Julie was 17 when she first came to Covenant House. She had been thrown out of the house by her step-father and ended up in an after-hours safe house. Julie was sent back home because the Ministry of Children and Family Development investigation of her family home didn’t turn up any signs of abuse – on the surface everything appeared fine. Julie hadn’t mentioned to the Ministry that she was physically and verbally abused by her stepfather because she thought it was “normal”. Julie was back home only 2 hours before her step-father kicked her out again. She showed up at Covenant House, crying, with nowhere to go.
Julie had been trying to receive government assistance so that she could live independently and complete her high school education but her claim had been denied. In order for a young person like Julie to receive government assistance (welfare), a youth agreement has to be made between the youth and the government. Furthermore, the parents or guardians have to support the decision. This is often difficult to secure because most parents who are abusive, don’t support a youth agreement because it can be perceived as an admission that something is wrong in the home.
Frustrated by her situation, Julie went to Calgary for six months with a “boyfriend” who promised to give her a safe place to live and to start a new life. There, she got addicted to crystal meth and was in danger of being recruited to the sex trade. Julie fled Calgary and returned to Vancouver where she spent six months in and out of safe houses and eventually went to treatment for her crystal meth addiction.
Julie came back to Covenant House where she worked with staff to advocate for a youth agreement. Working with a Ministry social worker, staff explained to them that contrary to what Julie’s parents had said, she was not safe at home. As a result, further Ministry investigation eventually revealed that Julie had been abused in the home and that her mother had been fraudulently collecting the child tax credit – she is now facing fraud charges.
Julie’s story ended happily; she is now living in our Rights of Passage program and is finishing her high school diploma. She has become an excellent advocate for herself, navigating her way through the “red tape” of the social service and government assistance maze.