Young boy with serious facial expression wearing black hoodie standing near a bush

In the early 1980s, when Darren was 13 years old, his mom threw him out of the house. With nowhere to go in his small Prairie town, he hitchhiked across the country to Toronto.

He quickly learned how to survive, eating out of dumpsters and making long treks to collect day-old bakery rejects. But he was often fiercely hungry.

Darren walked on cowboy boots worn until the nails in the soles stuck out and his feet were bloodied. He slept on grates, in parks, on the subway and in open office buildings until he was asked to leave. Eventually, he found an abandoned hotel with dozens of other homeless youth.

He was attacked by men who robbed him. He witnessed two boys killed in fights. He held a girl dying of an overdose in his arms. And he had his own struggles with drugs.

After four years of living on the street, Darren heard about the recently-opened Covenant House. He knew it was time for a change. He stayed in our crisis shelter and we connected him with an employment program in the community.

I’m grateful that Covenant House connected me with the employment program. That is what helped to set me on my path

Darren began to thrive. He used the resourcefulness he developed on the street to build a successful life. The first job led to a government job in Ottawa, and he left Covenant House to embark on a new life of independence.

More than three decades later, Darren says the brightest lights in his life today are his two daughters, now both in university.

“One daughter wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon and the other wants to be a forensic anthropologist,” Darren said. “I wouldn’t ever let them experience any of the troubles I knew.”