The holidays can be especially hard for the youth we serve at our drop-in. The streets are filled with festive lights and decorations. But with estrangement from family and challenges to make ends meet, it can seem like the holiday cheer is not meant for them.
“Christmas is very difficult for many of our youth,” explains Karen McGavin, Manager of our Community Support Services, which includes our drop-in. “For a lot of our youth, home just isn’t a safe place, but at Christmas time, it’s sad for them to think about not being with family.”
During the Christmas season, our drop-in centre is a beacon of hope for kids who may be living on the street, couch surfing or just starting out in their own housing. Our drop-in provides youth with refuge from the cold, a warm meal, a hot shower and a food and clothing bank. Welcoming and warm, it also gives youth a sense of connection. The supportive staff and peers give youth, who may face isolation and struggle, the comfort of a community.
For kids on the street, they have a constant battle to meet their needs and stay safe. Sometimes they are not yet ready to stay in our shelter, but the drop-in gently introduces them to how we can help. Even youth who have moved on to live in independent housing often feel lost and lonely once they are on their own. Our staff at the drop-in offers counselling, support groups and help with life skills like budgeting or writing a resume.
Some of the youth are parents. Young parents can connect with staff or take a much-needed breath with their little ones. At our food and clothing bank, we offer baby items, such as diapers. At Christmas time, we can connect parents with resources to help make the season merrier for their children.
“We try really hard to make our drop-in a friendly, comfortable place,” Karen says. “During Christmas, we try to make it festive and homey. The youth seem to appreciate that.”
This Christmas, our drop-in centre will be decorated with care, and it is all for them. We will offer a delicious holiday dinner. We will check in with them to see how they are doing emotionally and if they need any additional assistance with something in their lives. We will provide coats, socks and other essentials. Most importantly, we will remind them that we will be here for them always to find help, warmth and understanding.