray, “God, I offer you my life. Get me well, and in turn, I will help someone else.” That’s what recovery is about. God saved me so I can help, and that’s what my mission has been.
After I got sober, I worked in single-room occupancy buildings. I saved lives from overdose, and the way I saw it, there was always a chance that maybe someone got sober after that. Through that, I became so mature, and it was empowering knowing God was working through me.
I also ran an art and nail group at The Sanctuary for a few years. I’d take the whole two hours painting one nail after another — just putting love on them. I was committed to making women feel valuable, because I don’t want them going through the years of pain and loneliness I did.
Today, Janice’s life is centered around her God-given gifts, including teaching sewing to women in The Sanctuary!
I’ve always attended Repair to Wear, and one time, I was making a joke to Doris, the Sewing Coordinator, and said, “I should come work with you!” It’s something I’m gifted at, and my desire was to help other women.
As an artist, it’s so satisfying to guide women along in learning how to make something. I can see they have a lot of fun, and that they’re happy.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’ve gone from the street, to giving my time in The Sanctuary, to sewing for money in Repair to Wear, to now working at UGM, teaching women how to sew and repair clothing.
In the same breath that I got this job, I got a place in a beautiful senior’s building. It has a garden, my apartment has space for my art, and I have my very own balcony to grow vegetables and herbs. I have an outlet for all my passions.
For Janice, UGM’s new Women & Families Centre is going to mean women won’t go through the years of pain she did — which gives her so much hope
UGM’s new Women & Families Centre is going to be a godsend — it’s going to be a saving grace to so many women and children. There could not be an area more in need of it. If this had been there for me, my children wouldn’t have grown up without me.
In addiction, children are the ones who get hurt the most. It scars them for life, especially when they think their mothers don’t love them. But now, they’ll have their mothers back.
When I got sober, all that was in my heart was for other women to not lose their children. For them to be healed, saved, and protected. And with this new building, they’re going to have that.
Thank you! By supporting UGM, you’re offering women like Janice renewed life, and helping nurture healthy, united families for generations to come
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – Psalm 139:13–14
At Union Gospel Mission, our heart is to make known to our struggling neighbours that they are wholly known and loved by God. This is at the heart of our work because while poverty, homelessness, and addiction can deeply discourage a person, knowing they have inherent worth can rejuvenate them with hope for a renewed life.
In this issue of Gratitude, you read how Janice experienced that unconditional love at UGM’s Sanctuary. It transformed her outlook, and gave her the strength to fight for the dignified life she deserved. I hope seeing the path that she’s on now, and the wholeness in which she lives, greatly encourages you!
Restored lives like Janice’s are why we’re so overjoyed to share with you that UGM’s new Women & Families Centre is opening this fall! Through our years of helping women at The Sanctuary, we saw how challenging it is to rebuild their lives due to severe service gaps. But because of this new Centre, and because of your loyal support, that’s changing now.
By demonstrating the love of Christ, UGM’s new Women & Families Centre will start new beginnings and spark brighter futures. I sincerely thank you, because your heart to make a difference is what will make it all possible. Today, women will overcome poverty, homelessness, and addiction, and reclaim their lives. And tomorrow, your generosity will impact children, and transform generations.