Nathalie

The first time I was introduced to YSB (for counseling) was in Grade 7. I was almost 13. My family had just gone through a hard time. I'm the middle child and kind of held everything together. I was being really strong. It seemed like everyone else was receiving support, but I felt totally alone.

Between 13 and 17, we moved around a lot. My dad attempted suicide, my mom had a breakdown and got heavily into drugs, and my brother went to a foster home. I ended up having to take care of everybody, pretty much. I was really depressed—just a mess. When I got a boyfriend, my mum wasn't supportive and she kicked me out.

"Get out, don't come home after school!" were the words I heard from her. And I didn't, I really didn't! I mean, I'm now 25 and I’ve been on my own since then... though it feels like I've been on my own since I was 14.

I went to the Young Women's Shelter for a while. Then my school guidance counselor referred me to a girl that I ended up living with in an apartment. Our landlord was really intrusive. He'd come down randomly into our place. The last straw was when he came claiming that one of my roommates had stolen from his garage. He violently assaulted my roommate, and a buddy he brought held a knife to my roommate’s friend's throat! After that, there was no going back.

I moved into my mum’s ex-boyfriends basement. She and I weren’t talking then.

I got a call about a year later from YSB, telling me that there was a brand new building available, and I was next on the long-term housing list. I got a one-bedroom, and it was the nicest apartment I've had— oh, it was so beautiful! I lived there three years, it was wonderful!

I didn't leave high school with friends, really, but living in YSB housing let me make friends my age with similar circumstances. I could have a life that wasn't all about confusion, sadness and unnecessary family responsibility. When I graduated from high school, YSB awarded me with a Medal of Determination. It meant so much to me—I still have it.

The building tenants and YSB staff would have regular meetings together to decide what activities we'd like to do in our community. My favorite thing was we decided we wanted to plant a garden. I'm really proud of that garden, it was huge! That garden, to me, was like my baby. If fed my spirit. I watered it every night and morning, I weeded it. We had peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, carrots, radishes, potatoes, beans, peas, eggplant…I even pitched in for a berry corner!

If I hadn't had the chance to live in YSB housing, I might not have discovered how much I love gardening. That's a gift, from YSB to me, aside from keeping me safe and housed in a good place. I got to see some children grow up...and I could sit at my kitchen table and watch the birds at the birdhouse outside my window.

YSB believed in me when no one else did. I got sick for half a year, I lost a lot of weight, had to have surgery, and I was really weak. Even if my rent was a bit late, they were okay with it. I can't imagine what I would've done if I were living somewhere else and got sick.

After recuperating, I went to college and YSB continued to believe in me. I now work for a community organization that supports people with affordable housing.

I just feel to be successful, support is really necessary. It’s important to provide encouragement and caring to youth—basically, promoting healthy self-esteem. It's so hard to believe in yourself sometimes. I think part of what YSB does is caring about the youth they're serving. I didn't have that in my life from my immediate family. I had my Grandma, but she was provinces away. I can't imagine what I would've done without YSB as part of my life…then and now.