Staff Interview: Tessa Mulcair

Describe where this program fits in YESS’ mission to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing.

The Nexus overnight shelter meets a youth’s basic needs in order to allow the youth to focus on their bigger goals rather than survival. Developmentally, youth are meant to working on figuring out their identity; who they are and where they fit in the world. They should be solidifying their values, their social skills, their competencies, their passions, and preparing for life as an adult. It takes tremendous mental and emotional effort to navigate this time in all of our lives. There is no energy to work on those important milestones if you haven’t eaten in days, if you are worried about freezing to death in the winter cold, if you have to protect yourself from the constant threat of physical attacks, or if you are traversing addiction or mental health issues. Nexus is able to provide safety, shelter, food, clothing, toiletries, and other basic needs so that the youth can focus on all of the psychological, social, emotional, and physical development that their bodies are naturally throwing at them. Nexus staff are also able to support the youth in their journeys at a personal level. Staff have a deep understanding of trauma and systemic barriers which effect all of our youth. We do not guide the youth’s journey as it is not for us to decide who a youth will become and where their journey will take them, instead we walk beside them, we help them to understand their options, help them to remove barriers and allow them the space to figure out for themselves where they want to go.

In what ways has the COVID-19 crisis affected youth and staff in this program?

The world is wrestling with adjusting to new norms, none of this is easy for any of us. In that way, our youth are very much struggling with the same things all of us are. Many of their places for respite have closed down, like libraries and other youth-supporting agencies. Many youth that had found jobs have now lost them. Many who were seeking work are now on hold indefinitely. Many who had excitedly managed to get into their own home are now at threat of losing what they had worked so hard for. Many youth have had their education plans disrupted after months or years of trying to get back on track. Many youth that have made positive strides in their mental health and addiction journeys are now falling backwards.

It takes incredible resiliency for our youth to move to past the barriers in their life to attain their goals, so one of the most heartbreaking parts of the COVID-19 crisis for staff has been to watch these hard-fought gains suddenly slip away, sometimes completely out of their reach, and through no fault of their own.  

What is one thing you wish the wider community knew about YESS youth?

I wish people understood the complexity of each individual youth’s journey. There is no single way that youth become homeless and no single path that will remove them from homelessness.

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