Imagine you’re a 16 year old girl.
You’ve grown up in a single family home.
It’s just you and your dad.
It’s been the two of you for as long as you can remember.
You have no memory of your mom.
Money doesn’t come into the home consistently and you’re finally old enough to get a job and help your dad keep up with the bills.
You get a part time job at a fast food joint.
Your dad has had girlfriends before but they usually don’t last. They don’t stay long enough for you to even find out their names.
But suddenly that changes.
And you can tell he likes her a lot. But she’s not a fan of you.
But it’s been almost your entire life since your dad felt like he was in a meaningful relationship, so you stay quiet. You want him to be happy.
Things start getting really serious between your dad and his girlfriend. They decide to move in together.
However, your home is small; there isn’t really room for another person.
Your dad’s girlfriend tells him that he has to pick; you or her.
He doesn’t pick you.
You have to start looking for a place to live on your own but rent is high and you don’t make much.
You consider dropping out of school to pick up more hours, but you really want to graduate one day.
One day at work a guy comes up to your till.
As you hand him back his change he pauses. He catches your gaze and says to you “Wow, I sure hope someone tells you every day how beautiful you are.”
You feel the heat flooding to your cheeks and you flutter your eyes downcast so he doens’t notice how shy you are.
He gives you a smile and walks away.
It’s been forever since you felt noticed and you can’t remember if anyone has ever called you beautiful.
He comes back the next time you’re working.
Your heart jumps and you crave the possibility of having someone appreciate you.
This time, he asks you out.
In the shock of excitement you bashfully agree.
He tells you to meet him at a local restaurant the next night. He tells you to wear something pretty.
You can’t believe that someone would actually pick you, of all people, out of a room and want to be with you.
You meet him at the restaurant and he’s waiting there with flowers.
You sit down and talk. It feels so natural. He’s a great listener. He just sits there and lets you talk. He occasionally interrupts you to tell you how beautiful you are.
He takes you out the next day. This time he meets you at the mall and takes you shopping. He points out all the clothes that he thinks would enhance your beauty.
You’re a little uncomfortable at first, they show off more of your skin than you’re used to. But he assures you how flawless your body looks in them. He buys them for you.
The next day you get into a fight with your dad’s girlfriend about why you haven’t moved out yet. You’re so upset you need someone to talk to.
So you call him.
He tells you to come to his place.
In tears you tell him the situation, worried that he’ll judge you.
Instead he holds you and tells you how special you are to him.
He says you can live with him and his roommates until you find your own place. He’ll even help you look for a place.
He looks at you with the most genuine expression. For the first time in a long time you feel safe.
He invites you to share his room with him.
You go hesitantly but you trust him.
You’re not naïve, you know what he’s expecting.
But he’s been so good to you, you want to give as much to him as he’s given to you.
The next morning he tells you how much he loves having you around and asks you to stay.
For lack of another option you say yes.
He convinces you to quit your job because a girl like you shouldn’t have to work at a place like that.
He’ll take care of you if you take care of him.
It seems like a fair trade.
He also knows a few ways you can make some extra money with him.
He takes you on deliveries and asks you to collect money from his clients.
You have suspicions about what he’s doing but you don’t ask. He doesn’t like it when you ask.
You don’t want to upset him by prying because he does so much for you.
One night he asks you to stay at home and wait for a client to drop off some money.
When the client arrives he invites himself in.
He forces you to do things you don’t want to do.
The next morning you feel disgusting and ugly.
Your boyfriend notices that you’re upset.
He asks you what’s wrong but you’re scared to tell him. You’re worried what he will say.
He offers you drugs, promises you they’ll make you feel better.
You take them out of desperation to numb the horrific way you feel.
You feel better.
But the next day you feel even more disgusting than the day before.
You look through his room and find more drugs and you take them.
But every morning you wake up with the weight of a burden far too great for you to cast away yourself.
So you take the drugs.
Eventually he notices that you’re using his drugs.
You’re worried he will be mad but he’s not. He just explains to you that those weren’t your drugs to use and you’ll have to go visit his friend and apologize. His friend will understand but he needs you to apologize so his friend doesn’t get mad at him.
He tells you where his friend lives and you go. He invites you in and you tell him you’re sorry. He says he won’t get back at your boyfriend if you go to his room with him.
You don’t want your boyfriend to get in trouble so you go.
But your boyfriend finds out. He gets mad and breaks up with you.
You don’t know where to go so you go back to his friend’s house.
He offers you shelter in exchange for your body.
At this point you feel so empty, worthless, and ugly. You have lost everything and have nothing left to lose.
You’ve now gotten used to the way the drugs numb the pain. You crave the way they make you feel as though the world has disappeared.
This guy says he knows a way for you to get drugs.
But that will also come at a cost.
You have no money.
The only method of payment you now have is your body.
But you don’t care.
You accept that your body no longer belongs to you.
You’re a slave.
And your body is your job.
2016 is behind us and 2017 is well underway.
But we still want to share a few numbers with you from 2016 to show you what you’ve help happen in our communities and to highlight what still needs to be done.
2 – Number of Emergency Youth Shelters between the Okanagan and Metro Vancouver (both are Cyrus Centre locations)
4 – Number of Emergency Youth Shelter beds in Abbotsford
5 – Number of Emergency Youth Shelter beds in Chillwack
20 – Percentage of homeless people in Abbotsford that are youth
44 – Percentage of homeless people in Chilliwack that are youth
213 – Number of intakes into Cyrus Centre’s Emergency Youth Shelter in 2016
242 – Number of youth Cyrus Centre had to turn away from the Emergency Youth Shelter because we were full in 2016
8,575 – Number of meals served to youth at Cyrus Centre in 2016
12,389 – Number of times youth visited Cyrus Centre in 2016
6 – Number of Emergency Youth beds we HOPE to have in Abbotsford in 2017
9 – Number of Emergency Youth beds we HOPE to have in Chilliwack in 2017
49 – Amount of dollars it costs per night to provide a youth living on the streets with a safe, dry, warm place to sleep, alongside numerous other needs and resources.
We want to thank every single individual, business, church, group responsible for every dollar donated and thank every person who donated their time, talents, and resources to provide meals for our youth, and everyone who provided necessary cleaning supplies, hygeine products, gift cards, and more.
It takes every single one of you to allow Cyrus Centre to provide emergency, 24 hour a day services to homeless and vulnerable you in the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon.
Because of you, on 213 separate occasions, a youth on the street had a safe place to sleep.
Our prayer for 2017 is to expand our current emergency shelter so that more youth find refuge from the streets.
I heard this song recently and the words have continued to rattle around in my brain. I remember clearly when my mother passed away. She left a huge hole in my life and when my father followed her to heaven several years ago for the first time in my life I felt like an orphan. I was totally on my own, alone in this big sea of life trying to find my exhausting way to shore.
Unlike many of our Cyrus kids, I had parents who did their best to guide and direct me offering wisdom they had collected through the years. As I now relate to my kids at the youth centre, I wonder that they have even found their way to us. How do they know that we are trustworthy? How do they know what is a “normal” path in life? How do they even guess at the question asked in schools about what they want to be when they grow up because for many of them, just making it through the next month, is a challenge.
As a Cyrus volunteer, I am honoured to be any kind of adopted family member but find that I fit best as the Cyrus Gramma. The role itself, requires, a sense of humour, some well-developed patience and the willingness to listen and care. It’s what Grammas all over the world do every day and while our Cyrus kids already have a mom, I happy to adopt anyone feeling like they’d like to belong to someone. As they land on shore, thanks to all of our donors, and support staff, we’ve got plenty of towels and blankets and TLC to make them feel safe and warm.
Dian, Cyrus Centre Abbotsford Volunteer
I have spent a considerable amount of time putting together words, formulating sentences, creating paragraphs and then deleting them. I feel an immense weight on my shoulders as I contemplate exactly what words I want to use to create the first blog post. How to you put into words exactly what Cyrus Centre is and what we do? I’ve written dozens upon dozens of blog posts in my life and yet for some reason this feels different. This doesn’t feel like your average blog post because I know this isn’t going to be your average blog. My brain is swarming with stories I have heard during my time here at Cyrus Centre. When I started working at Cyrus Centre I assumed I would hear endless stories of heartbreak, trials, and suffering. I assumed Cyrus Centre was a big part of a lot of youth’s stories. What I didn’t expect was how Cyrus Centre would become a part of mine.
I can still remember the first time I heard about Cyrus Centre. I was in grade 9, sitting in chapel and there was a man and woman speaking about a new organization starting up here in my hometown of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The man and woman were talking about youth who were living on the streets right here in Abbotsford. In the perfect little world I had grown up in, never once had I heard of teens my age being homeless in my hometown. Not only were they homeless, they were victims. Victims of sexual exploitation, victims of abuse, victims of addiction, victims of hunger, victims of poverty. That day I was exposed to a world so much different from the one I had spent my whole life living in. And yet our worlds were about to become much closer than I ever knew.
My name is Maren, and I would like to take this first blog post to introduce myself. 5 years ago I stepped through the doors of Cyrus Centre for the first time to pick up a volunteer application. I thought I would show up 4 hours a week, engage with youth, feed them a meal, go home. I didn’t think that five years later I would still be here as a full-time staff member. I didn’t think I would redirect the focus of my post-secondary education to equip me to work for a non-profit organization. I didn’t think Cyrus Centre would become a huge part of my life. I didn’t see any of my current circumstances coming.
But that’s the thing about life. Often, things happen in our lives that we don’t expect; things we can’t predict, can’t control, but mostly things that we never even asked for. If I could summarize the stories that fill the walls of Cyrus Centre into one sentence, it would be that. The youth we work with at Cyrus Centre didn’t ask for their current circumstances, they didn’t plan for their life to take this route. This blog is going to be a place where staff, volunteers, and youth can share their stories; a place where people can freely express themselves, where it’s safe to be vulnerable, a place where stories are heard, and a place where people care. Because this is Cyrus Centre, and this is what we do.