Rod grew up in a stable family in a small community. At the age of 18, he fell in with the wrong crowd and started using alcohol and drugs, heading down a path that caused friction in his once happy household. His family didn’t know how to help him, and he wasn’t ready to change. Rod left home and took a bus to Toronto.
More than thirty years later, Covenant House still holds a special place in Rod’s heart. He sought refuge in February 1985, three years after we opened. Since then, we have offered opportunity and hope to more than 90,000 young people.
As we mark our 34th anniversary this February, we reflect on changes like our growth to become the country’s largest agency for homeless youth and the increasing complex needs of the young people we serve.
When Rod arrived in Toronto, he tried to attend a city high school and couch surf, but that didn’t work out. One bitter winter evening when he had nowhere to go, Rod found Covenant House. He was immediately given a shower and treated for scabies.
“For the first time since leaving home, I felt safe,” he said. “I never felt judged. I realized this was the place where I’d be given a chance.”
Rod settled in to the house’s routine quite well. While he searched for a job, he could rely on three meals a day and a safe, warm place to sleep. “Without Covenant House, I would have slept on the street that February,” Rod told us. “I think they saved my life.”
He eventually landed a part-time job at a pizza place and tried to get his life back on track.
Soon after, Rod decided to return home. He was still using drugs and alcohol, but with the support of family, he was determined to change. He attended an Alcoholics Anonymous program and has moved on with his life.
Today Rod is married to his high school sweetheart, is the proud father of seven children ranging in age from three to 23, and owns his own business.
Looking back to that time, he feels that things might have turned much worse had he not come to our doors that cold night in 1985, and he’s glad that he did.
“If you are struggling, there are people who want to help. Looking back, I might not be alive. Fortunately, I found help. Thanks to Covenant House, I’m here today.”