‘Back to school’ is different for homeless youth
A letter to our community from YES Executive Director, Meagan Hennekam.
I hope you’re doing well with the onset of fall. Cooler weather and kids back at school is usually a welcome time for me. But this year, a 2nd wave of COVID-19 has all of us feeling hesitant to celebrate the change of season.
These feelings are even more complicated for homeless youth. Being homeless tends to cut youth off from school, which means many of them are falling behind their peers every day.
Let me tell you about Sam. People like you helped Sam when he was 16 and homeless. Sam recalls that “often I couldn’t shower for a week, and all the kids at school were poking fun at me. It’s just the small things like this that are really tough to get past so you can focus on your work.”
But Sam kept this reality to himself. It was too hard to share that he was homeless (what if the other kids found out?), so he hid the truth from his teachers and peers and just drifted away from school entirely. And this was before COVID changed everything about school for all kids.
How Carriage House helps kids experiencing homelessness
Eventually, after Sam reached out to YES, and was supported enough to feel safe again, Sam was ready to go back to school. YES’ onsite high school program ‘Carriage House,’ felt like the best option. The Carriage House program removes the barriers of regular high school because everyone is in the same boat and it’s close – onsite, behind the Emergency Shelter.
When Chloe arrived at YES, she said she was “desperate.” She said she was uncomfortable with people, stuck in the past, and needed to break old habits. After reluctantly starting at Carriage House, Chloe bonded with YES school support staff, Karen. “Karen showed how she herself overcame her past, and that inspired me to do the same.”
School begins at YES tomorrow – September 18th
YES has had a long partnership with KPRDSB to provide high school curriculum to YES clients at Carriage House. The teacher and the YES support staff work as a team to meet the needs of youth like Sam and Chloe. This year, we are doing everything possible to ensure that the youth at Carriage House are safe through COVID-19, and can continue to learn with the support of caring adults.
Does an onsite school really matter to youth in our programs?
Kids like Sam are clear – not only does it matter, it saves lives. Sam recognized “a whole lot of things needed to be sorted out in my life before I was going to be able to sit down and be successful.”
If you agree with me that kids like Sam need a chance to go to school to succeed in the future, then please give today. Your gift to YES will mean youth are housed and showered, and getting regular meals with daily support from our front-line staff to attend school.
COVID is making all of these efforts much harder, but with community support, including donors like you, kids can still find hope. I will ensure to keep you updated about the impact of COVID on our school program.
Can you give today to young people who are struggling? A donation from you puts YES staff on the front lines with kids at risk of losing their education.
P.S. Your gift will give homeless kids their lives back. Kids that experience any form of homelessness drift away from school and fall behind their peers. A gift to YES supports those kids.