A walk in the shoes of a homeless youth

As a 22 year-old transgendered female with mental challenges and a history of incarceration, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to successfully find income, 3 square meals, and a warm, dry, safe place to stay for the night.

These were the objectives and challenges facing me during my recent experience in the Directions Youth Services simulator, Cardboard Vancity, last Friday evening (October 13, 2017)—a 90 minute challenge.

After having doors slammed in my face for the first few minutes, I approached the desk at Directions Youth Services. They gave me a plan of attack, and the very essential bus ticket I needed to make it all start coming together.

With a record, no one would hire me but, I was eligible for disability. The trouble was, I didn’t have any ID.  Overcoming this hurdle and having my disability funds in hand, I quickly discovered the sum was not near enough  to pay for a room and three meals. The shelter wouldn’t take me on my first attempt because they didn’t have facilities for transgender individuals. Do I go cold, or do I go hungry? Finally I asked the police if they might take me in for the night.  They took pity on me, and escorted and advocated for me at the shelter. I got a lucky break.

In the simulations, the roles of Government, Police, Social Worker, Doctor, Employer, Bus Driver, Youth Services Centre were all played by Directions staff paired with youth who use the services at the centre. It offered some of the youth an opportunity to communicate the challenges they face daily.

Some, who are too frustrated with the distress they face daily, refused to be a part of such a mockery of their everyday life.

In the end, I won the game, being offered knowledgeable guidance by Directions and a little kindness, but this is a game our youth shouldn’t have to play.


This post was written by Simone Plusa, an FSGV employee. Directions Youth Services is a division of Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

To learn more about their work with youth, visit www.directionsyouthservices.ca or watch this Cardboard VanCity video created with the help of a Directions youth: