I feel like it’s my family

We had an all-team meeting yesterday which we hold four times a year as a way to bring together all of the different departments that work at Covenant House from the front line youth workers, to the custodians, cooks, fundraisers etc.  Even though we cross paths every day, we don’t have many opportunities as a group to reflect on the work we do here and the youth we are all here to help.

One of our CSS workers, Howard, shared some stories about three youth that the CSS team have known and the thread that tied his stories together was loneliness.  It reminded me of a story that one of our youth workers wrote a few years ago as it really sums up how incredibly alone many of our youth are:

We had a young man come in for Hot Meal who disclosed to staff he was hearing voices telling him to kill people and then jump off the Granville Street Bridge.  Due to our extreme concern for his safety, we called 911.  While waiting for the police to arrive to assess his mental health, I spent about half an hour with him in my office just listening to him. 

He told me how lonely he was and how he didn’t understand why psychiatrists and the police wouldn’t just leave him alone.  When the police arrived and spoke with the youth, they quickly came to the conclusion he was a risk to himself and needed to be seen by a doctor.  He was taken to St. Paul’s via ambulance, and one of our Outreach workers met him at the hospital to keep him company and reassure him that Covenant House staff were truly only concerned with his safety.

We had an all-team meeting yesterday which we hold four times a year as a way to bring together all of the different departments that work at Covenant House from the front line youth workers, to the custodians, cooks, fundraisers etc.  Even though we cross paths every day, we don’t have many opportunities as a group to reflect on the work we do here and the youth we are all here to help.

One of our CSS workers, Howard, shared some stories about three youth that the CSS team have known and the thread that tied his stories together was loneliness.  It reminded me of a story that one of our youth workers wrote a few years ago as it really sums up how incredibly alone many of our youth are:

We had a young man come in for Hot Meal who disclosed to staff he was hearing voices telling him to kill people and then jump off the Granville Street Bridge.  Due to our extreme concern for his safety, we called 911.  While waiting for the police to arrive to assess his mental health, I spent about half an hour with him in my office just listening to him. 

He told me how lonely he was and how he didn’t understand why psychiatrists and the police wouldn’t just leave him alone.  When the police arrived and spoke with the youth, they quickly came to the conclusion he was a risk to himself and needed to be seen by a doctor.  He was taken to St. Paul’s via ambulance, and one of our Outreach workers met him at the hospital to keep him company and reassure him that Covenant House staff were truly only concerned with his safety.

What strikes me about this story is how this young man had no one to turn to, no one or where to call “home”.  Our youth workers are the families for so many of the youth who come to Covenant House.  They visit youth in the hospital, accompany them to important appointments, and in the worst scenario, are some of the only people who attend their funerals when they pass away.  Often we are a young person’s “in case of emergency” contact when they fill out forms at the hospital.

Loneliness is something we don’t often talk about as it relates to homelessness but its prevalence is without doubt.  I thank Howard for reminding us of this.