From The Frontline: Overdose Awareness
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS WORKING WITH ATIRA.
My name is Wassa and I am the Acting Program Manager at Shimai Transition House. I arrived in Canada as a refugee, and it was a hard life. I witnessed men’s violence and domestic abuse at a young age. This led me to become involved in supporting women in their journeys, providing them to access support and resources.
what makes shimai drop in special for folks who access the space?
Shimai is a special place for many reasons. Our program is all about the women and meeting them where they’re at. We provide a safe non-judgmental environment. Many of the women have been coming to Shimai for years and have built strong connections with staff here. The supports we offer here at Shimai, range from crisis support, harm reduction supplies, safe using space, something to eat, a place to rest, laundry, showers, toiletries, and a fresh change of clothes. The women that access our program know our door is always open.
While Surrey is a large community, transportation within the city remains a challenge. Typically, essential services have limited hours, and are in locations that are hard to access, if not completely inaccessible. Additionally, these service providers commonly operate co-ed spaces. For some women, because of trauma they may have experienced, having men in their space is not conducive to the support they require. Close to skytrain and major bus routes, Shimai Drop In is Surrey’s only women-centred program which aims to support women fleeing violence, may be struggling with substance use, involved in sex work, recently released from treatment, hospital or corrections and displaced women who are older.
At Shimai, women have access to onsite substance support groups, including feminist alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Shimai fills a critical gap in women-centred services for women in Surrey. In April 2020 to March 2021, the drop-in site had 2,145 unique visitors— confirming that the need for safe, harm reduction spaces for women in Surrey are essential to the well-being of the community.
WHAT DOES HARM REDUCTION MEAN TO YOU?
At Shimai we provide resources and harm reduction supplies in order for women to use safely, to help reduce the dangers associated with substance use or other high-risk activities. This can include providing conversations around safe sex work, and safe using practices with a safe place to use substances, where staff are around to support and can administer Naloxone in the event of an overdose. There are so many ways we can support women with harm reduction including everything from cold water for hydration, wound care, and even sunscreen.
WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO HAVE SPACES WHERE WOMEN CAN ACCESS SUPPORT FOR THEIR SUBSTANCE USE?
Programs that support women only are necessary for women that are also struggling with domestic abuse, mental wellness and are/at risk of experiencing homelessness. Often times for women, using substances is an escape, and a coping skill from trauma, living in the streets, and violence.
Here at Shimai, women are in able to make their own decisions.
WHAT ARE SOME ACTIONS PEOPLE CAN TAKE TO SUPPORT THOSE WHO ARE AT RISK OF OVERDOSE?
As a community we can start by looking at people as human beings, as someone’s wife, mother, daughter, sister, grandma or aunt.
Not relying on judgments and stereotypes when we come across people that are in a difficult place and may be struggling in their lives.
Learn how to administer Naloxone, and carry it with you.
Acting Program Manager
Shimai Transition House
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