Jason had no idea how he was going to find a place to live and manage on his own. With entry-level wages and no family support, he worried that an independent life would be impossible.
The 22-year-old left his native Jamaica, where his mother continues to live, to join his father and step-mother in Canada. Family conflict forced him to move out with friends. His friends struggled to keep their jobs and soon their housing fell through. Jason came to the crisis shelter at Covenant House for the same reason so many other kids do—he had run out of options and had nowhere else to turn.
Easygoing yet quietly-determined, Jason quickly stood out to his youth workers. He was keenly interested in moving his life forward and was willing to work hard to achieve his goals. While staying in our crisis shelter, he worked with our Job Centre to land an apprenticeship in construction. He also found a weekend job at a grocery store.
On the day Jason found out he had been selected to move into his own rent-reduced apartment from Hollyburn Properties, he asked his youth worker if he could call his mom back home in Jamaica. “I wanted to tell her the good news,” he says. His mother was overcome with emotion when she heard that he got this opportunity. “She cried because she knew her son was safe now,” he explained.
Jason now has the chance to learn to live independently thanks to the Covenant House-Hollyburn Properties Youth Housing Program. The new partnership provides him with a furnished apartment. He will pay about one-third of the market rent while he continues to receive our support. Hollyburn will then donate his subsidized rent to support our services at the end of the year.
Covenant House and Hollyburn Properties recently held Jason a housewarming party in his new bachelor suite. It was thoughtfully decorated with furnishings he chose with the help of his youth workers and paintings given to him by our art therapy program, Arts and Minds.
Covenant House will continue to provide Jason with donated household items, frequent check-ins and other support through the year. His youth workers will work with him on life skills like budgeting, time management and cooking. They will help Jason find his own place when the year is up. He’ll also be able to take his furniture and other items with him when he moves out.
Hollyburn Properties is one of the largest Canadian-owned property management companies. They provide Covenant House Vancouver youth with four subsidized apartments. Jason is the first youth to benefit in Toronto from the expanded program.
“Hollyburn is helping us to give our kids the skills they need to transition successfully to independence,” says Bruce Rivers, Covenant House Executive Director.
The Hollyburn partnership marks the start of our new Stable Housing Plan to offer more youth housing in the community while they continue to access the agency’s support. The plan includes acquiring market value and subsidized apartments or condos. By next summer, the agency hopes to have housing for 10 youth.
Hollyburn Ontario General Manager Mike Capone has issued a challenge to his competitors. “We hope other property management companies will be encouraged to follow suit in this initiative of compassion, community and corporate responsibility.”
“It was the answer to my prayers,” says Jason. “Everyone needs a little push. And once you’ve got that, you can move mountains. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
Jason hopes to upgrade his skills and maybe own his own construction company someday.