Reality check for students

Reachingstudents_thumbKids growing up in homes with abuse or neglect can feel alone and helpless. They may believe that their painful experiences are a normal part of childhood that they must endure rather than something that needs to be addressed. Through our Youth Homelessness Awareness and Prevention school programs, we educate students about the issues that can lead to youth homelessness and give them information to make better choices.

Our school presentations are often the first time students recognize that their own struggles are real and serious. They also learn the dangers of running to the street and community resources that can help them. “Some kids don’t know the pain they are feeling is a normal reaction to a terrible, unacceptable situation… and we assure them that help is available,” says Suzie Tarlatinni, program facilitator.

Our expert staff reach about 32,000 students annually in grades 6 to 12 across South-Central Ontario with interactive sessions to discuss the problems they can face at home or school, including bullying, drugs, family breakdown and abuse and neglect. We present the realities of being homeless and the barriers to becoming independent without education or family support. We also offer advice about Internet safety including online luring and sex trafficking.

Suzie knows the presentations resonate with youth, because of the number of kids who come to her afterwards. “One girl let me know that she had no place to sleep that night, so we made sure she had a bed at the local youth shelter and she would get follow-up support. A boy once gave me a hug and told me he had been in the care of child welfare all his life because his parents abandoned him as a baby. He said it meant a lot to him that we offered help to kids like him. Another boy recognized that his drug use was affecting his mental health and he needed to seek treatment,” she recalls. Suzie adds that numerous kids have mentioned that they were contemplating leaving home and the presentation made them reconsider.

Teachers in affluent neighbourhoods are often surprised when their students disclose some of their issues at home after one of our presentations. Family problems happen everywhere. Our facilitators will sometimes spark a discussion that a student felt too embarrassed to have.

Along with offering vital information to students facing challenges, these presentations foster empathy and a sense of social justice by discussing the plight of their homeless peers. Since 1987, we’ve reached over 382,000 students and have stopped countless youth from running to the street.

Educators wishing to book a presentation in a local school can contact presentations@covenanthouse.ca for more information.

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