Angie Lohr is using her past to help others.
Lohr is the president of Helping Out People Exploited (HOPE) Outreach and Safe House, a volunteer-based organization that helps homeless, exploited and addicted women in Kelowna. HOPE has 40 volunteers that go out every night of the week around dusk, handing out supplies such as shampoo and toothpaste to women and letting them know what shelters and services are there for them in Kelowna. Lohr joined HOPE in 2009, just a few months after it was founded.
Lohr’s passion for helping women escape homelessness, addiction and/or exploitation comes from her own personal background. After a 14 year career Lohr began to lose everything, eventually ending up homeless, addicted to cocaine, and in the sex trade. Lohr is in recovery to this day after escaping that life, and she uses her experiences to not only motivate herself to help others but also as a means to help other women.
“Having been there and done that, you get an immediate connection with the girls,” Lohr explained. “You share some of your experiences with them, and then maybe they gain some hope. Most of the women we meet are hopeless, and that’s a really sad place to be.”
Through HOPE, Lohr meets about 40 women every month, and she uses those meetings to try to give them a little hope if nothing else.
“A lot of my work is to educate,” she said. “I share my story a lot. I was in the sex trade, I was a criminal, and I had a really bad cocaine habit. I lived on the streets, and life was not pretty. If I don’t share that with other people, how would they know that people actually recover?”
Lohr noted she gets to see amazing miracles of people getting the help they need, and she describes what it’s like seeing those women beginning to take the first steps to recovery.
“I have hope for that other person. I guess it reminds me of where I was, and all the people that helped me. Instantly I know how that person feels. To give a little bit of hope, to share a little bit of the story that they can do this and we will help them every step of the way.”
In the past five years, about 250 women went through the House of Hope, of which about 60 per cent have managed to stay in recovery. While the house closed in May due to simply getting too large to continue running, its closure has allowed Lohr and HOPE to focus on other projects. Come September they will be bringing back Pizza Night, where once a month any woman living on the street can come to an outreach centre for pizza. Lohr is also working on a campaign that will provide the homeless with safe materials to use, such as needles. While she doesn’t want to promote drug abuse, Lohr stated addicts are going to be taking drugs anyway and providing them with safe materials to do so will prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Lohr’s ability to overcome monumental obstacles in her own life and her passion for helping others do the same are what make her a Woman to Watch.
Crowe MacKay’s Women to Watch program is a weekly feature that profiles remarkable women in our community. This feature series is a joint initiative between Crowe MacKay, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Kelowna Capital News.