"When I came to The Rainier," Armstrong recalled, "I looked like death."
Armstrong has lived now for nearly two and a half years at the Rainier, which is nothing like your usual SRO. The hotel offers an array of programs, including gentle yoga, tobacco cessation, nutrition classes, anger management, meditation and a creative writing group.
"This place has saved my life," said Armstrong recently. "I am proof that recovery is possible."
Her recovery has been so dramatic that the woman whose ravaged lungs made it impossible to climb a flight of stairs without pain is now playing competitive soccer with the aptly named Phoenix soccer team. In August she and four others Phoenix members will fly to Paris to compete in the World Cup of Street Soccer. Two of her teammates live at Covenant House, a youth shelter, and the other three women live in poverty in the Downtown Eastside currently and have experienced homelessness within the last two years.
In July, Armstrong and her team mates traveled to Alert Bay, where they competed in a soccer tournament and were honored guests at the local band's pot latch ceremony.
"I am so excited about life now," Armstrong said with a radiant smile. "I am playing the piano again and I have had my first poem published in the Megaphone street paper. I have my life back."
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My town has a similarly ambitious place via Canadian Mental Health, the local health authority, and the province. Which is why I'm puzzled about that city council member in Toronto who called for all homeless to be hospitalized and the federal gov't billed. The people of Canada pay in the end so isn't it a matter of organizing?