At Coast Capital, we’re committed to empowering youth to succeed in life. One way we do this is by providing housing and support so homeless youth can gain the skills they need to become self-sufficient. Picture a young person who has gone through things the average person can’t imagine. Where do they turn to when there’s nowhere else to go? How do they gain the skills they need to live on their own? Youth homelessness is a real issue, and by increasing awareness we can help those who need it the most.
Youth workers play a special role in our cities and for our youth. Whether they work at a school, in a shelter, or in a community house, they work to help ensure vulnerable youth have the resources they need. We sat down with Krista B., Youth Worker, Women’s Crisis Program, at Covenant House Vancouver to chat about youth homelessness and her role as a youth worker.
Life as a youth worker.
How long have you been a youth worker? How has it impacted your life?
I have been a youth worker for 11 years and I have been working at Covenant House for 3.5 years. Prior to working at Covenant House I worked in residential treatment programs with youth under the age of 18 and as a crisis intervention worker in Vancouver and Edmonton.
Being a youth worker has taught me to not make assumptions and to be compassionate. You never know what people have experienced and what they might be going through on any specific day.
In your experience, what factors make youth particularly vulnerable?
There are a lot of different factors that can lead to youth homelessness. In my experience some of the more common factors are past trauma, childhood abuse, lack of supportive adult role models, mental health and addiction issues, and financial stress.
What has surprised you from your time as a youth worker?
Learning that youth homelessness can happen to anyone. Often people have an idea in their mind about what causes someone to become homeless, and what I’ve learned through hearing peoples’ stories is that it affects people from all walks of life. Every day is a new day at Covenant House, and no two people are the same. Within this constantly changing environment the strength and bravery of the youth is constant and I am honored to be a part of their journeys.
You see a lot in a day. Is there any one youth story you could share with us that will always stick with you?
A couple of years ago I worked with a young person who had a very traumatic past. She experienced abuse within her family as well as by someone in the community. When she came to Covenant House she had not lived in stable housing for years and she found it incredibly difficult to trust anyone and to work through her trauma.
As time went on, we forged a close bond. Unfortunately, due to an unsafe situation in the community, we needed to start looking into moving her out of the province. We worked closely with other agencies to ensure her transition would be as smooth as possible and that she would feel safe along the next leg of her journey.
I’ll never forget this particular day before she left. We were chatting, and she was crying so I thought she was upset. When I asked her about it, she let me know that she was crying because she had tried so hard not to let us in and now that she was leaving, she realized how much she was going to miss us.
Even though time has now passed since she left our program, she still calls me every couple of weeks. This young person continues to inspire me through her courage and resilience and after all that she has been through continues to push on and work towards a positive future.
How Covenant House helps.
How does Covenant House help vulnerable youth?
Covenant House meets youth where they are at and we treat youth as individuals. We provide youth who experience homelessness with stability. There are a range of services available like outreach services, crisis programs, and the Rights of Passage program, which supports youth in their transition to independent living. Because we know the importance of relationship building and trust, youth are matched with consistent youth workers and case managers throughout their time with us.
What role do personal and corporate donations have in helping Covenant House run?
Covenant House is approximately 94% privately funded. These donations are so crucial and allow us to form the programs to best meet the needs of the youth served. These donations also help by providing unique opportunities to youth that they may not experience otherwise.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to obtain my Master in Social Work so I am eligible to apply to different positions within Covenant House. Continued learning and development is important to me and I’m looking forward to growing my career at Covenant House.
How can people help make a difference in the lives of youth at risk?
Increase their awareness around issues related to youth homelessness. Donate time or useful items to local shelters, and look for mentorship programs they might be able to support.
Let’s work together to address youth homelessness.
This June, make a donation to Covenant House Vancouver and Coast Capital will match it (up to $100,000). Learn more on our website.