It was a usual Wednesday afternoon, and I was busy in the staff office sending emails and getting caught up on some paperwork, as most of the youth were out of the Shelter working on their plans. On Wednesdays, Dr. Steve, a psychiatrist with the Inner City Youth Mental Health team, works out of the Shelter and meets with his clients in an office close to ours. Today he met with Mike, a former Shelter youth who stayed with us for over 20 stays. Today when Mike finished his appointment with Dr. Steve he walked past the office. I made eye contact with him and said hello. I had worked really hard to build relationship with this youth when I was his worker, and I wanted to make sure that he knew I still cared about him, whether he was in the Shelter or not. He stopped in his tracks after I greeted him and walked back towards the office, poking his head through the office door and asked me how I was doing. He looked a lot better than I have ever seen him. He had put on weight, his face was full of color and he looked happy. I told him how healthy he looked and he thanked me and said “I know.”
He updated me on his life, sharing with me that he was still living in his place, and that things were going good, and that he was clean off of the hard stuff for a while. He talked about a new girl he was with who was treating him well and reminisced a bit about his past relationship that went wrong, vowing never to take that road again. I was so happy to hear from Mike that he was also taking steps to return to school, a long time goal for him.
Mike was not always the easiest person to work with when he was in Crisis Shelter, and often challenged many workers with his attitude at times and his more than colorful stories and language. But he always had a soft, personable quality about him, and today that shone above all other qualities he had ever shown us. As our conversation was drawing to a close, Mike said “you guys are like family to me… I miss being here sometimes.” With that, he said his goodbyes and was off to get some paperwork done for school. When he left I couldn’t help but think what a journey Mike had taken with Covenant House and what a great note to leave the Shelter on as he moves down the next path in his life.