I am entering the final weeks of my odyssey with cancer, and in losing my voice, I am surprised to have found an even stronger one.
I grew up in a home filled with alcoholism, abuse, denial, and enablement. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. For me, there was no respite, or even escape. I simply endured it until I left home. I sought hospitalization for anxiety and depression. I left that facility at age 19 with no place to go. My parents had no money or plan. I stayed with relatives so I could get back on my feet and tried to resume my life. I thought I was strong enough, until things came crashing down and I wasn’t. It shouldn’t have to be that way.
My friend Scott always tells me to look to the horizon and not look back. Very easy to say for a fully-formed adult with privilege, but for youth in my situation, what is needed are supports. My dear friend Cheryl introduced me to a community organization in my adopted hometown of London, ON, called YOU — Youth Opportunities Unlimited — or organization from which I could have definitely benefited from as I balanced independent living with being a survivor. Scott also talks a lot about liberation theology, and ‘What Return Can I Make’? With your help, in my memory, there is something we can do right now.
Under construction now and set to open in March 2020 on Richmond Street in downtown London ON, YOU is building what they call 340 Project. It will be a home for independent youth for whom traditional family settings are no longer an option, and who are aging out of care with the Children's Aid Society. In Ontario alone, there are approximately 17,000 children in the care of CAS, with 1,000 youth "aging out of care" every year. Many of these youth, aged 16-21, are living independently with minimal support. The statistics on these youth are shocking:
- 56% of Ontario Crown Wards do not finish high school
- 90% of youth aging out of care end up on social assistance within six months
- 50% of women who age out of care will be pregnant by the age of 19
CAS is struggling to house these youth who are aging out of care. Some are placed in group homes, often unstable, and others in motels where they are not receiving the life supports they need to thrive. These youth need a place to call home. A place where they can feel safe and supported. This is where YOU's 340 Project comes in. The 340 Project will have five housing units with access to 24/7 services via a support worker who will be located onsite. Offering supportive, transitional housing, 340 Project is a step in the path to find permanent housing for the most vulnerable youth in our community.
This is something, had I had the strength and opportunity, I could have availed myself. That wasn’t the case.
With my failing voice, I am humbly asking for your support, in my name. My request is simple: As my enduring legacy I encourage you to please make a donation to YOU to support the build of 340 Project. Together, let's build these youth a home.