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Education and Youth Homelessness: Balancing School and Life


With September around the corner, many students are preparing for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, homelessness puts a lot of youth in an uncomfortable position of trying to balance surviving day-to-day while also meeting the hard demands of keeping up with an education.


Shavesha, a youth at R.E.S.T. who has been at-risk of homelessness and without any family support knows the struggles of keeping a balance between working to make ends meet and focusing on her studies. Her daily work life has kept her on the go for the majority of the day and she has had to sacrifice something as vital as sleeping in order to help keep up with surviving and finishing school assignments at the same time.


"It'd be working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and then I'd try to fit in some sleep before my classes and hope I won't sleep through class."


It is a difficult life for many in similar circumstances as homelessness and being at-risk of it causes many youths to make difficult decisions and sacrifices that many people are not privy to. One of these sacrifices might be giving up an education altogether to maintain a living, which sadly Shavesha agreed was the choice she would make if she can’t keep up with her basic needs of food and shelter. Many statistics and studies pinpoint this as a strong loss of quality of life. Lack of an education, alongside a history of homelessness, places youth at risk of long-term social exclusion as well as making them more likely to experience unemployment or limited employment.


Shavesha can attest to the struggles it can cause to someone’s mental health, aging out of foster care, she has experienced and seen the effects it has had. “Sometimes you just feel super lonely or that some people your own age don't really understand. They know how difficult it is, but they can never put themselves in your shoes.”


Nonetheless, many youths do make this difficult decision to give up their education, not because they want to, but because they have to. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Association, between 63% and 90% of homeless youth in the Toronto and Ottawa regions have not even graduated high school. With the cost of living only increasing in our region, more and more youths will have to continue to make these sacrifices in order to survive.


With this reality staring her down and limited options, Shavesha was subsequently referred into R.E.S.T. “R.E.S.T. has become a support system for me in terms of getting the additional things I wouldn't have been able to get.”


Through the Bare Necessities program, she was given money to help pay for groceries, something that she has stated has helped her traverse the adulthood budgeting challenges that were thrown onto her due to aging out of foster care. Through R.E.S.T. that she received assistance with gaining part time employment to help her afford to live independently while continuing her education at York University, helping her avoid the same fate that so many youths suffer from.


Because of her lived experience, she has become inspired to attain a Masters degree in Social Work in order to help other kids who have seen the same life that she has.

Being so moved by the level of support that R.E.S.T. offers Shavesha referred her friend who is currently in the emergency youth shelter to the R.E.S.T. program. “I feel if more young people knew about programs out there like R.E.S.T. that can help, they wouldn't feel completely alone.”


“Every young person should be given the opportunity to fulfill their potential and not have to give up their academic dreams because of the pressures of survival. At R.E.S.T. we take a holistic approach to assisting black youth who are homeless or at risk of homeless. We are committed to giving them the support needed so they can live happier and healthier lives,” said Dagma Koyi, R.E.S.T. Centre's CEO and founder.


If you know anyone in such a circumstance or if you want to do your part to help those in need, donate to R.E.S.T. today.


$50 monthly can help us to provide grocery gift cards to help provide food support so that youth like Shavesha can focus on completing their education.


This month, R.E.S.T. distributed $3650 in grocery gift cards to black youth experiencing food insecurity in peel.


Thanks to all our donors and supporters, together we can make a difference.


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