When Heather first came to us she didn’t seem like the typical youth we usually see. From the outside she looked quite put together - her hair was styled; she wore makeup, and she was dressed in her own unique fashion. She came with several bags of belongings and she was working two jobs in the restaurant business. Heather had been living independently for some time and was attending school at a local college until things took a turn in her life. She had lost her housing due to substance misuse and was put on academic suspension for a year which landed her on the doorstop of Covenant House Vancouver.
Heather’s behavior was often puzzling and without knowing anything initially about her life story, she came across somewhat distant in nature. The more I got to know her, the more her personality and idiosyncrasies started to make sense.
I learned that Heather had been in and out of foster homes for a good portion of her teenage years and the relationship with her parents was strained, which left her feeling unloved and unsupported. Due to the absence of a caring home, Heather often turned to her friends for love and support which was not healthy for her. However, as she started to trust myself and other youth workers, she began accepting help and started counselling to address her chronic anxiety and drug use.
Towards the end of Heather’s stay in our Crisis Program, it became clear that she had come to Covenant House in need of support and we were successful in connecting her to much-needed resources. She, in turn, was empowered to make changes towards reaching her goal of independence. Heather pushed back against us when we told her that she was ready to spread her wings and move out on her own. I imagine she felt rejected in a way and may have even been scared of the “what-if’s” that were to come leading up to her move out.
I often reminded Heather of the progress she had made and told her that Covenant House believed in her and that if things didn’t work out, we would help her get back on her feet. I remember the day that Heather left. It was a bittersweet moment for me as I had worked with her from the start, and I was going to miss our chats, tough conversations and moments together. As we said our good-byes that day, I thanked her for allowing me to be part of her life. She thanked me back and promised to stay in touch.
After returning from vacation one day, I received a message that she had left for me at the front desk which read: “I miss you!” with a heart drawn next to her message. In that moment, I knew Covenant House Vancouver had made a difference in her life and that all the struggles along the way were well worth it!