Joel remembers walking along the deserted city streets one peaceful winter morning two years ago. Snow fell gently as he passed by the darkened storefronts. It was Christmas Day and he was homeless.
Many youth who are struggling to cope with homelessness must also contend with serious mental health issues. About 35 percent of the homeless youth who come to us are suffering from mental illnesses, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or schizophrenia. This marks a significant increase from a decade ago.
Many of our youth have happy endings to their time in our crisis shelter. However, sometimes it’s a difficult journey to get there. I truly believe that we can never stop hoping for a happy ending for our youth, no matter how bad it gets.
By the time he was 17 years old, Nigel had been in jail three times for dealing drugs. He grew up in a troubled neighbourhood with his brother and their single mother who struggled with alcoholism. With little structure and support at home, he looked to his peers for lessons on how to survive.