Dylan is an intelligent, resilient young man who wears a kind and inviting smile. We are very honoured that Dylan offered to share his story with us.
In order to do his story justice, we have broken it down into three posts that we will share throughout the next two months.
This post is the first of the three, and chronicles Dylan’s childhood and adolescent years.
Where It Began
Dylan grew up in North Central, Regina, Saskatchewan. “North Central is the neighbourhood. It’s a square. It’s a big block and it’s completely secluded from the rest of the city. It’s boxed in by two very busy streets and two railroad tracks. Nobody really had any business going in, but sometimes people had business going out.”
“There was a community that formed in there — it was actually the Aboriginal identity and what it meant to be impoverished. I had grown up with very extreme values. My mother raised them into me, my brothers raised them into me, my friends raised them into me. And it was a guideline in the sense of what a boy going to a man should be, what a man should be to his family, and pitfalls of young men. So, it was guidance, but I believe that there were definitely some problems within the guidance.”
“I think back very fondly on my childhood, because things were very simple, and my challenges were very simple challenges. I was hungry often, there wasn’t a lot of money, and there was a lot of danger in my environment. It is a very dangerous environment for everybody, for women, for men, for kids.” Danger and hunger were part of the everyday landscape and were accepted as such.
Dylan has fond memories of being with his family, but upon reflection, realized a subtle, but important nuance. “I remember being with my family and I remember that my family was everything. We laughed together, but we never cried. The boys never cried, and my mom never really cried either. Looking back, I found that very shocking.”
Dylan spent a lot of time with his sister and friends, who often got into a lot of mischief. “I still ran around and played as a kid, and I still had fun. And I did all that on an empty stomach sometimes, as I didn’t know any better. Nobody knew any better. So, it wasn’t bad, actually, it was very good. The bad part came when I realized that things could be better.”
There was a very unique dynamic around the friendships, because of the poverty and scarceness of food. “We didn’t talk about food. They don’t have food, but I have food; or they have food, and I don’t have food. They can’t come over, because right now, I have food; and I can’t go over, because right now, they have food.” If you were fortunate to have something that others didn’t have, you wouldn’t disclose that for a number of reasons, such as guilt for having something that others didn’t have, fear that what you have could be stolen, and humility because you didn’t want to give airs.
Dylan possessed a strong sense of self-awareness and values that he was not willing to compromise, even when faced with potentially dangerous situations. “I was incredibly innocent. I’ve seen a lot of bad things, but I was completely aware that I would never have to do any of those things. And I was stern on the fact that I would never do any of those things.”
Dylan never fought. In fact, he had friends who would escort him home to make sure that he was safe. Occasionally, even his friends would fight, but Dylan would never engage. “I would always just watch, and I’d always spend time with them. I’d make them laugh and we’d just talk about things. I had a very unique upbringing in the sense that I got to keep a lot of integral tools.”
Dylan also experienced parentification. Not only did he parent his sister, but he would also parent his mom to try and help her become a better parent. This amazing ability, at such a young age, did have a downside: “Parentification was challenging because I neglected my inner child.”
Even immersed in the environment, Dylan was very aware. “Food was everything. I don’t think people in that environment even realize that now, but it really was. And there were lots of dynamics, like the addictions that were going on, the violence that was going on, the starvation that was going on, the negligence and all of these factors that really helped me to understand exactly what I didn’t want. All the stuff that I didn’t want to be, that I didn’t want to see anymore, that I didn’t want to experience anymore. And so that was kind of the way I thought; although I was very alone in that idea — I was shocked.”
When asked how he would describe his living situation prior to coming to CHV, Dylan replied, “My bed was not secure, not safe, because my room was not secure. My room was not safe because my house was not secure, and my house was not safe, where I came from, because the locks were always broken. My bed was not secure — it was never my own. Sometimes, I had to share it with family coming in. Sometimes I’d share it with friends who were removed from their homes. It was never just mine. It was always on the table for anybody who needed a place to stay.”
Dylan spent the first 20 years of his life in that environment. But he knew that he wanted a better life. He realized that his journey would have to be on his own, as most of the people in his community feared the idea of change, because it was unknown and came with so many risks — the thought of the unknown was incredibly uncomfortable.
“I’ve thought about homelessness a lot — it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I think that the reason that I look back so fondly on spending time with family and friends is because hunger and starvation are very innate fears and motivators, and humans have developed so many ways to cope with these fears and motivators that it didn’t feel so intimidating.”
Repeated cycles of no heat, no running water, starvation, exposure to violence, time in foster care, and the knowledge of what he no longer wanted to experience, led Dylan on his journey to Covenant House Vancouver.
Thanks to the support of the community, CHV was able to help Dylan on his journey to become the amazing young man that he is today.
If you would like to donate to CHV and help support youth, like Dylan, on their journeys, we have great news! Our Triple Match Campaign is on now! Bryan and Kim James understand how important it is to meet every youth’s basic needs. It gives us great pleasure to announce that, for the second year in a row, Bryan and Kim will be matching donations in our Triple Match Campaign.
For every dollar that you donate, during this campaign, will be matched to triple your impact. Donate today!