"I don't know what a lot of kids would do if Safe Haven wasn't there." — Rick
Rick summed up his childhood in one word, "trouble." He was just six when his parents split up. By age 12, he was heavily bullied at school and started to find himself hanging out with the wrong crowd. "Those were my formative years," he said "and they were pretty messed up."
At age 14, he was kicked out of the house and began "bouncing around" between group homes, friends' couches and even spent part of the winter in a closed park bathroom. "I moved this bar slightly and slid through the opening," Rick recalls. "There was no heat, lights or water, and I slept on a lawn chair in the cold. I was a homeless child and that is worse than just being homeless; anything can happen and anyone can get a hold of you. The street is brutal, lonely and no place to live. It felt like a dead stop to my future."
Eventually, Rick found Safe Haven Shelter. "I went to Safe Haven about 12 times over a year and a half, it was just a stepping stone" he shrugged. "I would stay for about 20 days and then leave because time was up and I wasn't good with rules. This one counsellor was really tough at making me follow the rules; going to school, sweeping, doing dishes, doing chores. But he cared, he was genuine. All the staff show composure and empathy even when you break the rules. Every one of us had our own story, and the staff would listen, be positive, and support us - they actually care. They gave us structure, a path and tools to help us move forward, even if I didn't realize it then."
Life is better now. For the past seven years, Rick has been living in Niagara Falls working in a factory using a CNC lathe to make brake parts. On the side, he buys and sells things on E-Bay and Kijiji, and tinkers with his car. He is very proud of his wife Katie who is finishing her Master's degree and has developed a website to help people with disabilities. When she finishes school, he plans to go back to school. "I remember my Safe Haven counsellor who told me how important it is to stay in school," he recalled. "I didn't listen then, but he was right."
"I love family life," he offered. "I don't go out drinking beers with buddies after work. I love coming home to Katie, my 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. This year, my daughter made her very own Mother's Day card! I have a good relationship with my Dad and am working on healing the relationship with my mom. I just need to take the good and run with it; leave the bad behind."
"When I look back, I realize Safe Haven is just that, a safe place where you can stop, clear your head and figure things out."