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At the age of 16, Stacey was kicked out of her home and was left with nowhere to go. Not knowing where to ask for help, she spent a whole month sleeping by a hydro tower and begging for food, until she finally moved in with a friend.

The escape from her abusive household was something she welcomed. But the freedom from the emotional and physical violence had come at a huge cost. Her schooling was temporarily interrupted as she bounced from couch to couch. Her feelings of self worth, already damaged from years of abuse, had completely evaporated.

She’d never felt more alone. “Feeling like you’re unwanted – that feeling of despair like you’re not good enough, and there’s no point in living anymore – it was the worst time of my life,” she said.

When she returned to her high school, a youth counsellor encouraged Stacey to go to the Guildford Youth Resource Centre. She remembers feeling hesitant to approach the centre, fearing that she would be sent back home. But those fears dissipated when she was welcomed with open arms.

“I came here, and everybody was smiling and laughing,” she said. Her needs became a priority – something she was not used to. “Are you hungry? Do you need a jacket? Do you need socks?” she recalls the program workers’ questions, with a laugh.

The programs available at the Guildford Youth Resource Centre provided her with resources that have enabled her to live stably for the past three years. Stacey has learned how to budget her money, how to build a resume, and has received help with school work.

“They helped me finish high school, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I still lived with my mother,” said Stacey, who is first person in her family to graduate. Now at age 20, she studying at Douglas College in the Child and Youth Care Program.

For the first time in her life, she feels a sense of purpose. “The Centre has shown me that people actually care about me – that I’m not like a waste of space, that I’m wanted,” she said. “If I did not end up in this program, I wouldn’t be doing anything that I am now. I wouldn’t be as strong as I am now.”

by Sheetal Reddy

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