Last night was my first experience doing outreach with Covenant House. I work in the Development and Communications department as a Donations Administrator so I don't really get to see all the front line stuff.
We started out by visiting a few of our youth at St.Paul's Hospital in the mental health ward. One young gentleman brought out his art portfolio that he has been working on, and proudly showed us his latest sketches. It was also a joy to see his face light up at the thought of displaying a few of his pieces in the art room at Pender. I got to sit with this young man and one of our outreach workers and witness the rapport between the two. The youth worker interacted extremely well with the youth and knew the exact questions to ask him and how to respond. The youth seemed very comfortable telling us about himself, his past, his illness and his plans for the future.
Next we went to visit a youth who recently left our shelter and is now living in an apartment and doing quite well. He was very happy to see us and told us all about his day and about the support groups he was attending. It was great to hear him say such nice things about Covenant House and about how much we helped him when he was staying in our shelter. He even has a picture of the Covenant House sign on his front door so that every time he leaves his home he thinks of us and all the things we did to help him.
The rest of the night we spent going around to a few SRO's handing out sandwiches and juice boxes to our youth and checking to make sure everyone was doing well. One young man had just moved in to his room that very day and was sitting all alone in the dark. It turns out that there were no working light bulbs in his room. Without hesitation one of the youth workers took it upon himself to fix the situation. We went down to the manager of the building and reported the problem, then went out to the van and grabbed some light bulbs for the youth. This particular youth was such a nice, quiet guy that he probably would have sat all night in the dark without asking for help.
Doing this shadow shift with our outreach program really helped change my perspective on our youth, our youth workers and Covenant House in general. Although I know of the good the youth workers do each and every day, it really opened my eyes to what it is like to really be in their shoes. I really give them credit for getting out there and interacting with our youth on the streets, in the hospitals or their homes and giving them hope for the future. It also helped to solidify my beliefs in CHV and reinforced my reasons for being a part of it!