Gina Watson was making up for lost time Tuesday, pushing her daughter on the swings outside her school.
For the first time in eight years, the Nanaimo woman has her two girls, now aged 11 and 14 back in her care, has a job, and a future, after pulling herself out of addiction and homelessness.
“It feels really good. And I am proud of myself too because I have come a long way. I’ve had a lot of struggles to get where I’m at, but I’m not going to go backwards,” said Gina Watson, 37.
CHEK News first interviewed Watson when she was living on the streets of Nanaimo in 2018. Even when gripped by an addiction to opiates she became a voice for her fellow homeless, in the often chaotic tent city in Nanaimo’s downtown.
“I was always down on myself and didn’t think that I could do it and then one day, my mind clicked,” said Watson.
The Nanaimo woman said she was in supportive housing for one year after tent city’s closure, then got off drugs, started cleaning houses, saved money, and ultimately got her children back two months ago.
Watson’s success story is now being shared and celebrated among residents of Nanaimo’s Island Crisis Care shelter on Fitzwilliam Street.
“The inspiration that can come from hearing a story like this is life-changing,” said Corrie Corfield, assistant executive director at Island Crisis Care Society.
The story has touched a nerve with fellow mom, Stacey Alden.
“There’s nothing better than feeling your little ones in your arms. And her luck, good for her. I’m so happy for her,” said Alden, a resident at the Island Crisis Care shelter.
Watson’s family of three is now planning to move out of a friend’s fifth wheel trailer and rent their own apartment in Cedar or Ladysmith, outside Nanaimo where Watson is trying to avoid old associations and triggers. But finding a vacancy is proving a big obstacle.
“At least a two bedroom but it is insane out there. Insane the prices, and just not enough rentals,” said Watson.
With a deadline of April 1, the mother of two said she is feeling stressed trying to find a place, but is taking it one day at a time. Having already overcome what seemed insurmountable obstacles before.