Faces of the Downtown Eastside: Emmy's Story

Dec 19 2017, 10:56 pm

Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared the personal stories of JayVerna and Brian, some of the Faces of the Downtown Eastside. Today, we share Emmy Skate’s story, an assistant manager of The Salvation Army Harbour Light.


Skates was working close to home as an outreach mental health worker and was quite happy with her work/family life situation. The organization that she was working for had sent her on a leadership conference and it was at this conference that she received a message from the current Harbour Light Detox Manager asking if she would be interested in an upcoming detox assistant manager position at Harbour Light. Her initial reaction was “I do not want to work in the DTES!” but because she had a good working relationship with the Detox Manager, she thought that she would attend the interview just for “fun.”

When she told her husband, who is a police officer in Vancouver, he jokingly said “Well, you’re not going to take it right…Harbour Light is in the DTES!” She agreed that she did not think that she would take the position because it was a long commute and since Harbour Light was in the DTES, and she had heard “things” about the DTES.


So she showed up for the interview and got buzzed into 119 East Cordova Street. The entire building was buzzing and there were many people lined up outside and down the street. Skates learned in the interview that the line outside was for people looking for a nice free warm meal.

She was surprised that she wasn’t nervous for the interview because she didn’t want to work in the DTES, but something changed once she received a tour after her interview. She was starting to see herself being part of Harbour Light.

It took her 45 mins to get home and as she was walking through the front door, Skates received a call from the Detox Manager asking if she wanted the job. Without hesitation Skates said “I’ll take it.”

Having been at Harbour Light for almost four years, Skates is very happy to have made a “last minute gut feely touchy decision.” It felt right and it turned out to be one of the most personally and professionally rewarding decisions that she has ever made!


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