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How successful recovery looks for one Prince George woman

This is the story of Maybelline John who spent five years on the streets of Prince George and now gives back to the very community that helped her change her life.
Maybelline John
Maybelline John, who is five years sober, gives back to the very community who helped her get her life back.

Maybelline John can look back on five years of homelessness with fresh eyes and knows if not for some crucial services offered in Prince George she just might not be around today to tell her story of recovery.

She was on the streets of Prince George for five long years and spent 27 months on IV drugs. When her sister died of a fentanyl overdose at 41 years old in 2015 and she lost her mom and brother in the same year because of their lifestyle choices she knew it was time to make a drastic change or end up just like them.

Northern Health workers found her when John was six months pregnant and homeless.

“My workers came right downtown to where I was and they said they were willing to work with me and wanted to help me because of my addiction and I was homeless on the street and I was pregnant,” John explained.

Those workers were from the Intense Case Management Team (ICMT) at Northern Health who got her on the right path, John said. ICMT is a coordinated team of substance use specialists, life skills workers and nurses who help people who struggle with mental health and addictions issues. The ICM team also advocates for clients with community services that can provide quality care for their clients.

One of John’s workers found her on the street after their initial meeting and took her to detox where John stayed for 11 days, John recalled of the first step she took toward recovery.

Because she was still using, John was placed on the methadone program and while she was at detox she was approached by a representative at Harmony House.

“She said she was opening Harmony House, a transition house for mothers and she was wondering if I wanted to be one of her initial clients and I said yes, I’d be willing to go there,” John said.

Harmony House is a subsidiary of Phoenix Transition Society, which provides safe harbour to pregnant women and new mothers who struggle with mental health and addictions issues.

John stayed at Phoenix for a few months and then moved into Harmony House.

“I believe I was the sixth one to live in the house and they kept me for a full year,” John recalled.

“There are many supports available and we’d have team meetings, they called them, with the ministry and my social worker there and staff from the Native Health Society and from the Northern Health team.”

It was really intense when she first went into Harmony House.

“It was really busy at first and it was good because it was all about working on yourself,” John said.

“It was 13 months of that and and then they followed up with more support.”

Feb. 17, 2017 is her clean date. John said there have been no relapses and no more violence in her life since that date.

John can be found at many public rallies and events advocating for those living on the streets, lending her voice to the cause, providing comfort and support and mentorship to those in need, knowing that sometimes that's all it takes to make a difference in someone's life.

“I work with Harmony House now and go there every week to provide support for those in the Mothers In Recovery group,” John said.

Another way John gives back is peer mentorship for women who are addicted and homeless as well as mother’s in addiction.

Every other week she can be found guiding an art workshop for those women on the streets of downtown Prince George for the Native Health Clinic.

“I want people to know that it is possible to get clean in Prince George,” John said. “There are people that can help you get clean, help you get your kids back, keep your life and stay sober and out of jail and off the street. You can transition into a life with help. I couldn’t do it on my own and I got a lot of help and there's a lot help out there.”