A safe space for all
September 02, 2021
The following is a testimonial that was shared by a former Wood's Homes client.
Entering the Inglewood Opportunity Hub for the first time was a relief. I looked around, hoping to find someone like me. Being gay within the homeless population is terrifying and you are always searching for an ally. On the wall, I noticed a flag that showed me that this is a safe place for all.
The place had a different feeling for me. I was welcomed here.
I was shown my apartment at New Horizon. This entire space was mine, I thought. To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement.
The first night, I slept soundly, not even moving a muscle. The next morning, there was a knock on my door and I answered it hesitantly. A New Horizon staff was at the door and asked if I wanted to start my 'move-in shopping'. They remarked, “Oh, you're already dressed and ready to go”. In that moment, everything hit me. I told them, “No”, and that I had slept in my clothes and never bothered to take my boots off. I learned that if I wanted to keep myself safe, I had to sleep in my clothes. That way, if I needed to run, I had my belongings.
No one knows how rough it is to be homeless and gay on the streets. The slurs that are mumbled at me from the shelter staff*, or how I had to tell them that I started the fight when someone attacked me. I now have a home to call my own.
A place where I can be who I am.
This is what has helped me to feel and be free.
I was asked what helped me to feel at home here. The WRAP group helped me connect with others who were in similar situations. It was a natural transition.
If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be this: Learn how to accept love. Caring for yourself is paramount.
One thing I have learned from my time working within the sector of addictions is to take nothing at face value. Reading an intake regarding a young person entering our system may tell me that this youth may have many layers of trauma, but tells me nothing of their resiliency to be able to get up every morning.
The barriers and vulnerability that the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ live with daily, is not the world that I envisioned for 2021. LGBTQQIP2SAA+ youth are especially vulnerable to mental health concerns, increased risk of physical and sexual exploitation, substance use, and suicide. 77% of these youth have seriously contemplated suicide, while 45% attempt, which is 14 times higher than straight and cisgender youth.
LGBTQQIP2SAA+ youth find it difficult to find a shelter where they are safe, due to facing higher rates of discrimination and violence in shelters. In Canada alone, 25-40% of the youth that are homeless today identify as being a part of the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ community.
Within the addiction field, the statistics is disproportionately higher within the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ community. Within this sector of youth, 9% of youth prior to the age of 18 struggle with an addiction, and out of that 9%, 20-30% of the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ struggle with addiction. We continue to witness and identify the discrimination, violence, and rejection that these youth face.
This year, Pride has been at the forefront of the conversation when discussing the reopening plan. COVID-19 stopped all of us in our tracks, and isolated us from our connections, peers, supports and our families. Connection with others is imperative for our mental health and well-being. So as everyone reopens their doors, remember this:
Our spaces at Wood's Homes are safe for all who cross our doorways.
*At other shelters.