When Stephanie was 9 years old, she went to live with her mom full-time. As she grew up, her mother decided that she couldn’t handle her and that she didn’t want her anymore—leaving her to be put in a group home. Her experience in the group home was less than ideal, and she spoke of negative attitudes and disrespect running rampant. “If anything happened between you and one of the girls [the staff] just didn’t really seem to care … [the girls] would break into your room and steal all your stuff.”

After running away from the group home, having enduring two years there, she was sent to a boarding school; she didn’t last long before leaving there either—she was charged for the first time and had to face the criminal justice system. Luckily, she got just a slap on the wrist and ended up with probation.

Soon afterward, a friend led her through the door at YSB’s downtown Drop-In. She remembers her first experience: “It was just really friendly! I really liked it… it was a very welcoming place.” Sara helped her get into the Evelyn Horne Emergency Shelter for Young Women—and from there, things slowly turned around. She got on social assistance, and has actively been seeking housing. She got on YSB’s long-term housing list, and in two weeks will finally be in her own apartment, with her own income.

YSB has helped her in many ways, she says; they’ve helped her find housing and get on social assistance—but at one point, it was the smaller things that mattered. “I didn’t eat for a while, so they fed me… gave me bus tickets, and helped me with probation. They wrote a letter to my probation officer telling them that I was at YSB and doing well, and it helped me move on.”

As many street-involved youth do, she has struggled with drug use in the past. “I used ecstasy, oxycontin, cocaine, pot, whatever was around, really. But YSB referred me to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre and I was able to get help for all that.” Pretty remarkable, especially when she tells me that she’s getting a $5,000 scholarship to go to college because she went to the Achievement Centre at Operation Come Home—another referral from YSB! The City is matching this contribution. “Basically I get to go to school for free!”

Stephanie is currently six months pregnant, and is looking forward to being able to live in her YSB housing unit with her child. It’s obvious she’s worked really hard to get to this point. Coming so far with so little is a major achievement! One thing she wants to share with other youth?

“Just respect. That’s the biggest thing—if you want respect you’ve gotta show it. I’ve known a lot of people who go [to social services] and they show no respect and they get nothing out of their time there. They say they want help, but then they’re really mean—you’re not going to get anywhere with that.”

“[YSB’s] just a safe place to hang out… and not to have so many worries!”

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