Living on her own terms

Marissa_thumbWhen Marissa was 16, her mother’s boyfriend tried to make a pass at her. Her mother did not want to believe her and feared any confrontation with him. After Marissa rejected him, he was determined to make her life difficult. She was trapped in her home for days unable to leave except to go to school.

Marissa’s mom was young herself and still finding her way. She struggled to provide for her three kids. Her boyfriend was controlling and emotionally abusive to all of them, but she relied on him and was afraid to be alone. So she let him set the rules for the house.

One afternoon, Marissa snuck out briefly. Her mother’s boyfriend punished her by removing all her bedroom furniture, so she would be forced to sleep on her ceramic tile floor. She piled up a few clothes for a pillow that night, but she knew she had to leave.

When Marissa left home, she was scared, but she also felt tremendous relief. “Anything was better than what I left,” she shares. When she found her way to Covenant House, it was different than she expected. She remembers her registration process vividly. “I just felt comfortable and cared for. It was almost like going to your grandma’s house. They made sure I had something to eat. They took me on a little tour around. They walked me through everything I could expect.”

Marissa appreciated that the staff were non-judgmental and did not talk down to anyone. “I never felt judged for who I was or what I wore,” she explains thoughtfully. “All the kids who live here at one point or another had something negative happen to them, so it’s so hard for them to trust people. When staff don’t judge them, they start to build that trust again. It creates a bridge.”

Marissa focused relentlessly on her goals. It was summer and she planned to move out and attend high school in the fall. We helped her with challenges like getting her ID replaced, and gave her the support and resources to find a place to live.

While living on her own, Marissa attended high school and then put herself through college to become a legal assistant. Today, she works for a major law firm. She plans to return to school to become a lawyer herself when the time is right.

Marissa is also a devoted mom to two young boys, 8 and 11. “My older son is a go-getter, really good at sports and loves to learn,” she shares proudly. “My younger son is very clever and resourceful. They’re their own little individuals.”

Marissa is introspective about the journey she made to get to where she is today. “I knew what I needed to do to survive,” she shares. “But one of the hardest things I needed to learn was to ask for help.” She is very grateful that Covenant House provided a safe place to land when she needed it most.

2 thoughts on “Living on her own terms

  1. How can I volunteer. I don’t have money to donate, but both my daughter and I would like to volunteer

    • Covenant House Toronto

      Thank you so much for your kind offer! Please visit http://www.covenanthousetoronto.ca/volunteer with lots of helpful info. There is an application form link and a list of some of the type of help we could use. Thanks so much again!

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