In her own words, Deanna Williams said she was going to make it off the streets.
“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was six years old. I wanted to go to VIU and I was struggling to find a place to stay,” said Williams in a United Way video recorded in April.
The shy young woman, stepped forward to be the voice of those on the streets who were striving for a better life.
“I just really want to get my future in order,” said Williams.
“She wasn’t just dreaming of it, she was working towards making it happen,” said Nanaimo Outreach worker, Aimee Chalifoux.
Instead, on June 2, the 21-year-old, who was working as a peer outreach worker and attending Vancouver Island University in the fall, was found dead in her tent.
“Shock, just absolute shock, I didn’t want to believe it,” said Chalifoux.
“She was looking forward to nursing and getting her masters,” said friend Jack Valstar.
According to her friends, when she didn’t show up for work, they immediately feared the worst because she had sought medical treatment after being assaulted the day before — suffering a bad gash to the back of her head.
“I panicked. I knew something was wrong,” said Chalifoux.
Valstar has a hard time accepting the RCMP ruling that her death wasn’t foul play.
“I cried. I still cry. I don’t know why but she got into me,” said Valstar.
According to the Nanaimo RCMP, Williams’ autopsy showed the assault did not contribute to her death.
“We have a dedicated team, dozens of officers who are covering off every possible angle, and if there’s truth to be found they will find it,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, media spokesperson for the Nanaimo RCMP.
But it’s done little to calm fears because two days after Williams’ body was found, the body of missing 27-year-old Amy Watts, a former outreach worker, was discovered in a downtown ravine.
“People are worried. What’s going on? What’s happening,” said Chalifoux.
Yet, Nanaimo RCMP stress there is no connection between Williams and Watts.
“There is no connection between Amy Watts and Deanna Williams,” said O’Brien.
So while trying to quell fears, outreach workers are looking at all sources of funding to re-open the warming centre featured in Deanna’s video.
Meanwhile, RCMP continues to await the results of the autopsy on Amy Watts which was expected to be completed on Tuesday.