For one formerly homeless young woman, horses provided her with a job and focus to help her overcome addiction. Now she’s helping other troubled youth heal and get back on their feet.

Charlotte Smith was homeless at the age of 15, and life on the streets fed her drug addiction. Over a decade ago she got a job on a horse farm and that proved to be a game-changer. Smith was featured in a story by the CBC  (also see audio clip below), and it’s inspiring.

For one thing, now in her 30s, she not only finished high school, but is in the process of finishing her masters degree in sociology at Carleton University. But it’s the horse farm that brings her peace.

“I’d only been off the streets a couple of months, and I ended up getting a job here,” Smith told the CBC. “Every day that I walked into this barn and fed the horses here, at that time, it was just a reminder to me and an encouragement to fight to stay off the streets and to fight every day to not fall back into old patterns, and just keep trying harder and harder to get better.”

Smith now lives beside the farm, which allows her to bring some of the youth she helps close to the animals. “I’m able to bring young people here and have them work with me here and teach them about the horses … and benefit from the same sort of healing that I found in horses.”

The stress of the ongoing pandemic took its toll, with Smith admitting she had a major relapse in 2020 after working on the frontlines with homeless youth in Ottawa. But now she’s back on her feet and clean. “Now I’m sort of trying to take it a little bit easy at the farm and, you know, bring youth here into my healing space as opposed to going out there. People can learn a lot from horses,” she told the Canadian media outlet. “They’re so gentle and so kind, and they’re all about community.”