An Inside Look at Life in a Shelter

An Inside Look at Life in a Shelter

This post was contributed by one of our youths who currently stays at a shelter. Our goal for the Kind Karma blog is to be a place where marginalized youth can have a voice and a platform where we can challenge preconceived stereotypes or stigmas. We felt it was important for everyone to see what it was truly like inside a shelter and how far all support goes in helping our youth get back on their feet. 

"I am homeless. What used to be a title of shame and embarrassment for me has become part of my identity, and I’m proud of it. When we think of homeless youth, we think of outcasts, of young people who will never amount to anything or become contributing members of society. This could not be farther from the truth, and here’s why.

It was a frosty December morning when I was removed from my home and placed in a youth homeless shelter. Eva’s Place, to be specific. My mind raced through images of what I thought it would be like, based on what the media had taught me to believe. But nothing you ever see on TV or in movies prepares you for what a homeless shelter is actually like.

The first thought that went through my head as I entered through the doors was “Why does it seem so...tame?”, as though I expected to walk into a zoo. I was ushered into the office, where I was given the rules and expectations for youth staying in the shelter. I was expected to go to school during the week, and could not stay in the shelter from 9am to 4pm, unless I was participating in other programming. I had to complete one chore every day, and everyone had to do their part. I would have a worker assigned to me, who would help me in my journey to leaving the shelter system with stable housing. At this point, I was confused. I was confused because it sounded like they actually cared about my wellbeing. Like they cared about what happened to me. It looked nothing like what the movies show homeless shelters as being, or what I was brought up to believe.

After I was given toiletries, towels, and anything else I needed for my stay, I left for a walk. It had been too much for me. The adrenaline of entering the shelter system mixed with the shock of it not being what I had expected sent my mind racing. It was not until evening the same day that I returned, only to be baffled once again when I was given my own room so that I could have a quiet space to study. And then it hit me. Maybe I had this all wrong. What laid before my eyes did not align with what I had been taught to believe. But maybe what I had been told was not actually the truth."

As I spent longer in the shelter, I confirmed this theory. Not only was I finally able to leave a life of hardship behind, but developed a strength and resilience that would not have been possible if I hadn’t entered the shelter system. I was given a chance to start over, to spend time focusing on myself while constantly being surrounded by people who believed in me and were ready to help me every step of the way. To support me without judgement, and to help me shape my life into what I wanted it to be."

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