When Transit Patrol officers got a radio call for a lost wallet at Pape station, they had no idea they would find a way to help forge a new path for a single mother.
“We had no idea what was waiting for us… or how sad that situation was going to be,” recalls Constable Silvia Fernandez, one of the officers who found a woman despondent at the loss of her wallet.
“She was devastated,” said Fernandez. The woman had her three children with her, an infant as well as a four-year-old and an eight-year-old. As the officers spoke to the woman, they found out she was the victim of domestic violence and had run to the subway station the day before to escape from her husband.
The woman’s husband had left the family for another woman and had only returned to take money from his wife. The husband and wife got into an argument and he assaulted her, said Fernandez. So the woman fled the apartment and took her wallet with her – which had about $1,200 in it for rent, food and supplies for the children. “She kept all the money with her because, otherwise, the husband would take it,” explained Fernandez, adding that the husband was extremely controlling and had kept his wife cut off from the world, to the extent of keeping her health card with him.
The family was new to Canada and the young woman, with her three children, had run to the subway station for shelter and safety, explains Fernandez. At the station, away from the chaos she had just fled, the woman called 9-1-1 and her husband was arrested. She went back to her apartment that night with her children.
It was the next day she realized she had left her wallet at the payphone. This was when Fernandez and her partners, Constable Jaanpal Kingra and Hildor Pickran, met her.
“It was really sad, we really felt for her,” said Fernandez. The officers, moved by the woman’s story, helped get her emergency funding and spoke to No Frills who donated $300 in food for her family. The officers also personally helped her out financially.
“She was in a very fragile state,” recalls Pickran. Kingra agrees, saying “we felt like we couldn’t leave here there.”
As they spoke some more to the woman, who could not communicate in English well, they realized one reason her husband and her had gotten into a fight was because she had wanted him to stay with the children while she went for a medical procedure on Monday that she could not miss.
“She was searching high and low for someone to take care of her kids,” said Fernandez, who tried to find last-minute daycare for her but was unsuccessful. “I used my discretion… I felt like I couldn’t leave her high and dry.”
The constable offered her own babysitting service for her children on the day of the woman’s appointment.
“My nanny could take care of her kids,” said Fernandez, who picked up the woman’s three children and dropped them off at her own home, then took the woman to her appointment.
“She had nobody to help her. It was hard to see someone who felt they were absolutely helpless and had nobody,” says Fernandez. “She was very grateful… she sees our (policing) community in a different light now.”
It’s nice to know she doesn’t feel as lonely, isolated and helpless. We didn’t move mountains, just helped her get on the right track
After the woman’s appointment, the officers stayed in touch with her. They helped enroll her in English-language classes and find childcare.
“It was hard for her, she was a very proud woman, she didn’t want to burden anyone,” said Fernandez.
“She was shocked that police helped her that day,” said Kingra, adding that perhaps in her home country the police are not seen in a very positive light.
“It’s nice to know she doesn’t feel as lonely, isolated and helpless. We didn’t move mountains, just helped her get on the right track,” said Fernandez.
It has been a few months since they helped this woman out and, according to the officers, she is like a whole new person, different from the day they found her at the subway station.