When Macy’s dad left, her mom changed. Her dad had been physically abusive and critical to Macy as a small child, but when he left, it did not get much easier. Angry, disappointed and overworked, her mom barely spoke to her except to yell.
At school, Macy was a loner. She felt quirky, misunderstood and out of place in her small Ontario town, and trouble at home made her feel even more different from her peers. She would cut class to hide out in her room and find refuge in her music.
“I constantly skipped school,” Macy recalls. “I just wanted to avoid reality at all costs.”
When Macy was 15, she visited her dad and they got into a physical fight. A friend who also struggled at home convinced her it was time to run away, so they pooled their money and bought two train tickets to Toronto.
When Macy set out on her own, she thought she had everything figured out. She had even enrolled in high school in the city, intent on starting a new, normal life.
Macy was referred by her high school to a women’s shelter for a few months, but it was a crowded and chaotic place for the now 16-year-old. Attending school was easy at first since she liked it much more than in her hometown, but the instability made it too hard to continue. She stayed in numerous youth shelters. She even spent many nights sleeping in apartment building hallways before the security guards kicked her out, on the edge of a park fountain or on a park bench.
When Macy came to Covenant House, she immediately felt safe, welcome and comfortable. She found staff encouraged a culture of respect and non-judgment. Here, she made a profound discovery that would change the way she thought about her life and other people—she was popular and well liked! Back home, she believed she would always be judged, rejected or let down by others. But at Covenant House, kids who seemed very different from her at first, thought she was fun, interesting and relatable. They bonded over their common struggles and developed loyal, lasting friendships.
Outgoing, generous and full of joy, Macy became the person she was always meant to be. She opened up to several staff who encouraged her to explore her potential. She also rocked our open mic nights with her ukulele and she looked out for her peers who needed help.
Macy completed our culinary arts program, Cooking for Life, and used our employment centre to land a retail job. She moved out when she had saved a little and a friend needed a roommate.
Today, she is very close to her mom, who has also moved to Toronto. “She’s my best friend and I tell her everything,” Macy says. When her paternal grandmother died, she reconnected with her dad as well. “My dad and I are very different people now. It took me a long time to talk to him about my feelings without crying, but we have both worked hard towards a better relationship now.”
It was Macy’s dad who encouraged her to apply to university a few months ago. She had taken a few courses in criminology at a community college as a mature student, but she had not finished high school and her marks were terrible. She thought her dad’s suggestion was ridiculous, but she decided to humour him, and she applied to a university child and youth worker program.
One evening, while enjoying some sushi at a restaurant, Macy got a call from the admissions officer to say she had been about to pass over her application, when she looked at her admissions essay. Macy wrote about being homeless and the lessons she learned about resilience and kindness. The officer told her the essay really touched her heart. She gave her a conditional acceptance if she upgraded her marks and handed the transcript to her in person. Macy crammed some high school courses in and raised her marks. Then she and her mom delivered the improved transcripts to the officer as promised.
Macy began the child and youth worker program this fall. “I really want to work at Covenant House! I want to be a youth worker and help other people in the same situation,” she shares. “I want to tell young people, ‘I know it seems bad now, but you’re going to be OK. I’ve been there and I know you’re going to be fine.”
Macy is doing well in university. “Actually, I’m killing it,” she says. She’s looking forward to moving into an apartment with just her and her cat, Paul, next month. She recently shared her story with the 70 CEOs and top executives who slept outside to raise funds at our Sleep Out: Executive Edition. She shared her biggest regret while she was here with the execs: “I wish I would have shut my mouth and listened to what the staff were trying to tell me sooner!”
Macy fondly remembers the Christmas season while she was staying with us, with a giftbag of essential items for each youth and a scrumptious festive meal. She is looking forward to connecting with staff and other alumni at the annual holiday gathering coming soon.