Victoria homeless woman says she needs appropriate housing so she can receive chemotherapy

WatchA Victoria woman battling breast cancer says she can't get the medical treatment she needs because she's homeless. After a double mastectomy she says she now needs chemotherapy treatments, but can't receive them while living in a shelter. April Lawrence reports.

One year ago Marie was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. It had spread to her lymph nodes and she required a double mastectomy.

She doesn’t want to reveal her identity because she is homeless.

“I’m ashamed at what my life has become,” she said.

Marie was living in a women’s shelter in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside when she was diagnosed last year and underwent surgery. But she says she was told by her doctors that that environment isn’t suitable for the chemotherapy treatment she urgently needs. So she went back to her hometown of Victoria only to find herself in the same situation, living at the My Place shelter.

“The condition of having that many people in a gymnasium, it’s not considered sanitary for me,” she said.

“We have probably about six women sharing one toilet and one shower, and you really need to have your own space, with your own bathroom you know.”

But without the chemotherapy, Marie feels like her life is slipping away.

“It’s very stressful, the stress of being homeless and not being able to save your own life, is very hard,” she said.

The society that runs My Place admits there are few options for people in Marie’s situation.

“Living in a shelter is very difficult, living in a shelter with a very serious illness is even more difficult,” said Grant McKenzie, Director of Communications with Our Place Society.

“None of the shelters, none of the transitional housing would be set up for any kind of environment for people with serious health issues,” he said.

Victoria housing provider, Cool-Aid Society, has been pursuing a housing project that would have medical services including illness recovery for people like Marie. But so far they haven’t been able to secure enough funding to make it happen.

Since Marie and her husband are both on disability assistance, she says they can’t afford a rental in Victoria, so that has left few places to turn.

“The worry it just makes me sick.”


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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