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Our Kids

Alone in the Cold

No one in her neat, quiet, suburban neighborhood would have thought the 15-year-old girl walking down the street had just been kicked out of her house.

It was a freezing night and Karen had nowhere to go after her mother told her to get out.

Exhausted and desperate for warmth, Karen stayed with friends for a few days. “Then I was asked to leave,” says Karen, “so I spent the night on a grate.”

Karen tried again. She went back home to try to make things work. But her mother’s mental health problems grew worse. Within a year, Karen was back on the street.

But this time, there were no friends to turn to.

When my friend wouldn’t let me stay at her house, I stayed in her backyard, but the family didn’t even know it.

It was the only place she could find that was safe. She wandered for hours, looking for safe places to rest. As night fell, she found refuge in late-night restaurants, sipping a single cup of coffee until the owners asked her to leave.

You worry about freezing to death. You worry about being robbed and beaten up… about where you’re going to get something to eat.

No one chooses to be homeless, especially not a naive, 15-year-old girl. It’s terrifying. Karen spent many nights wandering the streets for hours, trying to find a way to stay warm in the bitter cold. “Finding grates is the big thing,” said Karen. The best she could do was to sleep on a grate ­– hoping the warm air would prevent her from freezing to death.

Karen faced hunger each day, not knowing when she would eat next. One morning she was forced to steal yogurt from a grocery store: “They saw me, but they didn’t chase me because they could tell that I needed it.”

It was fate that led Karen downtown where she first heard about Covenant House Toronto. Now she has a warm bed to sleep in every night. Karen is also attending our on-site high school.

At Covenant House, Karen is able to feel like a kid again. She can dream about the future and now has caring adults to support her so she can grow up to be a responsible adult.

The names and faces of some of our kids have been changed to protect their identities.