In our most recent post in our series on poverty and homelessness we asked people to consider sharing a story about their experiences. Sharing these stories serves as a reminder that poverty and homelessness are not a choice. It’s important for us to end the stigma and stereotypes that are too often associated with these issues. Those who are homeless, just as those who are housed, should not be defined by where they live. Each of us has followed a different path from the past to the present. Yet some of our paths have been rockier than others.
This week we are pleased to offer the first of these stories. We are grateful to the Threshold Housing Society for providing it to us . The Threshold Housing Society provides transitional housing to youth at risk of becoming homeless.
Threshold Housing Society: Mitchell House 2014
By: Graham Kelly – House Supervisor
It was the night before Christmas, and all through the Scots Motel, many creatures were stirring: not only the mice. Skinny teenager Miles Winter was stirring also, or rather tossing and turning sleeplessly. The motel’s roaches were the worst when you felt them on your face, but at least they were silent. It was the scurrying sound of the mice that actually kept Miles awake, even on Christmas Eve, when everyone was supposed to be in a deep sleep dreaming of all they’d be waking up to. Miles knew there wouldn’t be much to wake up to in a few restless hours, when the sound of the motel alarm clock would go off like every morning, and his dad would plug in their tiny plastic tree and say “Merry Christmas kiddo.” It would not be his best, nor would it be his worst Christmas — so long as it was just the scuffling sound inside the walls, and not the rising sound of fighting through them, or the approaching sound of sirens after that. Lying uncomfortably in a pull-out cot, Miles thought of his little cousins a city away, who would wonder how Santa could get down into a motel room without a chimney, and where you would hang stockings when there was no fireplace – only an old, dead heater.
As he finally drifted off to sleep he hoped his cousins were having a Christmas like the one good one Miles had ever known, the one time the family was together and he got the toy he wanted. And he hoped his own Christmases would get better, be happier, and be in a nice house instead of an old motel.
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But the following Christmas, things looked no better for Miles. He and his dad had fled the infestation of that motel and moved on to another, staying as long as it took for his dad to be accepted into low income housing. The place his dad moved into did not have room for Miles, and he was forced to sleep on friends’ couches, until the welcomes finally wore out. He thought he might have to brave the cold and set up a borrowed tent in the park, spending Christmas outside, all alone. But exactly one week before Christmas Eve last year, everything changed. Miles was accepted on an emergency basis into
Mitchell House, the home for young men that I run. On the night of our Christmas dinner last year, Miles arrived to meet other residents and members of the Threshold Housing ‘family’. He was cold and thin, but excited to start a new life with us – well, right after eating a plate piled high with turkey and stuffing.
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This week, Miles and I went Christmas shopping together. We went straight to the toy aisle, where for a moment Miles seemed to become a child again, challenging me to a duel with a telescoping light sabres.
I noticed how much he has grown in a year, how much stronger he is after learning to cook for himself, and how physically fit he is from his job prepping food for sports events. I see the new clarity in his eyes, the focus and motivation he has gained, as he moves closer to his dream of becoming a chef. I see a strong, gifted, caring young man who has survived and thrived after being given a foundation to build on, and who now wishes to give back. And as he picks out toys to give his young cousins on Christmas morning, I see a young man who will never go back, and will make the world better as he goes forward.
– For every youth like Miles that is accepted, Threshold Housing has to turn away four more –
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