Overcoming addiction and helping others

November 2, 2021 / by United Way

Finding a New Way of Life at Anawim House

Anawim House Director Terry Edison-Brown shares about his personal history of addiction, the need for compassion, and a holistic approach to recovery.

“One of the big things that Anawim does that’s different than other organizations is that we’re there for the long haul,” said Terry Edison-Brown, house director of Victoria’s Anawim Companion Society.

Anawim is a clean house that helps people find a new way of life. Edison-Brown believes that those who arrive needing help are best served with a holistic approach to the issues they face, which include homelessness, mental health, and addiction.

“It’s one big issue,” he said, “and we deal with it from start to finish.”

Helping Individuals Realize Their Potential 

The individuals who have found success with the help of the organization throughout the years are a great source of inspiration for Edison-Brown, who sees potential in all of those who ask for help.

“We never know when that light is going to go off for that person, so we must continually give hope to anybody that walks in our door,” said Edison-Brown. “What happens when I tell somebody I love you, instead of bugger off? The difference is when I say I love you, that person will actually engage with you and talk with you.”

Experiences with Homelessness, Addiction 

Edison-Brown speaks from personal experience. After leaving home at a young age, he struggled with addiction, homelessness, and a lack of purpose.

“I was dealing with the self-worth issues that go along with homelessness, and the trauma from my upbringing,” he recalls.

After becoming involved with Anawim House in the 1990s, Edison-Brown began to turn his life around. One particularly pivotal episode involved an invitation to spend the holidays at the safe house.

“How did they know my name, and why did they invite me to their home on Christmas?” he recalls thinking. The investment they placed in him inspired trust. “If anybody cared about me, these guys just might,” he thought.

It was a long journey from arriving at the house to being appointed house director. Edison-Brown believes that his personal history provides him perspective, and allows him to form a stronger bond with those who arrive in need of help.

“I’m the example of what can happen when you give somebody a little bit of trust and compassion,” he said. “When you can empower people, they have a good chance of surviving.”

The Importance of Giving

Anawim House is funded in part by United Way Southern Vancouver Island.

“We need food and clothing to give out to people,” Edison-Brown said. “This allows us to do what we do best, which is help those who want to be helped. Anawim receives zero government funding. Organizations like United Way allow us to continue to do what we do.”

Humanizing Homelessness

Those living on the streets are often overlooked, and Edison-Brown believes that humanization is an important first step. He speaks with emotion about the population he and the Anawim organization serve.

“You don’t know where people are at, you’ve not walked a minute in their shoes,” he said.

His final advice is simple but poignant, “be kind to each other.”

You can help other who are struggling with their mental health and/or battling addictions.