What can you tell just by looking at me? I’m a young girl, healthy — maybe happy even? Would you guess that I was homeless at the age of 17? You might be thinking: She doesn’t look like she was homeless. I can tell you, homelessness can happen to virtually anyone.
Three and a half years ago, I was a 14-year-old dancer, living with my mother, grandfather, and brother. I was in ninth grade, living a “normal” life. Around this time, my abusive father returned to the family. Shortly after my 15th birthday, my mother was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive, and unknown type of cancer. She died four months later. Sometimes life happens and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.
What was I going to do now? Living with my father was not a safe option, so I opted for my grandfather’s home. Obviously, this was a tough time. After losing my mother I changed completely. I had lost contact with friends and extra-curricular activities while my mother was sick. After she died I hated being at home because every room was stained with the memory of my mom. No one noticed or took care of me there anyway. So I would spend weeks at my boyfriend’s house, partying and doing things a 15-year-old shouldn’t do.
When he was legally able, one day after my 16th birthday, my grandfather told me I had one month to get out. For the next 10 months, I moved from city to city, family to friend, until I had nowhere else to go. So I landed on the Mississauga streets. I stole caffeine pills to help me stay awake for as long as possible, then took cat naps in the staircase of my best friend’s apartment building.
The day after my 17th birthday, things turned around for me. I found a place to stay with people who wanted to help. I got a bed at Our Place Peel, a shelter for youth aged 16 – 21 that is funded by United Way. I was so happy, but so, so scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Looking back, it was the first step in a system designed to help me long term. After a month at Our Place Peel, I was able to get a room at Peel Youth Village, a supportive housing unit in Mississauga for youth aged 16 – 30. A worker at Peel Youth Village worked with me to understand the impact of what had happened to me and the negative cycle I had fallen into. I was able to connect to other United Way funded programs — The Dam and Nexus Youth Services — to learn, make friends my own age and build a healthier environment for myself.
Jasmine is now 19 — happy, healthy and sober. She is completing her high school degree and aspires to be a child and youth worker.
The data in this report was collected by our United Way agency partners from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. As much as possible we have tried to avoid duplication, however this data does not reflect unique individuals served, as clients may access a program several times and/or more than one program within an agency or between agencies.