There’s a lot to learn about living on your own. For youth who have experienced homelessness, trauma, and systemic barriers, the learning curve can be steep.

“It’s tough to transition from being in an emergency state in a shelter. Living at Eva’s Phoenix is a time to stabilize and build on the skills you need to live on your own and keep up with work or school,” said Natalie, program facilitator of the life skills program.

Natalie, program facilitator of the life skills program, posing at Eva's Phoenix for a photo

Natalie, the program facilitator of the life skills program, posing at Eva’s Phoenix.

In the program, youth learn life skills such as nutrition, self-care, financial literacy, time management, and goal setting through workshops and presentations. “We bring in guest speakers for some topics and regularly run things like cleaning orientations and coffee chats where we talk about goal setting. We also do one-on-one skill building if that’s better for some youth. We want to accommodate different learning styles and make life skills as engaging as possible.”

She’s led youth through scrubbing burnt pans and making cleaning products with baking soda and vinegar. She and the food services coordinator are planning an 8-week ‘cooking on a budget’ course in which participants cook meals. “Anytime youth can do something tangible, it helps motivate and empower them.”

For many youth, building life skills is as much about self-confidence as it is about cleaning, cooking, or hygiene. “Many youth don’t have the basic belief that they matter. We’re teaching them that they are of value; they deserve a clean living space and they’re important enough to care for themselves and attend appointments.”

Natalie’s Saturday morning cleaning program in which participants clean together for a few hours each week builds on this idea. She asks the youth for their favourite songs and has a playlist ready. “We’re trying to teach that if you make cleaning a habit it won’t feel like a gruelling chore.”