Working at Covenant House Vancouver I have had the opportunity to meet many amazing young people. All of these youth have unique situations and circumstances which have brought them to use our services. Since the Drake Crisis Program location became a female only program, I have seen an increase of young women accessing our services to flee abusive situations with a partner or within their own group of people they believed they could trust. Many of these young women have no place to go and no one to trust. Many of these young women have told me they come to Covenant House because they have heard it is safe place for young women and the staff at Covenant House can help them escape these abusive situations.
One day while working in the Crisis Program I received a call from a hospital regarding a young female whom was brought to the hospital because she had been physically assaulted and drugged. The hospital social worker also believed that this young woman may be involved in human trafficking. The social worker at the hospital wanted to refer the young woman Tina to Covenant House to help her get back home outside of B.C. Upon meeting Tina I saw that she was a very young, petite and vulnerable girl desperate to get home. I could also see bruises and scratches on Tina’s legs, arms, and neck. When I asked Tina how she came to be in Vancouver, she stated her friend had told her that moving to Vancouver would be a great opportunity to get away from their small town, get good jobs, and meet new people. Tina also mentioned that her friend stated they would have a great place to stay.
Once they arrived in Vancouver Tina came to realize that this was not the fun and exciting place her friend promised. Tina found herself living in the Downtown Eastside, which was a very scary experience for a young girl from a small town. Tina was also encouraged to use drugs and hang around people that did not make her feel comfortable or safe. Tina also stated her friend encouraged her to sell herself for money because it was an easy way to make money and pay their rent. Tina stated that her friend stated it would be safe because the men they were staying with would look out for them.
Once we realized how at-risk Tina was of being recruited into the sex trade all Covenant House staff banded together to get this girl home. Staff from every program from Community Support Services, Crisis Program, Case Management Team, and Ombudspersons banded together to get this girl home. Within in days staff was able to connect her to supports in her home town and arrange for her to be sent home and picked up. Staff also confirmed that she would be staying in safe place and would have support needed to help her through what she experienced in Vancouver.
I still recall the day we got her up in the morning to be escorted to her travel arrangements. Tina was so happy and grateful that she had found Covenant House Vancouver and could not thank staff enough for helping her to get home. Tina was tearful and sad that she had been convinced to come to Vancouver, only to be physically harmed and placed in a dangerous situation from someone she trusted. Tina even left her belongings behind because she did not want to return to the place she had been staying because it was not safe. Once Tina returned home safe and sound she called Covenant House to again thank the staff for their kindness and for getting her home safely.
It is moments like this that I am so touched by not only the young women we help but the staff that work so hard to help these young women and young men. I have never worked with a more amazing group of people that are so passionate about helping our young people in the community. As well, how we can come together as a team to save one young woman’s life. If it were not for places like Covenant House this young woman Tina may not have made it home.