I was doing an overnight shift at the Crisis Shelter recently when at about 1:30am two youths knocked on the front door. The person covering the desk informed me that a former resident was looking for me. I went to check who it was and immediately recognized a familiar face. I didn’t have a doubt who this youth was and I called out his name. He was surprised at my memory. I told him that I still remember him well. We talked about old times and shelter life in general and the youth workers and staff who were working here six or seven years ago when he last stayed. I told him that it was funny because I had thought of him a couple of days ago and it seems that luck was on our side that we got to see each other as I rarely do overnight shifts. We had a hearty laugh at the turn of events.
This youth came to us when he was only 16 from an underage safe house. He stayed with us two or three times and left without a trace when he was 17 or 18. He was a very well behaved young man and we soon discovered he could not read or write or count money. I saw the opportunity to teach him how to read. Whenever I was reading the paper and he was across the table, I would turn the paper towards him and asked him to say the bold-letter words syllable by syllable. Sometimes, I would seek him out and “harass” him to read with me. We would stop the drill when other youth came around. I also worked with him on his money and counting skills.
Well that was seven years ago and he is now 23. He works in Alberta and has a place of his own and has been clean since he left BC. He came to Vancouver to watch the fireworks over English Bay with a friend. The reason he stopped by tonight was to show his friend where he used to stay. He was teary-eyed, I noticed, as he recounted his stay with us. He told me that because of the staff at Covenant House, he is where he is right now and he sent his best regards to everyone.