• ludwickchapman1

Tales from the Source: Mya's Story

To some people, youth homelessness is a choice, a spur-of-the-moment decision made by a youth lashing out against those they live with. But, unfortunately, this is a misconception, a naïve way of seeing the bigger picture.

Most youths do not choose to be homeless but are thrust into making the difficult decision of getting away from a toxic living environment. Unfortunately, the steps to supporting them in any way can be unclear and difficult, and those experiencing homelessness can be left behind due to the lack of systematic and empathetic support they need to thrive and succeed.

Mya, a youth who dealt with a negative housing environment, was forced to become self-sufficient despite being in high school. At the age of 16, she was put in a position where she had grown up fast due to her parents divorcing and her father getting into a serious car accident.

While she did have a loving relationship with her dad, it was not necessarily a healthy living arrangement, as she was pressured to manage the entire house by herself and was yelled at when she fell behind on the many tasks expected of her despite the overwhelming work for a person her age. When she tried to explain how overworked she felt and the toll it had on her mental health, she was never fully understood, "He always saw me as the one child who could actually handle themselves but the reason I could is because I've been neglected for so long that if I wanted to survive, I had to take care of myself."

Mya's case is not unlike a majority of youth homelessness cases. According to Youth Without Shelter, about 77.5% of youth homelessness cases are caused by some sort of family breakdown. It can not be understated, sometimes living circumstances get to a point where the best option for the youth is to get out of it, unfortunately not everyone understands this and does not take it seriously, Mya can attest to this.

"Someone can genuinely feel that they aren't safe or comfortable where they're staying and the best option for them is to get out. So many people don't take that seriously and feel that you don't know what's good for you," she said. “They treat you like you don't know what you're doing and that you should just go home, as if they have a true home to be.”

When Mya left home for post-secondary education she realized just how negative her housing experience really was; when she returned home during a holiday break, she decided that enough was enough.

However, the process was difficult as many people not privy to her situation did not understand the severity of her situation: “When it came to actually find a house, it was tough for me to find a landlord that would take me seriously, as a 20-year-old student who is virtually on her own, it was very difficult to get someone to take me seriously. And understand where I was coming from.” She said.

A big obstacle in society is to understand the complexity of what drives youth to become homeless, it is not necessarily an easy choice to make for many to choose to leave toxic environments in the hopes of finding better places to live, and in Mya’s case, her choice was met when apathy and misguided intentions. “Sometimes, you genuinely don't feel safe or comfortable where you're staying, and the best option is to get out. So many people don't take that seriously. They treat you like a child that doesn't know what's good for you."

Although she was able to eventually find housing, as a student with a low income, rising housing in-affordability and difficulties to provide herself with the basic necessities she needed, Mya was still at risk of homelessness. Cases like Mya's are unfortunately common among youth attending post-secondary institutions. According to the Homeless Hub, over 40% of youth are forced to either stay home or return to their previous living arrangements due to a lack of affordable housing and low incomes.

Without many options to support her current living arrangements and the prospect of returning to a home that caused strain to her mental health hanging over her head, Mya found herself in a tough spot. Fortunately for her, this was when she found R.E.S.T. Centres.

Through R.E.S.T., Mya was able to gain much-needed housing support, such as meal money and case managers who were able to give weekly check-ins and help guide her to different opportunities to find work. As a result of this support, Mya has a guiding hand to continue her post-secondary studies without going back to her previous living arrangements. Thus, she has helped set her on the path to achieving the career that she hopes one day leads her to become a teacher.

The R.E.S.T. vision of empowering youth to live healthier and happier lives with support and opportunities to contribute to society was put into action in this case and many others. There are youth out there that cannot achieve what they are meant to achieve due to unlivable housing situations, so R.E.S.T. Centres will continue to look forward and provide support to the youth who need the support to make the courageous decisions like Mya, to take back their future and go towards a positive life path they deserve.

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