The Heartbreak of Homelessness & the Covenant House Sleep Out

Case Studies

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. 



Author: Dwaina

I am devoted to making people love living in their homes. I have done that with absolute joy for most of my life and as a career for the past 20 years or so... I am a homebody – I do not actively seek adventure but I have had adventures. I believe home is the most sacred and important place in the world. I say I grew up on a farm – but I doubt technically it would qualify as a farm. Five acres – one milk cow – one calf - we ate them when they grew up, lots of chickens and a few pigs – we ate them too… I was that kid who dragged rugs and furniture out to the orchard and set up outdoor rooms. It mixed my two favourite things – outside and comfortable furniture. My friends and I would sleep outside in my “rooms”. It was magical because my ceiling was full of stars. I have lived in small houses, big houses, basement suites, cottages, condos and apartments. I have built and I have renovated houses. For a short time in my young life I was without a home – this changed me. I have lived with pets, wanted and unwanted – rodents are unwanted… I have lived in a house richly full with the raising of my four children. I have had the tremendous joy of my children carrying my grandchildren into my home. I have had my home become an “empty nest” and my life shrunken and shattered with the loss of my beloved husband. Home and my people there have always been my comfort. It does not matter where home is, it only matters that you are in it and that you find comfort there and that is why I do what I do.
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