Omar remembers returning to Toronto and calling both his parents, every relative and even distant family friends. Nobody answered. He panicked and sank into despair, even considering ending his life. He had nowhere to go. He spent a long time thinking at a downtown subway station before finally realizing there was nothing left to do but find a shelter.
Omar’s mom decided to move him and his brother to Canada when he was in his teens. He spoke no English and struggled to adjust at school. He was homesick and upset with his mother about the move, so they argued a lot and he decided to move in with his father. But Omar would cry about the conflict with his mom. When he left to make amends with her, she still felt rejected by her teenaged son and was not willing to accept his heartfelt apology. He discovered he was shut out by everyone and had to make his own way.
Omar felt cautious and uncertain when he arrived at Covenant House. When he learned that Mauricio, one of our youth workers, runs pick-up soccer games in our gym, he began to feel better. “It was big for me that Covenant House had soccer. It was my identity growing up. I always looked forward to it.”
Our youth workers run numerous extracurricular activities and clubs for our youth. They allow youth to regain a sense of themselves before they were homeless, and to build a bond with staff so they are more open to accepting guidance.
Omar visualized the future he wanted for himself and set to work. He moved from our crisis shelter to our longer-term residence, Rights of Passage. He landed a job as a personal trainer with a major fitness chain and became serious about bodybuilding.
Omar also reached out again to family friends and relatives. This time they answered. They helped him to reconnect with his mother who was ready to listen to her son. They rekindled a loving relationship.
Omar recently moved to an apartment, but we still check in with him through our Youth in Transition program, which gives extra support to youth settling into the community. He is working hard in retail security while he pursues his passion of competitive bodybuilding. He has already competed regionally and his goal is to become an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro.
Today, Omar conveys a calm maturity and self-discipline that he credits to his experiences. “I learned about myself at Covenant House. My time here chiseled me down,” he offers thoughtfully. “I had a former cockiness that I shaped into a more humble confidence here. It made me realize that each moment has a reason.”