Christmas can be the hardest time for a kid living in a shelter. It is when kids reflect with painful clarity that they may never know the warmth and festive spirit of a loving home. At Covenant House, we do everything we can to make sure our youth feel loved and appreciated during this difficult time.
Covenant House is decked out with trees and decorations throughout the house put up by staff, volunteers and youth. Our youth share their talents with each other at a holiday concert, karaoke night and Christmas art workshop. Special outings to the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square or donated tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet create memorable moments for our youth and a special chance to build friendships with each other.
“The staff is always trying to make the holidays as special as they can with a warm and pleasant atmosphere for our youth,” says Laurie, our shelter manager. “It would be pretty bleak for our kids during winter without the special Christmas activities.”
Covenant House is well known for our quality food, but during the Christmas season our meals are legendary feasts. Our chef, who also runs our successful culinary arts training program for our kids, ensures that Christmas brunch and turkey dinner is as delicious as any family home’s. The carefully prepared meals demonstrate to our kids in a tangible way that they are valued and important.
On Christmas morning, every youth receives a new backpack filled with donated gifts that are thoughtful and practical, like gift certificates to Tim Horton’s, slippers and lip balm. The gifts are simple, but the impact is great. Last year, Marie, a young woman who was excited, but nervous to move into her first apartment, was ecstatic to receive her gifts. She was tremendously moved that our donors would be so kind to kids like her.
“It’s a really hard time for our kids to be in a homeless shelter. It brings up a lot of feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and of not belonging,” says Laurie. “The holidays make it really clear to all of us what we have and what we don’t have, especially for our kids. That’s why we work hard to show them they are cared for.”