YWS 30th anniversary series: Jay

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Walk through Jay’s elementary school and you will see his name front and center on the honour student recognition wall. Graduating into high school Jay felt tremendous pressure to continue to excel at school.  To relieve that pressure Jay began to self-harm by cutting himself. He hid the cuts on his arms and legs by wearing long sleeves and pants no matter the weather. Jay felt his family could not understand the pressure he was under. Conflict at home escalated. One day in Grade 11 Jay packed up his clothes, left home and sought shelter at Youth Without Shelter (YWS).

When Jay met his YWS Case Manager she encouraged him to talk.  She did not judge or criticize, she listened.  Jay recalls he felt for the first time his feelings were being “respected”. He continued to attend school everyday although he found it increasingly hard to concentrate and his grades were plummeting.  As the trust developed between Jay and the Case Manager she asked him to meet with one of the shelter’s partners, an agency that specializes in youth mental health. In time Jay was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

Jay’s journey has not been an easy one. He has had periods of family reconciliation, hospitalization, new health challenges and adjusting to medication. Jay has been living in his own place now for more than two years.  Through it all he has maintained ties to YWS, calling the shelter his “safe haven.”

Jay’s story is an example of how your support is changing lives every day here at YWS. Thanks to you, Jay has a “safe haven” to turn to as he moves forward. Jay credits YWS with teaching him how to budget, so he can maintain independent living.  He attends Supper Club at YWS to enjoy a hot meal, have a chat and access the on-site food bank.  Jay has enrolled in a college photography program. He aspires to open a business designing custom skateboards.  On a recent visit to YWS Jay shared: “I have two numbers on speed dial on my phone: 911 and you, YWS. Youth Without Shelter is #1: 416.748.0110.”

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