Andrew came to stay with us a few months ago. He is 21 years old and has been on his own for a long time. We had some concerns about Andrew’s drinking and his safety, so the decision was made to keep him at our Drake location (we have two Crisis Shelter locations Drake & Pender same program just housed in two buildings). Drake Shelter fit his needs better, mostly due to its size and accessibility to his already established mental health supports.
When I first started working with Andrew I noticed right away that he was very quiet and spoke very little. I also noticed that he seemed to process things a bit slower as well. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get to know Andrew but I knew that it would take time and effort on my part. So day after day I chatted with Andrew...and each day he chatted a bit more with me. Having a sense of humor with Andrew also helped and making fun of myself did too!
Andrew struggled the first few months with his addictions, but after some scary situations, he decided that he wanted to quit drinking and look for his own housing once he was more stable. He set his goal on applying for the Rights of Passage Program (ROP), our transitional living program aimed at supporting youth learn independence. As Andrew worked on staying sober, he also set himself a goal of finding a job. This proved to be difficult for him due to some of his mental health limitations…so he got connected a job training program for extra support. He was able to secure a placement in the program and committed himself day in and day out to attending and participating in all aspects of the program.
As Andrew continued with his success in his job training program, he began to ask me almost daily as to when I would write him a referral letter for ROP, a requirement for the program. I was upfront with him and advised that I would write him a letter once he had several weeks of sobriety under his belt. So when he did, I kept my end of the deal and wrote him his referral letter. In this letter I explained the progress and changes that Andrew had made towards his goals and recommended him without hesitation for the program.
Andrew was accepted into the ROP program and he was so happy, you could see it written all over his face. I attended his ROP transition meeting and Andrew moved into ROP soon after. I plan to attend a community dinner at ROP to visit with Andrew and I look forward to catching up with him and learning about his new goals.
BC’s foster care system and the process of aging out has been receiving a lot of media attention in recent weeks. You can read Kerry Jang’s original article from The Vancouver Sun here as well as letter’s from Gale Stewart Executive director of Aunt Leah's Place and Kevin McCort President and CEO of Vancouver Foundation. Below Covenant House Vancouver’s Executive Director Krista Thompson also shares her thoughts on this issue.
Covenant House Vancouver is a refuge for youth who have aged out of foster care. They come to us because they have nowhere to live and no source of income. These young people often have backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and a life-time of being moved from foster home to foster home. Not surprisingly, many do not finish high school and lag behind their peers in both social and emotional development.
Without families to help them, these young people also lack basic skills such as cooking, cleaning and goal setting. Unlike many of us, they have no safety net to catch them when they stumble. This is where Covenant House Vancouver steps in and fills a gap; we help those young people who have nowhere else to go, to become healthy, independent adults.
The discussion around BC’s foster care system and the process of aging out of care is a critical one. This issue must remain in the spotlight and we applaud all those who are helping to make life better for these deserving young people. These are OUR children and no single agency or government can do this alone. We need everyone speaking out and standing up for youth so they can get the love and care they desperately need and deserve.
Krista K. Thompson
Covenant House Vancouver
This is the giant “Tree of Inspiration” which was created by the weekend team at our Pender building to update the dining area. The staff wanted to make it spring again so they got some blank leaves and add inspirational quotes to the leaves. Extra leaves are kept in a pouch to the left of the painting and youth, volunteers, staff and visitors are all encouraged to add there inspiring quotes & thoughts when they visit.
What quote would you add to the Tree of Inspiration?
Leaving work today, I was surprised to see Justin, a youth I had worked with a few months ago, at our Shelter reception with a friend. He had come by to pick up some paperwork he had left here, and was also showing his friend, who just arrived from out of town, where he used to stay.
Justin grew up in Chilliwack, but he has lived all over B.C. and Alberta. Justin’s father died when he was young, and he was raised by his God-Mother, who sadly took her own life earlier this year. Justin had been diagnosed a few years ago with anxiety and depression, but Justin felt that this burden was his alone to deal with, so was reluctant to seek help.
Justin was most recently living in Kelowna, but was having trouble finding work, so decided to give it a try in Vancouver. Justin loved cooking, and would speak passionately about food, but found it hard getting a job as he lacked experience. He was also worried that people wouldn’t want to hire him because he had “too many tattoos”.
Justin’s anxiety also made it difficult for him to contact employers to ask for a job. He would get very nervous just at the idea of dropping off a resume. Despite the obstacles, Justin actually found a couple of jobs quite quickly in restaurants, but never held them for very long. Eventually, Justin’s persistence paid off and he got a job as a prep cook in one of the downtown restaurants. You could see the excitement and pride in his eyes when he talked about this job, as he clearly loved what he was doing.
After saving a bit of money, Justin was able to leave the Crisis Shelter and move in with a friend. Like many of our youth who move on, I think of them from time to time and wonder how they’re doing. That’s why I was so happy that Justin stopped by and let me know he was doing well, and was living successfully in a shared apartment. He told me to say hello to his other workers, and said that while shelter living was not always easy for him, he was grateful to us for being there for him when he needed. He introduced me to his friend, who had just arrived from out of town, and said he was helping him out, so he would never need to stay in a shelter himself, but he wanted his friend to know about us, in case he ever needed help.