Sleep Out

OMGGGGG, it’s ANOTHER SELF REFLECTIVE BLOG POST. This will be a recurring theme very heavily this year, but also probably for my entire life.

This post will be a bit about my youth, my family’s youth, and my participation in Covenant House’s Sleep Out program taking place on April 7th. (Find my donation page here)

To give a little more context on the Sleep Out program, here’s a short blurb from the Covenant House website:

As Canada’s largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, we educate and advocate for change to help at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth by influencing public policy and delivering prevention and awareness programs. By participating in this event I am doing my small part to make sure the doors stay open for all who need them. 

I think that this is a really amazing cause, and I could really REALLY use your support.  Even if it’s just a two dollar donation. Every bit helps.

While this is a great cause just out there in the world, it also holds meaning for me personally, and here’s why.

I am the very youngest in a family with two children. My older brother is 7 years older than me. I don’t know much about the specifics of early family life for my parents, or how and why they got married. But I do know that my mother was an extremely broken woman who I recently realized has very serious Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father was a seriously troubled, ragey alcoholic. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.

My father was less violent by the time we were old enough to walk and talk, but that being said, my earliest memory is still him pulling a full pot of hot chilli off the stove, and pouring it directly on my mom’s head. I was probably 4. I jumped up on my chair and screamed at him – “don’t you hurt my mommy”. And thank the lord for my being female, because I’m sure that only his weird sense of misogyny kept him hitting a tiny girl. This was our family dynamic.

Though early on my parents made a lot of money, the brokenness of themselves, and their marriage precluded them from using said funds to help create any sort of stable home. We lived in a god damn trailer, and my brother actually slept in a camper van beside the trailer.

So when he reached teenage-hood, it’s not hard to see why he would also turn to growing and selling weed, why he would fail at school, why he would have a warped sense of manhood, and why he would often get in trouble with the police in our small town.

I’m not sure if my brother ever actually ran away, but he did spend much of his time staying with friends. He never finished high school. And in a lot of ways just never gained any sense of footing in the world.

For my own part, I joined every curricular activity imaginable, and finished school graduating as the top science student in my class; my way of coping was over-achieving. But this didn’t mean that I hadn’t come close to going the other way. In 10th grade, I missed something like 200 classes – my guidance counsellor and basketball coach, who I’d known since 3rd grade pulled me into the hall one day, and said that he was worried because this was a pivotal time for struggling youth and the decisions they made at this age determined whether they finished school or not. I brushed him off at the time, but I also stopped cutting class.

I never ran away from home, but not for lack of wanting. While my parents had finally split up, I was now the only one for my mother to take out her obsessive BPD behaviour on. She would regularly start fights with me before breakfast, telling me what a horrible selfish daughter I was until I began to cry, and then refusing to drive me to school. Once, she tried to hit me in the head with a marble lamp base. The summer after grade 12, she kicked me out of the house, and told me that I should go on welfare to support myself. I doubt she even remembers this. I went to live at my high school boyfriend’s parents’ house until university in the fall.

The point of all of this is to say, that while I didn’t use services like the ones offered by Covenant House, it’s only the concern of high school science teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents that kept this from being so. I truly believe that without this outside support I could have easily ended up on the street. And maybe if our social supports for youth from broken homes were stronger, then their lives might have taken very different paths.

So this is the personal connection to this program for me, and why I am asking for your support.

Everyone deserves a safe place to live, where they’re encouraged to thrive and grow. But children most especially.