A few months ago, I was in doing my grocery shopping when I heard my name called. As I turned around, I was greeted by a girl I barely recognized. I knew her from somewhere, but it took me a minute before it dawned on me who she was. It was Madison, a youth who had stayed with us at our Crisis Program about three years ago.
She looked completely different. When I knew her, she was extremely thin, her hair had been roughly shaved off and was growing out unevenly and she still had some patchy areas on her scalp. She was pale and her skin had a lot of scrapes and scratches on it from the harsh conditions she had endured. I had known a very timid but very sweet girl who had trouble looking anyone in the eye unless she got to know them.
This was not the girl standing in front of me in the supermarket. She was transformed! She had put on some weight and looked strong and healthy. Her hair was glossy and cut in a lovely style that framed her face. But it was her face that held the biggest transformation – her skin was glowing and her eyes were bright as she smiled from ear to ear and chatted easily with me about how she was doing and how proud she was that she had been off drugs for over two years.
I remembered when she had come to us, she was struggling with substance misuse and had been sleeping on the streets for a few months. Her father had left when she was younger and her mother had suffered with mental health issues, so Madison had tried her best to look after her younger sister, of whom she was fiercely protective.
When Madison was 18, her mother had had a particularly bad bout of depression and had stopped taking her bi-polar medication which made living at home unbearable. Madison tried to stay but it was a very toxic environment. One evening Madison’s mother, who was prone to angry outbursts, got into an argument with her and threw her out. Madison had nowhere to go and no one to turn to so she ended up sleeping on the streets. She was extremely vulnerable and had been preyed upon by older men who had taken advantage of her and had tried to recruit her into the sex trade.
She knew she did not want that life and even though it was difficult for her to ask anyone for help she started to look up available supports on google and came across the website for Covenant House Vancouver and decided to give us a try. She was very fearful and withdrawn when she arrived. Her feet were badly infected from being constantly wet, so she decided to stay until that condition had been treated.
Madison’s main priority was to get into treatment. While waiting for a place in a treatment centre Madison stayed at Covenant House and began seeing a counsellor once a week.
While Madison was always very shy, once she had settled in, she began to build strong relationships with the staff and the other youth. Whenever we had a new youth come to us, Madison would be the one to go reach out.
Eventually a place in treatment became available and Madison left us to go there. We had heard that she had done very well there but we had not heard from her much after that.
The shy girl who had walked out our door to go to treatment back then was a million miles away from the girl standing in front of me. She said she had gone through a few jobs after treatment and eventually got a job in retail that she absolutely loved. She said that she had recently been promoted to supervisor was really excited about that.
She was sharing an apartment with a friend she had met though work and was so happy to tell me that her sister had moved in with her about 6 months ago. Then she said, “I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t read about Covenant House that day, I thank God every day that he led me to your door!” I said that I was glad too and reminded her that she was the one that had done all the hard work, we had just supported her along the way. “Just when I needed it though” she said, “you guys didn’t just save me, you saved my sister too and I’ll be forever grateful for that”.
Shared by Julie, Youth Worker at our Crisis Program