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Publication Date: 
Thu, 2010-09-30

It is hard to imagine, as Couture  recounts story after story of brutalized women who are in such dire situations, that we, as a society, don’t seem to draw a parallel between the violence that we know is happening to girls and women behind closed doors in every neighborhood in the country, and the women we see on the street. Couture says the common thread is suffering, and Herstreet’s goal is to offer an alternative, helping women to reclaim their agency.
Burnout seems a likely outcome of such emotionally demanding work, but Couture says that lots of training on remaining centered, a cohesive staff, and not losing sight of value of the work all  help. Sometimes it’s about remembering that everyone is hurt in some way, even though not everyone lands on the street. These are exceptional women who deserve support.

As we wrap up our marathon conversation, Couture looks to the future. “We’re always in the process of creating things to compensate for reinsertion systems that don’t work. We need to create them for more fragile people.” For Couture, it’s all about “changing the world,” one step at a time.
Jane Shulman is the Director of Knowledge Exchange at the Canadian Women’s Health Network
This story was originally published in Progressive Choices  Magazine and  Herizons. Couture continues to direct Herstreet, and in a recent conversation, she noted that the shelter continues to offer unique services to homeless women, embracing them as they are, but Couture has spent a great deal of time thinking about how to offer even more support.

“We have deepened our reflections about the ways that we can help women heal the wounds that they have when they come here,” she says. “ We have been looking at the theories of relational health as they relate to relationship-building. If the women can work with those wounds, they may be able to reconnect with the world, be less excluded, and find a path from homelessness.”

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