Each time homeless youth in our community apartments program first step into their own place, they have a sense of hope for the future. At Covenant House, we have witnessed the transformative power of hope in all of our programs, but there are few moments more significant than when a youth moves into a place of their own. Youth who may have once defined themselves by circumstances beyond their control, believe they can create their own destiny.
Our rent-reduced community apartments give youth who are ready to move forward, the opportunity to live on their own for up to a year. Youth are selected from other Covenant House programs if they are employed and show a commitment to progress towards independence. Hollyburn Properties and The Daniels Corporation are property management and development companies that have partnered with us to provide the clean, bright units.
Much like a supportive parent, our workers get to know each youth well and tailor their approach. They check in with the youth frequently. Our workers help youth to find their way around their new neighbourhood and make sure they are comfortably settled in. The youth receive some furniture and household items that they can take with them after the year is over.
“The moment they get their apartment, you see growth in each aspect of their lives. They’re always looking for that one chance and with stable housing, we open that window to them,” explains our housing worker Danny. “When I hand them their keys, they feel so much pride, safety and relief. They think, ‘My life is going to change now. I’ll go to school, finish school, get a new job, keep the job’ and then they go out and they do it.”
Tara, 22, came from an abusive home and went to Covenant House when her mom kicked her out. Ambitious and motivated, she sought Danny out herself to tell him she would like housing while she was staying in our shelter. He sat down and worked out a budget with her. She was disappointed that her retail job would not cover an apartment.
A few days later, Tara returned to tell Danny that she got a job as a supervisor in another store. But when they looked at Toronto listings together, she realized that even with her new job, she could not yet afford to live independently. “When one of our community apartments became available, I told Tara right away to apply for it. She was so gung-ho,” Danny said. She wrote a moving letter about how she rose above the trauma in her childhood. She said that she was grateful for the support she received at our shelter, but she was ready for independence. She was selected and she moved in a few months ago.
“The moment she walked in, she was in tears. She said it was so much more than she ever expected,” Danny recalls. Tara reached out to her little sister who often visits her at her new place. She knows that she can be an example to her sister who must also heal from the pain of her upbringing. “She’s looking up to me now. I’m a mentor to her,” Tara says.
“Our youth always have some doubts when they first move in, but in this program so far they have all succeeded,” says Danny. “When our youth move out of the community apartments, they move into a new place with confidence that they can live independently. At the end of the program, their apartments are clean, and they’re cooking, budgeting, meal planning, using time management. They know they can do it all now.”