The #CHVCatchUp is a monthly series featuring the latest updates and news from Covenant House Vancouver (“CHV”). Miss604 is proud to be the Official Blog Partner of CHV. This month’s post has been written by Jason Bosher.
Help Three Times as Many Youth this Season with Covenant House Vancouver
Dylan is an intelligent, resilient young man who wears a kind and inviting smile. You would never guess that Dylan spent 20 years of his young life experiencing poverty, starvation, and homelessness.
Dylan grew up in Saskatchewan in an impoverished and dangerous neighbourhood. He lived with his mom and siblings. “I was hungry often, there wasn’t a lot of money, and there was a lot of danger in my environment. It is a very dangerous environment for everybody, for women, for men, for kids.”
Dylan experienced parentification. Not only did he parent his sister, but he would also parent his mom to try and help her become a better parent. This amazing ability, at such a young age, did have a downside: “Parentification was challenging because I neglected my inner child.”
Even immersed in his environment, Dylan was very aware. “Food was everything. And there were lots of dynamics, like the addictions that were going on, the violence that was going on, the starvation that was going on, the negligence and all of these factors that really helped me to understand exactly what I didn’t want. All the stuff that I didn’t want to be, that I didn’t want to see anymore, that I didn’t want to experience anymore.”
After his family had been evicted from their home in Edmonton with no shelters available, Dylan took the money that he had saved and bought three train tickets to Vancouver —for him, his mother, and his sister. Once in Vancouver, Dylan’s mom began to look for shelters for them all. Covenant House Vancouver (CHV) had a bed available in the Crisis Program for Dylan, and his mom and sister stayed in a nearby shelter.
Dylan realized that it takes a lot of self-awareness in order to break the cycle of homelessness. “There’s a lot of guilt that starts as soon as you gain that awareness, and so people avoid awareness. They avoid this monster under the bed, and it’s something that as soon as you realize it, you have to make your way out of it.”
Life at CHV was nothing like the life he had experienced in the first 20 years of his life. “That [being at CHV] was my very first experience having an abundance of food, an incredible abundance of food. I was surrounded by so many colourful people, so many people with different hobbies, with different personalities, which was very new.” With the clothing room at CHV, Dylan was finally able to express himself. “There was a sense of freedom in my expression that had been very quickly dismantled in my previous environment.” He also found the staff to be extremely patient and accommodating. “And then there were the youth workers, who had so much patience and kindness. They were essentially incredible parents. They were all just incredible parents working with children, working with the inner children of these people, or maybe helping lead them into what it’s like to be your own parent.”
Dylan was hesitant to share his traumatic stories with anyone as he feared that the stories could traumatize others. Dylan was aware that CHV had an art therapy room, but it took some time before he engaged. His intention was to just sit down and try to paint something. “It very quickly became something that felt spiritual, because I had realized how I was feeling. I sat down with the paint, and I started painting. I felt this incredible sense of relief. It felt like I was speaking a truth that I had never opened up about. And it was just my emotions. It was very simple. It’s just how I felt. And I was letting it show.”
Eventually, Dylan decided to write poetry. “I had all these ideas that were within me, and I needed to break out; that’s where poetry came in. It was incredible too — just like the painting, just like the food. Through writing poetry, through these ideas, through this colourful language, I was able to more effectively communicate, in general.”
“I’ve seen what life can offer. I knew what it meant to be full every day. I knew what it meant to go to sleep and be a heavy sleeper. And I knew what safety had become. When I had entered Covenant House, I knew that it meant my room was secure. The people I lived with were trustworthy. There was always food, and it was nutritional food. And there was community. I had made so many friends. I’ll never forget that all these experiences that are linked to one central setting — Covenant House.”
Dylan is now living independently, has a job and is currently working on a book of his poetry that he hopes to publish.
Although Dylan’s story is unique, there are many youth who also experience debilitating trauma. But there is a way that you can help.
Covenant House’s Triple Match Is on Now!
If you would like to donate to Covenant House Vancouver and help support youth, like Dylan, on their journeys, there’s great news! Covenant House’s Triple Match Campaign is on now! Bryan and Kim James understand how important it is to meet every youth’s basic needs, so for the second year in a row, Bryan and Kim will be matching donations, so that every gift will go 3X as far in supporting youth as they work towards the futures that they deserve.
Every dollar that you donate, during this campaign, will be matched to triple your impact. But hurry. The Triple Match Campaign ends December 31st. Donate today!
Follow Covenant House Vancouver on their social channels for more info.
Related: Impact of the Housing Affordability Crisis on Youth; Food for Thought – Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Youth at Covenant House; Covenant House Vancouver Harm Reduction Foundations; Supporting the Mental Health of Youth in the Community.