When I was almost 17, my daughter was almost a year old. I was depressed and living at home in an abusive situation. My parent was constantly at my back to get out of the house, and things got so bad that I wanted to die. One day I just got up and left. I had no idea where I was going, I had never even had a job, I had no idea what the real world was like, but all I knew, was that if I continued to live in that house I would kill myself. I left my daughter behind knowing that her innocence kept her safe. I couldn’t just take her to…where? I didn’t even know.

A few days later I found out about the YSB Young Women’s Shelter. I was currently in school, and when they found out that I was in a shelter, they classified me as homeless and literally kicked me out of school because I didn’t have a “permanent address”. I was already so down and out and this didn’t help me at all. My life came to a standstill.

I was forced to get a job, because social assistance would not help me. I started working, but my sadness would not go away. The one true thing that I loved so dearly, my beautiful daughter, was away from me and I was not allowed to see her. I spiraled downward. Within three months of being away from her, I was institutionalized on a Mental Health Unit at the hospital for three weeks.

I spent the next two and a half years abusing substances to avoid thinking about all the pain. Anyone who knew I had a daughter would never mention her because they knew how much it hurt me to think about. So I just didn’t think about her. I even pretended that I didn’t have a daughter.

Through this time, I was known to get my meals at the YSB Downtown Drop-In on a daily basis, and spend some time there talking to the staff. The staff helped me see clarity even when I didn’t want to. They never judged me, they never told me that I was wrong, or that I was trouble. They helped me to see that things can be different and guided me through the hardest time of my life. Bit by bit they helped me regain control of my life.

Three years after leaving my home life behind, I was already maintaining my own stable housing and seeing my daughter on a regular basis. A year after that, I left using substances behind me for good and at the same time finished my GED Diploma. I started at College less than 6 months after finishing my GED. This year, I am graduating from college to become a Registered Practical Nurse. It’s been just over seven years since I left my home life behind, and I never thought I would get here.

When I look back, and I ask myself “How did I even make it through?”, I just start to cry, because if I hadn’t had the support of the staff from the YSB, always pushing me to be the best that I could be, then I’m sure I would have been dead long ago.

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