Tag: mental health

The Heartbreak of Homelessness & the Covenant House Sleep Out

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The heartbreak of homelessness is real.

It is even more heart breaking when homelessness is experienced as a young person. I had a short time in my early teens as a runaway kid without a home. I had no name for it then, or awareness of how risky my situation was, but I know how lonely, lost and forsaken I felt. This changed me and many years later without a conscious awareness of the “why”, made me fall in love with Covenant House and the work they do. It was while listening to youth sharing their stories that…

I realized I had been“homeless”. If you are curious to know the definition homelessness read this.

Covenant House provides what I consider to be exactly what is needed for young humans, actually all humans, who find themselves lost in their pain and aloneness, without a place to turn to for safety, comfort and guidance. These are things home and community are supposed to provide. These are fundamental human needs denied to so many people and so many young people.  It is utterly crushing to the human spirit to be without these basic things. 

The one constant thread that runs through all homeless and at-risk youth is that they have experienced childhood trauma. This trauma is compounded.

The more trauma the more damage done. We may have opinions about the cause. We may play the social and family blame game, which may make us feel righteous and smart, but it doesn’t heal or help the situation at all. This Ted talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris gives stunning insight into childhood trauma and the health and social impact of that trauma. This is a hurt ultimately experienced by the collective whether we are individually conscious of it or not.

These traumas happened in the tender formative years of childhood. When innocence is the essence of being and it was by no fault of their own.

Although shame may tell us otherwise, we know in our hearts that trauma that happened to us in childhood is not our fault. We carry the pain and damage and then pass it along in the relay race of life. This used to be a life sentence, but  it doesn’t have to be. Modern brain science has given us so many new tools to change this relay race into generational healing.
 

How Covenant House does it:

The  outreach teams working on the streets meet the youth where they are. Among other things they let them know about Covenant House. Once youth arrive, they get immediate care, respite, food and shelter. They have an opportunity to explore options for themselves. Youth are guided by consistent interaction with the same social worker each time they reach out. The youth are empowered to develop a life plan, set goals and determine the actions & support required to reach their goals. They are lovingly held accountable, learning boundaries and self-care. They get mentorship and the Rights of Passage program that guides them into independent living and self-sufficiency, the good kind of self-sufficiency that includes community.

Covenant House is 95% privately funded. This allows them to offer consistent programming without having to adjust to political whims and changes. This freedom of consistency is a powerful and vital part of their work.

 

Most of us live plentiful  lives, we have shelter, we have food, we have family/community, we have enough. I believe that until we all have these things, until we all have enough, then none of us are whole. We suffer as a collective and we heal the same way. Covenant House gives me hope. This is why I support them! By donating and helping to raise awareness and compassion for the important work done by the loving team at Covenant House. They do the work of creating safe space for young humans to find themselves and discover their inherent worth and value. 

On May 30thwe will be sleeping out in an alley for one night to show our solidarity and raise funds and awareness for at risk and homeless youth. I hope you will join us by supporting us in the Mothers or Daughters Sleep Out 2019. Donate here. Right now any donation made will be matched by Alex G. Tsakumis, CEO of Trigate Properties Group and a generous supporter of Covenant House Vancouver. 

 

How Home Makes My Heart Feel

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How Home Makes My Heart Feel

Homeward Bound.

Home for me has always been my safest place in the world. It was in the Fraser Valley- Maple Ridge, BC – on a beautiful piece of acreage. It was spacious, functional and fun. It was something I was unbelievably proud of; always full of food, family and friends. It was my place in the world to feel safe, no matter what. When I came back home from university in Nova Scotia, home was always there waitingfor me. I knew how blessed I was to have this anchor of home. It was a physical place to me as well as a feeling in my heart. At the time, I didn’t distinguish the difference, they were synonymous.

Lost. 

It was in 2012 we lost my father to suicide. The loss was and still is unfathomable. It threw our entire family & community in the deep end of mental health awareness. It left a gaping hole in everyone that knew him. I was left… shattered. I needed to go home, but it didn’t feel the same anymore. The safe feeling in my heart was gone. Shortly after, we sold the family home & property along with a lot of our family possessions. My physical anchor and safe place in the world was gone. At the time it felt like that experience might last forever. After the sale, I ended up renting an semi- furnished apartment off a family friend in Vancouver. It was a space that never felt like mine – I wasn’t sure how it felt, but I know how it didn’t feel, like home. 

Found. 

The next year or so was a blur of trying to make sense of what was now my new normal. It was in late 2013 I moved out of that semi-furnished apartment in Vancouver and into a basement suite in Burnaby with my new partner. I was working for my mom’s interior design firm, Good Space, answering phones at the time. The interior designers at the studio offered to help mock up some space plans for me of my new basement suite with the few furniture pieces I had accumulated. 

They showed me the best flow for the open space feeling of my basement suite and also helped me make a shopping list of things to get for the space in the future. The day my partner and I moved in, we followed our floor plans and began to set up our new space. I filled the shelves with my things, I set up the lamps I had, side tables and some of the personal possession I had at my family home. I felt better about my new space but it wasn’t home, it wasn’t the safety and security I once knew. I didn’t know how to shift this, I felt very stuck.

Home is Created. 

Let’s jump forward to 2019. I still live in Burnaby, still live in a basement suite, and still living with my partner. If you were to ask me today where my safest place in the world is, I would have to say the home my partner and I created in Burnaby. I reflected on how I got here from where I was before and it was a combination of things:

  • Addressing function first in the space I am living, working and playing. It was really thinking about how I use the spaces in my home and honouring their purpose. 
  • Putting aside the desire to have my home look a certain way and understand its about how I want to feel about the space.
  • Making goals and lists for things to get in the future to always be improving the space and function around me. 
  • Most importantly, giving my home the attention it was asking for. 

I honoured that it wasn’t something that was just going to happen, or somewhere that I could just show up at, expecting something from. It is an experience that I am capable of creating in any place I live. It needed nurturing, creating, love and energy.

I learned that home is something I can create anywhere I want to. It’s a combination of energy, function, purpose, my possessions and their meaning to me. It’s a place and feeling that I have learned is both tangible and yet intangible.