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Lwanga's journey: Building bridges to a brighter future with strength and support from Our Place Society

Lwanga's journey exemplifies the transformative impact of community support, particularly through organizations like Our Place Society
Lwanga speaks excitedly about having a private home where she can have her family from Uganda visit. Photo via Our Place Society

The housing crisis in Victoria transcends mere shelter; for Our Place transitional housing resident Lwanga (she/her), its repercussions echo through every facet of her existence.

Lwanga is non-binary and came to Canada as a refugee from Uganda in 2019, where Anti-2SLGBTQ+ sentiments are not just social pressures but legislated discrimination. As recently as April of this year, courts in Uganda doubled down on extreme legislation criminalizing same sex conduct, restricting health care and housing access, and in some cases even allowing the death penalty. 

“I came to Canada because it is the land of the free for LGBT,” Lwanga says, throwing her hands up and smiling at the sentiment. 

This freedom was evident from the moment she arrived. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Lwanga’s first language is not English, she had no money and no connections. She was homeless for several years.

In addition to experiencing homelessness and the isolation she felt in a new country, Lwanga had to manage the symptoms of an HIV positive diagnosis. She says she was sick, but it is too hard for her even now to share what she experienced. 

“I still experience racism and homophobia,” she says of her experience in Canada so far. “But, as long as they are not physical with me, I focus on my own peace. That is what is important.” 

A few months ago, Lwanga was able to get a bed at My Place, Our Place Society’s transitional shelter. My Place is one of the first steps on the continuum of care, where Our Place family members usually come directly from emergency shelters or from the street. The shelter provides a safe and secure environment with 24-hour support. 

Before moving into long-term housing, Our Place staff help family members to stabilize through referrals to health care, detox, counselling, or whatever else they need to have their best chance at success once housing becomes available for them. Here, Lwanga has shelter, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to keep her belongings, warm meals and access to all of Our Place’s programs and services. She is grateful to receive antiretrovirals and is in good health and good spirits about her future today.

“Everyone has been so nice to me,” Lwanga says of the outreach workers and staff at My Place. 

It’s not just the staff at the shelter that have embraced Lwanga. She loves to go to the community centre on Pandora to feel the embrace of the whole community at Our Place. She has lots of friends who are also part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and feels she is able to express herself. She flashes her red nails and smiles widely when she speaks about her love of fashion. 

When asked what she hopes for the future, Lwanga becomes quieter. 

Even with her basic needs met, the stress of being unhoused sometimes makes it challenging for her to consider her future. She knows she wants to return to school and speaks excitedly about having a private home where she can have her family from Uganda visit after all these years. 

Due to the scarcity of housing in Victoria, Lwanga will likely have a long wait ahead for a home of her own. Thanks to Our Place Society, Lwanga will not only have essential care, but can foster the sense of hope and belonging she needs to get there.

Lwanga's journey exemplifies the transformative impact of community support, particularly through organizations like Our Place Society. The comprehensive programs and services provided by Our Place are essential lifelines for individuals who face multifaceted challenges, including homelessness, health issues and discrimination. 

Donations and community support play a pivotal role in sustaining these vital initiatives, ensuring that neighbors who may be suffering in silence receive the assistance and care they urgently need. By contributing to Our Place Society, individuals can directly contribute to building a brighter future for members of their community, fostering a sense of belonging, hope and resilience among those most in need. 

Together, we can make a tangible difference and create a more compassionate and inclusive community for all. You can donate to support Our Place family members like Lwanga at