A young man in a downtown city urban environment.

By Shawn, Covenant House youth worker

Colten grew up in a rough neighbourhood where he and his baby brother did not have a happy home. When his parents finally split up, his brother stayed with their mother but Colten was placed under the care of the Children’s Aid Society, where he remained until he became an adult.

Colten then lived with his grandmother off and on, however, she eventually asked him to leave because his bursts of anger were becoming hard to tolerate. Colten’s increasing substance use to cope with his feelings of frustration and depression only made his behaviour more unpredictable. With nowhere else to go, Colten lived for several years on the streets, landing in shelters or couch surfing with friends.

When I first met Colten during one of his stays at Covenant House, I saw an intense young man. He was angry, aggressive, and yet shy at the same time. Fortunately, his strong personality came with an eagerness to learn and to try his best. He was always ready to talk and share his life experiences.

Colten’s greatest challenge was housing. When he found a job, not having his own place would cause him to miss days of work and that would end with him getting fired.

Seeing that Colten was dealing with mental health issues, we helped him apply for government assistance to provide him with some basic financial stability. He, in turn, worked hard on budgeting his money, learning new life skills, taking anger management sessions, going to addiction counselling and doing additional schooling to improve his education.

It was a long bumpy road over several years, but Colten was determined to reach his goal of living in his own apartment, keeping a job and being independent. That day finally came recently when we found an apartment for Colten. I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on his face when I handed him the keys to his place, his home.

All those years of struggling, the tears he‘d cried, the falling down and getting back up again, the pushing forward when he seemed to be down and out. . . I could not have been happier to see his pride in what he had accomplished.

Colten, feeling grounded and secure, expressed a desire to connect with his mother and brother again, after many years of having had no contact with them at all. We helped him reconnect, which in turn helped him feel more resourced in his new life. Seeing Colten rebuilding his life, on his terms, has been a real inspiration.