Tommy, the face of hidden homelessness
Making a real and lasting difference in young people’s lives
With the housing shortage becoming even more acute during the pandemic, I wanted to see for myself the impact of a stable living situation on vulnerable youth and their ability to achieve their dreams. So I sat down with Tommy in his apartment at Dans la rue Housing. It was a true privilege to meet this bright, motivated young man.
Tommy isn’t a typical example of the kind of youth we help at Dans la rue. Although he’s never lived on the streets as such, he spent several years without a fixed address. This chronic instability has been a major obstacle in building a life for himself.
A new beginning after a difficult past
It didn’t take much time for Tommy to open up to me and share his story about his difficult past. He told me it wasn’t easy to ask for help in the beginning, but he eventually came around and realized he needed it. He couldn’t keep going, not having a clue where he would be laying his head from one night to the next, always at the mercy of a friend or a family member kind enough to put him up for a day or two.
He took every day as it came and lived out of a single backpack. The uncertainty took a major toll on his mental health. I was moved by his unassuming manner, which was reflected in his simple, uncluttered living environment.
Residential stability: a big step forward in chasing your dreams
Tommy secretly harboured a dream of going back to school and finding a steady job. But without stable living arrangements, he couldn’t act on his ambitions. All that changed after he was approached by Coalition Jeunes+, a project sponsored by Dans la rue, to share his experience of hidden homelessness and be part of the working group. One thing led to another, and he ended up being offered a subsidized spot at Dans la rue Housing when one of the studio apartments became available.
« Financial assistance makes all the difference in being able to keep a place while I work and go to school. I’ve been doing both part-time ever since I moved in. »
Doing his part to prevent homelessness: Tommy’s way of giving back
Tommy explained that his experience with Coalition Jeunes+ was the first step in developing a support network of his own. He described how having an apartment can change someone’s entire outlook. Since this opportunity came along, his mental health has improved considerably. It is also easier for him to ask for help, and he is starting to look toward the future with confidence.
« I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did. I like getting the help I’m getting, but I want to help other young people, too. Youth have to be part of the solution. »
After this visit, I felt even prouder to be part of the Dans la rue team, which lets youth move forward at their own pace and gives them a second chance. Although it often takes multiple attempts to make dreams come true, it’s much easier when there’s a helping hand there to guide you along the way.
Eliza Moses, Senior Advisor, Communications, Dans la rue