Julie is only 22 years old but she has lived a lifetime filled many times over with unhappiness and despair. It began as soon as she was born. Julie was several months premature at birth. Her parents did not want her and she was given up for adoption. When she was well enough to leave the hospital she was left in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. At some point Julie was adopted only to be given up again at 12 years of age when she experienced behaviour and anger issues. She was entrusted to a group home for a couple of years where the environment was extremely strict and structured and her behavioural issues escalated. When she spoke up she was chastised. When she did not obey the rules she was censured. Acting out is disruptive and was not permitted in a group home. Julie took out her feelings and frustrations by several attempts at running away, self mutilation and suicide attempts.
At 14 Julie left the group home and wound up in another foster home. Her acting out and anger continued and in response she was treated cruelly by her foster parents. After a suicide attempt she wound up in a psych ward of the local hospital and within two weeks without interventions she was released and sent to live in yet another foster home. That lasted 5 months and Julie ran away. At 16 Julie found herself again in hospital and when released was sent to a group home where she formed a close bond to another girl there. This was the first real friend Julie ever had. Tragedy hit. Julie’s friend suffered from depression from years of disappointment and took her own life. This was the last straw for Julie and having no will to keep going Julie stopped eating and went down to a dangerous body weight. There seemed to be nothing for her to live for and in her world hopelessness lived everywhere. The group home supervisor knew Julie had to be part of something to get her mind off the sadness she was feeling and asked Julie if she wanted to work with developmentally delayed kids. The kids were very needy and grateful for any attention they could garner. Julie connected with them immediately and now she had purpose. She loved her job. She took great pride in helping these kids feel cared about. That time stuck out in Julie’s mind as the best experience of her life.
Julie eventually moved on and was now 20 years old. She was outside the age limit for Children’s Aid and had to make her own way couch surfing and living in shelters. She was having difficulty knowing what to do with her life. Julie was referred to the Options Bytown Housing First Case Manager. She recalls the meeting where she was told that she did not have to live in a shelter anymore. At Options Bytown she could have her own permanent apartment. If she needed help of any kind an on-site Housing Support Worker would be available 7 days a week to assist her. This was exactly what Julie needed and she jumped at the chance.
Julie has been living at Options Bytown for 10 months – the longest stay she has achieved anywhere and she says she would like to stay right where she is forever. She has a cat that she loves dearly. She visits with the housing support workers daily. She says she feels stable and safe and has plans for her future. Her plans include achieving an academic and career entrance certificate so that she can complete her education to become a social worker one day.
Options Bytown has been Julie’s life line. At the 2016 Options Bytown Annual General Meeting Julie addressed the audience with a speech she wrote about what Options Bytown meant to her and her gratitude for the staff helping her find her way.
Options Bytown’s mission is to offer permanent housing and supports to assist people at risk of homelessness live independently and enrich their lives. Julie is just one example of the success of one of the many courageous people who benefit from Options Bytown’s supportive housing services.