YWS 30th anniversary series: Siobhan

Hi, my name is Siobhan and I was a resident at Youth Without Shelter one year and five months ago.  I stayed there for a duration of nine months in which I encountered both pitfalls and triumphs but more so triumphs.

On April 1, 2015 I left YWS and am independently living in my own apartment.  Prior to coming to Canada in 2014 I did extensive research for months to be exactly sure what I was getting myself into and to be fully prepared for this drastic change in my life.  From my research there were several things I promised myself I would never do and living in a shelter was one of those things.

On July 2, 2014 I safely landed at Pearson International Airport and immediately my expectations had already been obscured.  For several hours I was unable to contact the person who I had arranged to stay with but I soon found out that person was out of the city even though we had already made arrangements.  Letting my pride get to me and sticking to my promise I decided to contact another friend who was luckily able to assist me.

Fast forward one month after, I swallowed my pride and moved into YWS.  I remember my first night there; I was scared, ashamed and felt like a disappointment which resulted in me crying.  After my intake it only took me a few hours to realize that YWS was not the typical shelter.  It was not what is portrayed on TV and definitely not what I had expected.

The people were different, both staff and residents, the environment was welcoming and I instantly felt like I was in a safe place.  As days passed I became familiar with the surroundings and the many avenues of support for residing youth.  Me being the go getter I am, I decided to take full advantage of all of the opportunities presented to me.  I took advantage of the various daytime programs and workshops, the support from my amazing counselor Zung, who also assisted me with all of my legal documents and accompanied me to my refugee hearing.

I also jumped at the opportunity to create a mural for the Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport Hotel and to attend my very first and last dog sledding trip, just to name a few.  When it was time to move I utilized the housing department who did their best in assisting me in finding appropriate housing.

Up until two weeks I worked for one of Canada’s largest home services companies as a customer service representative but resigned so I could focus on personal and health issues.  Apart from that I’m an artist and writer and I’m currently working on publishing a book and on an art project in support of the LGBTQ community, targeting black and trans folds in particular.

Just to wrap it all up, I want to thank everyone who helped me personally and continue to help the youth at YWS.  To the residents here, I want to say to you: “life is like a coin, you can spend it however you want but you can only spend it once” so take full advantage of all the opportunities, because there are many, and you too can reach your peak.

Shared by Siobhan at YWS’s Annual General Meeting, September 2016

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