From sweet child to homeless teen – One mother’s story
This story comes to us from a Mom, Grandma and long-term supporter of YES, Monica, who thanks YES for bringing her daughter through one of the toughest times of their lives.
When my daughter Lauren was 5 she was very spunky, friendly and loving. And so smart. She seemed so intelligent at such a young age, that often I would forget she was a kid and lacked some basic understanding of the world. Like one time she fed cookies to the VCR “because it was hungry,” or put the cat in the fridge “because it was hot.” She was always sweet and smart and quirky.
When she began to lash out as a teen, I was expecting it.
Lauren always had a tough time at school and in social situations so I wasn’t surprised when that intensified as she grew. But I was surprised when she started to become dangerous to herself and the family. I always thought that if you were an attentive parent and provided all of your child’s needs, there was no chance they would end up homeless. I was wrong.
Sometimes, nothing you do seems to help, and they become lost.
That’s what happened to Lauren. We lost her when she started to become violent with me and we knew things couldn’t continue the way they were. I was scared of what she would do, so I gave Lauren an ultimatum – go to counselling, or leave. And she left.
Lauren couch-surfed for a while, and then ended up one night at the YES Emergency Shelter. When she arrived, she was connected with a worker that began to identify why she was lashing out, becoming violent, and self-harming. Most importantly, the shelter kept her safe. She didn’t have to worry about the cold winter weather, being assaulted at night, or getting her things stolen. There was a place for her to go.
That time is a blur, I couldn’t sleep, I just wanted to know she was safe. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear from her for months, and had no idea if she was dead or alive.
During this time, Lauren continued to experience elevated episodes of mental illness. YES worked hard with Lauren to connect her to financial aid while she was in shelter, and she was able to get into the RISE Youth Housing Program. Now she could settle and was supported, and she began to improve.
From Emergency Shelter to the RISE Youth Housing Program
In RISE, Lauren had safe, secure and supported housing. She no longer had to worry about survival, she could focus on figuring out what her goals were, and what was causing her mental health challenges.
While in the program, Lauren was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. A debilitating mental illness that causes intense anger, self-harm, and impulsive, risky behavior. Lauren worked with YES staff to finally start getting help for her mental illness.
Eventually, Lauren started going to the Carriage House, YES’ Alternative High School Program, and graduated. From there, Lauren reconnected with us, and I supported her to go to college for social work. During this time, her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder helped me understand her so much more.
Now, Lauren is 31
An accredited social worker, she got married last year, and has a new baby. They live in the States, but we text every day, and facetime at least one/week. She still suffers from the impacts of her Borderline Personality Disorder, but over the years she has developed strategies to manage it.
When Lauren was homeless, it was excruciating.
I don’t wish that on anyone. But it made me realize that it could happen to anybody. Today, I thank YES for helping her through those years.
Name and likeness of Monica and her daughter Lauren have been changed to protect their privacy,