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Mother’s Day Miracle: A mother’s love endures homelessness as she celebrates Mother’s Day with her daughter

Vancouver, BC — Rosemary Briggs will never forget Mother’s Day, 2007. She was homeless, living in a tent on the outskirts of the City of Mission, and saw her youngest daughter Theresa, 11 years old at the time, for only about 10 minutes that day. 
“I was at a really low point,” recalls Rosemary. “I’d lost my place, couldn’t see because of a terrible eye infection, and was desperately trying to find a place to live. I didn’t have proper visiting rights to see Theresa, but I was able to be with her for about ten minutes, and those were ten minutes of pure mother’s day bliss.” 
Rosemary’s relationship with her own mother saw her surrendered into foster care at a young age, and periods of her childhood and teenage years were dominated by repeated physical and sexual abuse, setting up Rosemary for a lifelong struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol. When a painful divorce and custody issues hit in 2007, Rosemary found herself homeless and desperate.
One thing that has stayed consistent throughout her ups and downs is her involvement with Union Gospel Mission’s Drop-in Centre on Railway Avenue in downtown Mission. She first started coming to UGM for meals in 1997, and has been a regular ever since, even helping out around the mission wherever she can. Throughout her time of homelessness, Rosemary stayed connected with the staff at UGM almost daily. They offered both practical assistance and encouragement, from daily meals to helping her apply for rental suites and other assistance, which is particularly difficult for Rosemary because she suffers from dyslexia. When Rosemary learned that she could apply for remuneration due to her time at an Indian Residential School, UGM staff assisted her with that application, then helped her to budget and manage the remuneration. 
For Rosemary, the process of going from homeless to stable was complex. There was no single factor that led to Rosemary’s return to a steady home life and restored relationship with her children, but Rosemary credits her regular church attendance and growing relationship with God, her time in the UGM choir, and the consistent presence of the UGM community in her life. “They’re always here for me, so if I ever need to talk to them I can always come by, and if I’m ever in a bind with anything, I know they’ll help.”
Karen Bogle, Manager of UGM’s Mission City Drop-in Centre, can’t say enough about Rosemary. “All of the staff here are very fond of Rose, and it has been amazing to see her situation improve over the last few years. The abuse she suffered when she was younger was horrendous, so it has been a privilege to walk alongside her as she has healed and grown into a strong relationship with her own daughters. She’s come so far and she’s such a wonderful person.” 
Three years after that difficult Mother’s Day in 2007, Rosemary beams as she looks at Theresa across a table where they sit at UGM’s Mission City Drop-in. “She’s in school, and she’s going to graduate,” says Rosemary, “I’m really proud of her!” Rosemary now has a stable home, where she lives with all three of her daughters. She is clean and sober, and active as a choir member at UGM. Theresa, now 14, grins shyly at her mother and says, “Well, I still need help in math.” Theresa goes to weekly math tutoring at UGM, joins her mother in the UGM choir occasionally, and has attended summer camp for the last 8 years through UGM’s Summer Camp sponsorship program. She’ll be starting training to be a lifeguard soon. 
Theresa couldn’t resist giving her mom a special early mother’s day gift this year: a jewelry box she had made herself in woodwork class at school. “It made my mom cry,” says Theresa, smiling at Rosemary, “things are way better this year.”
Union Gospel Mission has been reaching hungry, hurting and homeless men, women, youth and children for nearly 70 years. Through its 8 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. UGM is a proud member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.
05/05/2010
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