Malcolm spent a grueling three months on the street, sleeping in Internet cafes and 24-hour restaurants. In a desperate Internet search, he found Covenant House. He came to Canada in his early teens to live with his extended family. There was a lot of conflict in his family and he had been kicked out.
“In the beginning, Malcolm wasn’t focused enough to work,” explains his youth worker Mike. “He was in a shell when he first came here.” Malcolm had been alone on the street for awhile, so he was quiet and closed. While he lived in our crisis shelter, he did not like to share anything about himself. He broke curfew and rules about following a plan that involved school or work. Then one day, in an effort to motivate some of his youth, Mike told Malcolm and a few others to quickly dress up in interview clothes and print some resumes. They all “hit the pavement” together. That day, Malcolm found his job at a food retail store.
Gradually, Malcolm began to forge relationships with other staff and participate in more programs around Covenant House. A self-taught pianist, he spent a lot of time in our chapel where there is a keyboard. He took any chance he could to play piano or sing karaoke, and soon he was engaging with other staff and youth through music. He also joined our basketball club. He was becoming a leader in the Covenant House community.
With a steady job and a better outlook, Malcolm moved to our longer-term housing program Rights of Passage (ROP). In ROP, there are more expectations designed to prepare youth for living independently in the community. Youth get their own rooms and a shared common space in the bright and comfortable residence. They are expected to check in regularly, attend life skills workshops and share chores. Later curfews and other privileges are earned over time. As youth demonstrate that they are able to do well, they are given more independence, just like a caring parent might offer. He became an ambassador for the program and he learned all he could from the opportunity.
Today, Malcolm lives with roommates in the community and continues to work at the job he found with Mike. He continues to use our drop-in centre to touch base with our staff and shoot hoops with our basketball program. He also checks in with Mike to listen to music and talk about life.
Malcolm was thrilled when he was accepted into a Child & Youth Worker program and he is looking forward to starting college soon. “He’s grown up a lot,” Mike says. “I watched him grow into a young man.”
“I made some mistakes while in program, but staff was always willing to welcome me back with a fresh start,” Malcolm shares. “Looking back, it was the rules at Covenant House that now make it easier for me to work full time, be in a great relationship and maintain my own place.”
Malcolm recently sent Covenant House staff a heartfelt letter of thanks. “Since living at Covenant House, my goals in life have changed. The healthy relationships I’ve had there have played a huge part in building my self-confidence and self-esteem,” Malcolm wrote. “I hope to change lives one day, like the workers at Covenant House do every single day.”