“I can’t sleep.”
Billy muttered as he slumped by the office door way and held his hands to his head. It was 3:00AM and all of the residents had gone to bed. It was not unusual for residents to have trouble sleeping.
“What’s going on?” Bob, one of the overnight staff asked as he invited Billy into the office for a seat.
Billy sat down and took a deep breath and sighed out. “I had a nightmare and it was so intense it woke me up.” He took a moment to gather himself. Bob acknowledged this and asked if Billy was OK. “I’m shaken up…I saw my mom in the dream and I had not seen her since I came to Canada.” Billy was later asked if he there was any support that was needed. “Can I go outside for a smoke?” To allow Billy to have a smoke would bend the structure and rule around smoking after-hours but staff agreed that he would be allowed. Billy stood up and walked towards the door and paused despite having his answer. He took a deep breath and asked, “Can someone go with me?”
Bruce, who was also with them, made quick eye-contact with Bob. “Of course,” Bruce stood up from his chair and the two proceeded to go outside. About twenty minutes later, Billy and Bruce returned into the office and sat down. Billy appeared less anxious and happier. He took a relieved breath and began talking about the relationship he had with his mother and how they were separated. Billy later returned to his room and thanked staff for helping him calm down.
In the Crisis Program at Covenant House, there are many residents that come through our doors. Some stay for a week, some stay for a month. Despite being one of our five principles, structure can be stressful to many of the youth who access services. Staff must to be mindful of the stress that can be associated with their new environment.
As the residents become more comfortable, workers begin to learn more about their story and their pasts. When our youth workers interact with the residents and learn, it’s a good reminder that their past trauma can haunt them. Whenever we are able to be flexible to support a struggling youth, it contributes to the heart of what youth workers at Covenant House do: Build Relationships!