“I’ve been in and out of foster homes my whole life. For as long as I can remember, my mom has struggled with addiction and other mental health problems. It was a constant cycle of her being able to take care of me for a bit, then not, then coming back for me. I never really had a home. She always dated jerks who hit her and hit me. We moved to Ottawa because she was dating someone like that, actually. She moved us here for a guy and I lost what little support I had back in my old city.

Even with all of that going on, I was really determined to finish high school. I graduated at 17, and I was back living with my mom and her boyfriend. One of the neighbours called Children’s Aid on her, and they said there was nothing they could do because I was already 17. I wasn’t a kid anymore, but I also wasn’t an adult. I had no clue where I could even go for help. Thankfully one of them mentioned YSB to me. I called the shelter that night, that’s how ready I was to leave. They took me in right away.

Watching my mom as I grew up, it was hard not to fall into the same patterns. I had a lot of addiction issues even though I was young. I’d been smoking weed since I was seven. I tried heroin at 15 because I was so tired of feeling alone all the time. I ended up leaving the shelter and moving into a really horrible apartment because all I cared about at that point was having somewhere to do drugs. It was so mouldy, there were cockroaches everywhere. People were doing crack in the elevators.  Someone jumped off their balcony while I lived there. It was too much to handle. I was just a kid, really. So I went back to YSB again and asked for help.

That’s when everything started to change. I was assigned an intensive case worker who worked out a plan for my mental health with me. I got into a YSB apartment, which is where I live right now, and I’m doing really well. I’ve never been able to stay in one place for more than a few weeks at a time before. It really does make such a huge difference. I’m not exaggerating when I say that YSB saved my life. I’d be dead by now, either I’d have overdosed on accident or killed myself on purpose. Things were that bad.

I always say I don’t know love. When you’re not given love, you don’t know what it is, right? I’ve been pushed around so many times that I push people away. But the YSB workers are so great. They tell you how honoured they are to work with you. It’s nice to know someone actually cares. Someone’s looking out for you. That’s what’s given me the strength to work on getting better. Now I’m applying to colleges, something I never thought I’d be able to do. It’s pretty amazing how so much can change so quickly.”

— Taylor, 18 years old

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