Dans la rue Counsellor Suzie Paquette Shares Her Story

Suzie is on staff at Dans la rue, working as our External Employment Counsellor. She is no stranger to youth homelessness. Today, she helps young people find their own path to a better and more stable life.

Be sure to listen as she shares her story with us

(in French)

An ongoing feeling of inadequacy

Suzie recounts how her family moved to a small country village halfway through her first year of elementary school. She was treated like an outsider and bullied mercilessly. At home, her authoritarian father was very demanding. The result was a feeling of inadequacy everywhere she turned.

As a teenager, she rebelled, embracing the punk movement and everything that came with it: the hair, the clothes, the attitude. “That’s when I started taking drugs,” she relates. And that marked the beginning of a long spiral downward. She fell in with the wrong crowd and a violent boyfriend.

“Life on the street is a lot more dangerous for kids now,” she cautions. “The drugs are much stronger. There’s no coming back from some of them.”

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Unconditional welcome at Dans la rue

Not too long after that, she found herself unhoused and using the Van’s services daily. She would go there to eat, sometimes walking from one stop to the next to get a second helping and pick up some of the necessities she needed to get by. That’s also when she started going to the Chez Pops Day Centre to have lunch at the cafeteria. She would walk there from wherever she was staying that day. “Almost like a pilgrimage,” she chuckles.

“Never for a moment did I feel like they were judging me,” she adds, audibly grateful. The unconditional acceptance was always there. The first tentative steps toward a better life — a place to stay, a training program, a job — followed. But it wasn’t easy to do on her own. The support she received gave her the motivation to keep going.

She was eventually hired to work in a coffee shop. That led her to the provincial employment office, where she applied to go back to school and get her certificate in special education. “The first term was like therapy,” she says. The counsellors made a huge difference for her, as she learned what her own strengths and limitations were. “And that’s when it all began to click.” She put the drugs and the violent relationship behind her and turned her life around. She started working as a counsellor.

Her message to youth looking to follow in her footsteps is a simple but sincere one: “If there’s something wrong, talk about it. To anyone, anywhere, anyhow. If you don’t, things get bottled up inside and they gnaw away at you. You have to deal with your issues head on.” Wise words indeed from someone who has seen life from both sides of the street.


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