one young woman only

Sophia’s story; When the switch flipped

Posted on February 26, 2024 in YES Stories, Success Story

Before, if you were on Brock St. and heard someone yelling and causing a ruckus at the YES Shelter, it might have been Sophia. When she was angry, everyone around her was getting it. And she was angry a lot. She had every right to be.

Sophia endured many rough years in and out of the YES Shelter for Youth and Families, but lately she’s begun a new chapter that has her accomplishing incredible things, and looking towards the future with hope and excitement. This is some of her story.

My Little Pumpkin

Sophia grew up with her Grama. Her childhood wasn’t easy, but with Grama, she always felt well supported. Sophia remembers fondly a picture in her family home of her as a baby in a pumpkin costume with a frame that said “My Little Pumpkin.” The two of them were incredibly close.

Sophia had a very hard time through her pre-teen years, having to deal with incessant bullying in school and amongst peers that was truly devastating for her. But “Grama was always there for me, whether it was good or bad” says Sophia.

Very sadly, Grama died when Sophia was just 16. This was devastating at a particularly vulnerable time, and not only that, there was no place for Sophia to go. It was then that Sophia began experiencing homelessness.

Sophia’s journey through homelessness

At 17, unsupported in the world, without a place to live, and frequently involved with the police, Sophia became pregnant. That’s when she went to the YES Shelter for the first time.

Her baby ended up living with a foster family, while young Sophia dove deeper into homelessness in Peterborough. The people who were forming her community were getting into hard drugs, and so Sophia started down that path as well.

In 2021, Sophia became pregnant again, with this child as well going to live with the same foster family as her previous child. It was soul crushing for Sophia not to be with her kids, but she was in no place in her life to be able to take care of children. In and out of shelter for the next couple of years, Sophia struggled profoundly. Many people she loved were taken by the drug epidemic, she was victimized, had several dealings with the police and was constantly in survival mode. “I was in some pretty messed up situations,” says Sophia.

Starting to RISE

Last summer, after years of homelessness, Sophia was finally able to get a spot in the RISE Youth Housing Program at YES. This meant that she got a more permanent room of her own, along with the basics and a worker that would assist her with recovering from some of the traumas of her past, gaining life skills, and making plans for the future.

At first, it was rocky for Sophia in the program. She was having a really hard time fulfilling some of the basic parts of living in RISE; she wasn’t going to school, or taking any of her goals very seriously, and there were numerous conflicts with other youth in her house. Twice, RISE staff asked Sophia to take time away and we had decided that if Sophia caused another serious disturbance, she would be asked to leave the program entirely. This would mean re-entering homelessness. Her chances of getting out of chronic homelessness at that point, would have been slim.

A switch flipped

At this point, something changed. Sophia started going to school everyday, she began keeping her room clean and tidy in the apartment that she shared with other RISE Youth, and she was self-regulating even when roommates and friends were pushing her boundaries. The drama was falling away, and Sophia started managing through some of these harder moments, somehow keeping everything in check.

When asked what happened, Sophia said it came down to a really good talk with her worker, Jodi. Jodi shared some of her own experiences that made Sophia feel a closeness to her that she hadn’t before. All the sudden, with the establishment of that bond and more trust, something clicked for Sophia: “I’m going somewhere, says Sophia, “people believe in me, I have support, I’m not alone.”

This made all the difference in the world. Knowing that someone had her back and knew she could do this, was what Sophia had been missing since her Grama died.

Now even when Sophia’s having a bad day, she knows she’s going to come out of it. Things aren’t hopeless. She feels supported and held up, not just by Jodi, but by the people in her life that she’s lost. “All my favorite people, all the people that would check on me and like actually genuinely cared, are up there watching me, and I just need to keep going.

Now, incredible things are happening

YES Staff, Kathleen, enjoying pasta made from scratch by Sophia.

There are so many things in Sophia’s life right now that are inspiring her. For one, she discovered that she loves to cook. And YES Staff will tell you, Sophia is so talented in the kitchen! She’s been taking a cooking class and we all benefit when she tries recipes in her kitchen upstairs. So far she’s shared quiche, fettuccini alfredo, banana bread, and cookies to name just the few.

Sophia is also on track to graduate from high school this spring. After moving into the RISE Program, she started attending school everyday at YES’ Carriage House; an alternative high school program in partnership with KPR that works with youth who have experienced homelessness to work towards their high school diploma. ***Sophia wanted to ensure that we mention here that YES Workers Natasha, and Karen were instrumental in helping her work towards this goal. She’s incredibly grateful to them both.***

When Sophia was asked where she sees herself in 5 years, she said she wants a stable job (maybe in a kitchen!), enough money for a roof and food, and the stability to look after her kids, who she see’s regularly and absolutely adores. Sophia is motivated by these goals, and knows what to do to get there. She’s open to the opportunities she’s getting right now, and she’s not letting chances get away from her.

“The Fellowship of Flowers.” Photo taken by Sophia outside of YES’ Carriage House School.

One day, when Jodi arrived at work, she found a note that had been slipped under her door. The note was from Sophia and said, “Thanks for never giving up on me.” This now is now pinned up in Jodi’s office.

Friends, Jodi and the rest of us at YES can only help in this way with your help. Without regular funding, the RISE Program is at risk. This is a housing program that houses 26 youth in our community, helping them exit homelessness permanently. These are young people who could otherwise very easily become chronically homeless and stay that way for their whole lives. Without community donations, donations from people like you, RISE could not operate.

Please help us give this support to young people like Sophia. This is the way to help youth exit homelessness, and every young person without housing deserves this help.