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Life Skills — A Building Block of Home

What makes a home, or a sense of home, is different for everyone. Desiree, Life Skills Coordinator at CHV, shared how life skills are an integral part of home and how life skills help satisfy the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that help youth develop and create a home that meets their needs.

Some youth refer to CHV as home, and some youth view CHV as an interim step as they work towards their sense of home. “It’s not for us to tell someone whether or not a place is their home. It’s more about cultivating that sense of safety and security.”

When youth enter into the Crisis Program or ROP, the first thing that they notice is that their bed is secure.” I think that that’s where the sense of safety in home begins is just letting a youth know that when you come here, you don’t need to worry about that anymore. We take that off the table.”

Knowing that they have a safe and secured place to sleep, youth can then focus internally into creating that sense of safety within. “A lot of times, youth actually struggle more than when they first presented, because those basic needs are now met, which means they can now identify the psychological needs under the surface and the things that maybe they didn’t even have time to consider.”

“More often than not, I see youth come in crisis, settle in and be pretty good for four, five, six weeks. And then, there’s this drop off: ‘My food’s going to keep showing up, my bed’s going to be here, the heat’s going to stay on, the electricity’s going to be here.’ And then, that safety level of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is met. All of a sudden, all of the trauma and all of the things from the past are resurfacing. ‘Now that I’m physically safe, I have enough capacity to all of a sudden unearth some of the other things that I maybe haven’t been addressing.’”

A large part of supporting youth at this phase is wellness planning with their clinical counsellors. For life skills, Desiree supports youth by showing them how to establish self-care routines or how they can best manage their time so that youth can make sure they’re spending enough time in the day doing the self-care pieces that are integral to overall wellness.

“A big part of what I do is to help youth prepare for when they leave here and build a sense of home in the community.” For Desiree, this could look like anything from educating youth on their rental rights to learning how to prepare a meal. Some youth have never learned to cook or plan a meal before. To help build a sense of home, internally, Desiree will often search for recipes that are rooted in the youth’s culture and/or country of origin, so that there’s a feeling of familiarity when the youth cook.

CHV’s priority is to first meet the physiological needs of youth when they walk through the door. Once those needs are met, the next needs encompass safety, security, health, employment, family and social. This level is something that CHV tries to foster and build within each youth. “We can’t guarantee that we can get someone a job, but we can get them connected to life skills, help them seek employment, we can get them connected to counsellors, to look into their mental health and wellness.”

Once there is a sense of safety and trust, the next level of needs is about fostering relationships. “We start to see them [youth] forming attachments and relationships to staff, to their other youth, to CHV in general, and to the community.”

And that’s when Desiree helps youth build on those skills to replicate them with those in the community, with the life skills that she teaches.” Canada’s in the middle of a loneliness epidemic, so I try and be really intentional about talking to youth about how to form those friendships.”

The next level of needs is around self-esteem. “The very nature of life skills, I think, can be a shameful experience for anyone to say, ‘I don’t know this. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t understand this.’ My job is to try and demystify life skills and make it so that they understand that it’s through no fault of their own, that they don’t have these skills and that most of these things are not taught.”

Desiree is transparent and authentic as she helps guides youth through this challenging level. She admits that she is not an expert in all areas of life skills so when she doesn’t know something, she will say, “I don’t know it, let’s learn it together.”

To help youth gain a sense of self-esteem, Desiree takes this approach, “I do exploration with youth about core values and trying to figure out what is important to me [youth] as a person. What makes me, me? How can I carry my core values with me in my day to day to make sure that I feel like I’m living in alignment with who I really am? And I think all of that contributes to a sense of self, contributes to a sense of safety, because to know yourself Is to feel safe within yourself.”

Desiree cites the example of a youth who wanted to learn how to cook so that they could cook for their partner and baby, but the youth was worried about cutting off their finger, because they had never been shown how to safely hold a knife and cut.

Desiree began with having the youth just practise the cutting motion in the air. They then progressed to cutting soft food items. The youth slowly graduated to joining Desiree’s Cook Up Your Future workshops. After three weeks, the youth made breakfast burritos. “He was so excited. He went upstairs and showed everyone. He was saying, “Look! I learned how to make this. I’m going to make it for my girlfriend this weekend!” this is just one example of how Desiree helps youth feel safe and helps them build their self-esteem.

When youth transition from CHV to independent living, they have risen through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They are now ready to conquer the final level, which is achieving their full potential by creating the future that they want that is rooted in their sense of safety, knowing that they can meet their needs with confidence and a connection to their community.

You can help youth build their sense of safety, confidence so that they can create the futures that they deserve. If you donate today, your gift will go three times as far in supporting youth on their journeys.

 Thanks to the generosity of Kim and Bryan James, your gift today will be triple matched. Your donation will help provide youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness and human trafficking with life essentials, along with mental health support, life skills training, and advocacy, to empower them to build brighter futures for themselves.