Portrait of beautiful teenage girl

Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty; Jenna’s story

Posted on December 15, 2022 in Current News, Client Stories

Jenna was only 15 when she and her mother lost their housing. Jenna’s mom had struggled with addiction for as long as she can remember, and it wasn’t a surprise when they ended up with no place to live. From there, Jenna went to live with her boyfriend, and her mom disappeared into the streets of Peterborough.

Jenna came to YES

When Jenna’s relationship became abusive, she came to YES’ Emergency Shelter threatening suicide. Jenna was deeply traumatized by the last few years of her life, and had very little ability to self regulate. She was reacting intensely to even the smallest of life’s challenges. It was clear she was not ready to live on her own without support.

But within two months of living in shelter, a spot for Jenna in YES’ RISE Youth Housing Program became available to her.

The RISE Youth Housing Program

The RISE Youth Housing Program provides young people with a safe place to live, 24/7 staff support, social inclusion programming, intensive help with life skills development, as well as, food, clothing and transportation support. It is affordable, supported housing. It’s the way to help people find safety and begin to address some of the issues that caused their housing crisis.

RISE Youth Housing Program Worker, Jodi, displaying art created for her by a young person she works with.

Jenna’s worker, Jodi, helped her identify the skills she needed to work on. At first, Jenna would text Jodi regularly threatening suicide because of issues that to Jenna, seemed insurmountable. But after a few months of Jodi guiding her through those very hard feelings, Jenna was becoming a lot more emotionally stable, and confident in her ability to get through hard times. Within 8 months in the RISE Program, Jenna was both attending school and had a part-time job waiting tables at a restaurant downtown.

The RISE Program is effective and if it continues, can save many lives, and help decrease Peterborough’s homelessness population (significantly) over time. Currently though, the RISE Program depends entirely on community donations to operate.

When she thinks of her mom, especially in the winter, Jenna’s heart hurts. She goes to the police station regularly to check if her mom is still alive. It doesn’t seem like her mom is ever coming back from homelessness, and there is nothing Jenna can do about that. But she can feel proud that the cycle of intergenerational poverty and trauma is ending with her.

Jenna won’t be in the RISE Program forever. Now 18, she’s once again working towards her high school diploma, then hopes to go college, and then university. She’s living a stable life, and has gained the life-skills that her childhood denied her. She’s ready to embark on her 20s, and she knows that she can do anything from here.