• Dagma Koyi

Part I: Rags to Riches, Story of Latrell

Updated: Jan 10

Many of the youth who end up homeless have, in some form or another, experienced life in group homes. Sometimes, it can be difficult for these youth to find stability and long-term solutions for their finances and housing through circumstances beyond their control.

Latrell is one of those youths. A former client of the Children's Aid Society, Latrell spent most of his adolescence being shuffled from one group home to another with very little stability. Eventually, he was able to land housing with his grandmother after dealing, bringing some temporary peace. However, there was no long-term solution to keep him secure and stable; while superior to a group home, it still had its challenges.

Soon enough, Latrell found himself looking for any way possible to find financial support and housing that would finally help him move forward to a better future. "I went to everyone I knew and tried my best to figure out ways that I can get help with my finances and housing," he said.

His constant drive to put forth action to get that help eventually led him to his high school guidance counsellor. Through her, he was able to connect with R.E.S.T. and build a path towards a more secure life. She, along with his grandmother, were two essential pillars for Latrell to help get him to where he was today, and he makes sure to always remember that. "She went above and beyond for me, and I am very thankful for that."

When Latrell discovered the R.E.S.T. organization, he was able to gain the support he never had before. Financially, R.E.S.T. was able to help provide monthly rent subsidies and biweekly grocery gift cards, as well as money for a new pair of glasses and workout equipment. "They've helped me tremendously; I don't have to worry about my finances as much as I used to."

The assistance goes beyond just financial, as Latrell also noted the importance of the mental health check-ups and constant support from the caseworkers of R.E.S.T. "I have support from people that I know have my back." Mental health is vital for everyone, especially youth at risk of homelessness. Unfortunately, the challenges brought on by their circumstances added on with the COVID-19 pandemic have hurt many of these youth's emotional and mental well-being.

While Latrell went through tough times, he always had the religious faith that the challenges wouldn't last forever for him, and he would be able to push through anything life threw at him. Like many, however, there were moments where he experienced some doubt. His bout with financial and housing instability in the middle of last year's pandemic is a strong example for him.

"There were times where I questioned if I would be stuck in the same situation forever, and times where I couldn't believe what was happening to me."

Instead of being discouraged and defeated by these thoughts, Latrell instead took them as a lesson for himself that eventually, there were people that would do the right thing and be there for him and others like him who were down on their luck. At R.E.S.T., Latrell said that the aspect he felt most positive about had reliable caseworkers that were willing to help him, not just because they have to, but because they want to.

Currently, Latrell is attending York University, studying an economics major. Continuing his path to a healthier and happier future, Latrell says that those in similar situations to his need to remember that there will be times where the dire conditions they go through will not be their fault or be out of their control. Still, they can control how they react and overcome these obstacles. "Bad situations are temporary and don't last forever. It's important to keep believing in your faith."

Stories like Latrell's are born from those who have the means to help. Through sustained support from funders and supporters, we can continue making a positive difference in our community and youth like Latrell. If you are interested in helping, please consider donating to R.E.S.T. today.

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