I used to think the best days at work were move out days. These are the days when someone who arrived to our door a few months before is now ready to take the next step in their journey and move out to their own place. We remember them when they arrived, often a bit lost, lonely and scared and think about the journey they have been on since that day. We remember how they might have taken some time to settle in, how they eventually got used to the structure. We think about how they started to build relationships, started to have faith in themselves again, started to make the program work for them and started to have goals and dreams again. We are sometimes even a little bit in awe of them, that they have managed to overcome so many obstacles, to finally achieve what they have been working so hard towards for so long… their move out day. As staff, we tend to smile a little wider on these days. There’s probably a little more pep to our step on these days. That’s the very reason we do this work after all, to see young people reclaim their lives and move forward.
Recently a youth returned to our Crisis Program that we had not seen for a few years. She had gone on a journey during her time with us and I remembered her move out day well. She was so happy and excited to move into her own apartment. After she left, she would often call to update us on how she was doing. She’d let us know that she had moved up north now and that she liked it up there, that she’d gotten a job and a car. She called to tell us that she was one year sober. Then, later, that she was two years sober and was so proud of herself! We were proud of her too. We were always delighted to hear from her and celebrate her successes with her.
And now here she was, back at our door again after all this time. Life had thrown some things at her that she found hard to cope with and she had lost her way. Things had started to fall apart for her again, so she decided to return to Covenant House Vancouver.
“I just wanted to be somewhere that I knew I would have support and people would be there for me when I need it” she said when she returned.
That struck a chord with me and really made me consider the way I thought of our “success stories” on move out day. It made me realize that the true success wasn’t that a youth is ready to move out, the real success is that we helped that youth feel safe enough, and cared for enough, that they feel they can take that next step.
We all go through rough patches in our lives and for a lot of us, when this happens, we have the option of going home. Home, to our families, who will help to get us through the hard times. Home is somewhere we know we won’t be judged. Home is somewhere we know we don’t have to always be our best selves and we will still be loved and supported. Home is somewhere safe we can go to heal until we can find the strength to pick ourselves up again. A lot of our youth don’t have that option. They don’t have a home.
I realized that the fact that Covenant House represented home for this girl and many others like her was the real success story. Move out days are still great, but the real successes are in the small everyday interactions that make our youth feel safe and wanted. Checking in with them to see how their day went, listening to them when they are upset or angry and need someone to talk to, enjoying a laugh and a joke with them when they want to share something funny that happened during their day. All these little things add up and hopefully, over time, our youth come to realize that they are worth checking in with, that they are worth listening to, that they are worth sharing a smile with. If we can keep creating an environment, where our youth always feel that they have somewhere to come home to, then every day is a success story.
Shared by Julie, Youth Worker at our Crisis Program