Journey began with a single step

Becca_thumbBecca was abandoned on the side of the road by street friends somewhere in Toronto. She had spent time in a group home and then bounced rootlessly for three years between dodgy housing situations before hitching a ride to the city. Lost, starving and dressed in tattered clothes, the sixteen-year-old walked for what seemed like miles along a highway until she arrived at a coffee shop shaking and terrified. The police brought her to Covenant House.

When Becca came to us, she was a torrent of unfocused emotion. A life of horrific physical and sexual abuse had taught her that adults were dangerous.

“I was pretty feisty when I first came here. I would snap for no reason. I was angry at everybody and I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” Becca remembers.

By the time Becca left her home with her adoptive family at 13, she had experienced untold pain and loss in her young life. She was taken away from her alcoholic mother as a baby. But, life with her adoptive family was agonizing. “It was hard to smile at first, because at home I would get punched for smiling,” she explained.

As a child, Becca sometimes wouldn’t be fed for long periods, and she would sometimes have to “earn” necessities through unspeakable acts. When she came to Covenant House, Becca wolfed food down and guarded her plate when people walked by, an all too common behavior from neglected kids. Everything she had known taught her not to trust someone to provide for her unconditionally.

Slowly, Becca let her guard down and got to know some of the staff. “Staff noticed that I started to calm down when I began opening up to my youth worker. I really connected with her,” she recalls.

Becca moved from the Crisis Shelter to the longer-term Rights of Passage program. She attended our onsite school and our Cooking for Life culinary arts training program.

Becca also participated in a 12-week intensive Dialectical Behaviour Therapy session facilitated by our youth workers and our onsite Health Clinic psychiatrist. This marked a real turning point for her. The program helps youth who are struggling with trauma and mental health challenges to develop coping strategies and interpersonal life skills.

The techniques Becca learned in the group and one-on-one sessions helped her relax, diffuse her anger and interact with others in a healthy way. She started to get along better with staff and her peers.

After some time, Becca began to see a vision of a new life for herself. “I noticed that people with jobs seemed a lot happier–they had money and something to focus on. And, they dressed differently from me,” she explained. She traded in her pierced and punky look for a more professional one, and eventually landed a job in the kitchen of a busy Irish pub.

Becca brightens as she names the numerous staff members who she counts as mentors in programs around Covenant House. She speaks with warmth and generous enthusiasm about a supervisor in our longer-term Rights of Passage program, the coordinator at our onsite school, a job coach in our Job Centre, the housing placement workers and her Youth In Transition worker who helped her start life in her new North York apartment. The adults at Covenant House have given her a sense of home and family she never had before.

Composed and smartly dressed, Becca, now 22, is a striking and confident young woman who shares her story with an open heart. These days, she splits her time between working at the pub, finishing up her high school diploma and checking in with our drop-in centre. She is exploring several career options. She also enjoys exercise, meditation and the outdoors. It has been a very long journey to emotional well-being for Becca. She is still doing the hard work of healing from the scars of her youth, but for now, she knows the worst is over.

10 thoughts on “Journey began with a single step

  1. Having been one of 5 kids sexually assaulted growing up, myself from the age of 5 through to 15 when my brothers & I grew to be stronger than our father, I can relate to your kids’ stories. Our father took the coward’s way out by committing suicide when we stood up to him. Our mother was laid up with a bad lower back/spinal problem & we were told that Mom would die if we spoke out either to her or outside the house what was happening. We had nowhere like Covenant House in the 50′s-60′s & so we continued to suffer the lasting memories of abuse into adulthood. In the hope of helping a teenager not to suffer similar haunting effects I’m making a monthly donation of what I can afford, $10 a month. I’m sorry it’s not more. Chris.

    • Covenant House Toronto

      Thank you so much for sharing your difficult story. The staff at Covenant House feel so blessed to be inspired every day by the resilience of our kids and the generosity of our donors. It’s especially meaningful to hear from donors like you who really understand what our kids are going through. Thank you so much for your kind words and support.

  2. Hello!! I just read Becca’s Story and this make my heart ache but also be glad for her at the same time..You see, I have a granddaughter Rebecca of which we too call her Becca. She is now 17 and a beautiful most highly intelligent young lady and in her last year of University here in Nova Scotia..had been accepted to UNB and also Dalhousie Univ in Halifax..As I read your Becca’s Story..and how this young lady has progressed “she certainly is a shining example” for others out there who can and DO make changes for the better..My daughter (mother of my Rebecca) these ones are not rick people..but she and her husband are Rich in the sense they do right by their son and daughter..I’ve heard of Covenant House some time ago..but just learned of this on the computer..Will be in touch..and Thank You for sharing..

    • Covenant House Toronto

      Thank you so much for your kind note. We are very proud of Becca.

  3. These are the types of people that will make a huge and wonderful change in the world, if they continue on the path they have chosen to take. As a mother of a 21 yr old daughter I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors that children on the street face. Continued success to Becca and may she do wonderful things with her future.

  4. I have been to Covenant House and have found it to be well run and lovely. They do a great job and deserve all the help that we and the Government can give.

  5. I thank Becca for sharing her story, but more importantly wanted to acknowledge her incredibly brave and hard work at healing. I am so grateful that Covenant House provides the shelter and programs to allow healing for youth at risk or escaping bad homes. My own mother was very cruel, and I will always continue to be a monthly donor to Covenant House. The youth deserve our help, guidance and patience.

  6. Reading Becca’s story brought back some memories of when I was a kid living on the Streets of Toronto and me remembering how much Covenant House helped me. I was kicked out when I was 14 and ended up living on the Streets of Downtown Toronto. I went 2 yrs before I learned of Covenant House. I ended up staying there for quite a while ending up down the street in their Long Term Housing because they got me into a Program called FUTURES. Which helped me out and after a few yrs and a jail term I managed to Turn my Life Around. I to this day think that had it not been for Covenant House I would have most likely ended up dead because of the path I had choosen prior to entering Covenant House and their Programs

    • Covenant House Toronto

      Thank you for sharing with us. We love hearing from alumni and we’re so glad to have been there for you when you needed us.

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