“I knew my father was a troubled man. He would beat me up for silly reasons. When I was 18 two days before Christmas he decided to throw me out of the house. Told me to pick up my things and go.”
Art managed to accumulate four or five lockers at school where he could store his personal belongings. He found an abandoned car, locks intact, cleaned out the back, and lined it with newspapers. This is where he slept each night. It was winter so his feet would freeze at night, he would get up walk around and lay back down. Art had become part of the hidden homeless. The primary cause of youth homelessness is breakdown or conflict within the home. Youth like Art are forced to leave unsafe, abusive and unbearable situations. More than one-third of young people who experience homelessness in Canada are from Ontario. Youth in your neighborhoods.
A co-worker noticed Art was continually struggling with a cold and not getting better. This co-worker brought him to the safety of Youth Without Shelter (YWS). At YWS he was given a safe place to sleep, warm clothing and nutritious meals. The YWS Team challenged him to look beyond day to day survival to his future. Not long after, Art was able to connect with extended family and move in with them. Art completed high school and worked tirelessly to save money to pursue further education. He chose to enter the Social Service Worker Program at college. He saw this as a way to give back and support others who were in situations like he had been. Youth thrown into homelessness find themselves without the personal, social and life skills necessary to make independent living possible.
Art chose to do his college field placement at Youth Without Shelter. While in school he worked part-time at YWS cooking and leading life skills workshops. A university degree followed along with time in the corporate world. Weekends you could still find him at YWS helping out. Today, Art is YWS’s Planning and Evaluation Manager. When youth challenge him with: “You don’t understand what I am going through you’ve never been where I am.” Art will think quietly to himself, “Yes I do, let’s keep talking and move forward.”