Amber Sintihakis is struggling with the system as she gets her life back on track. (Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

Recovering Kelowna addict rises above her past

Victimized by systems suppose to help, a woman tries to fix her life

Amber Sintihakis is trying to rectify mistakes she made years earlier, but says it’s difficult when the systems that were supposed to help further victimize her.

It was a car crash that drastically set her on the wrong course almost three years ago, but the echoes of that moment are still affecting her effort to rebuild.

Sintihakis self-medicated and became an addict when she attempted to overcome her injuries, which led her to lose her house and family. As she got further into her addiction she found herself homeless.

Now, she said she’s putting her addiction behind her, but is struggling to get out from behind her mistakes.

“I’m at a point right now in my life where I’ve met all the concerns, I’ve significantly changed my life, and I’m fighting for my kids’ custody,” Sintihakis said.

READ MORE: Undercover Kelowna op nets fentanyl trafficker

Part of that fight is facing her public profile, which took a turn for the worse in recent days. In an April edition of the Capital News, an article of a court case detailing a 2016 undercover RCMP operation resulting in a guilty drug trafficking verdict against Sintihakis was published. Photo illustration of the drug she was accused of having in her possession made it seem as though she was a high-roller. In reality, she was anything but.

“At that time, I was being very harassed (for experiencing homelessness). We’re not ‘homeless people,’ we’re people. Our police officers have broken that down,” she said.

The case detailed Sintihakis selling small amounts of fentanyl-laced drugs, but she said that she was targeted, and then criminalized, for simply being homeless.

“I’m not going to stay broken,” Sintihakis said.

READ MORE: Case of man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting adjourned until May

In addition to alleged harassment during her time living without a home, Sintihakis alleges there were disparities in the case against her including inconsistent testimony and poor legal representation; both parts of a system that was supposed to aid her.

But what she said was most detrimental to her situation was the unavailable resources for her after her 2016 accident.

“I’ve always paid my bills, but the economics of Kelowna, the lack of support at that time left me homeless. My pride felt like I could do it on my own, I didn’t know anything about shelters or the programs here because I had never needed them,” Sintihakis said.

READ MORE: South Okanagan community bands together on social media after shootings

Now, recovering from alcoholism and no longer using opioids, Sintihakis is receiving support with an outreach worker and treatment at the Opioid Against Treatment clinic in Kelowna.

Though she still faces the decisions of the court, which she said she will appeal, she said now she has more support to better work towards rectification.

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