A boy with dark brown hair wearing a black hoodie looking serious.

Mark’s childhood home was a battle zone. His father would explode in anger and physically abuse his son. Hardened from her own difficult life, his mother was often cold and hostile.

After a run of domestic disturbances in his home, the police picked up Mark at school when he was 13 and took him to a halfway house for boys. He lived there for four years before he was too old to stay there.

With nowhere else to go, he headed to Toronto. After a couple of difficult nights sleeping in a park, he found himself in one of the city’s men’s shelters. An older resident told him, “I wish I was a kid like you and could go to Covenant House.”

When he arrived at our doorstep, Mark instantly experienced culture shock. Attentive, respectful, loving support was not familiar to him. “It’s almost a scary thing to get used to after years of nobody caring at all,” he said.

Mark drew strength from the youth workers who supported him. Their mentorship and coaching helped him develop the self-confidence that would power him forward.

I always thought, ‘I’m better than what’s happened to me. I’m going to change the world.

With his youth worker’s support, Mark put together a plan to build the life he wanted for himself. He returned to school and got a weekend job at a lumberyard. After he moved out on his own, he often visited the Covenant House drop-in centre for advice and encouragement.

Today, Mark is a paramedic and he runs his own first aid training company. He’s married to the love of his life and has two children.

“Covenant House has a hand in every life we save. I hope I can pay it back, and forward, one day.”