At 16 years old, Stephanie has been living on her own off and on for nearly four years.
While at home, as her parents struggled with drug-related demons, Stephanie, the oldest of seven children, found herself caring for her four younger siblings. Two others are currently in government care.
When she voiced her displeasure with the added responsibility, she was told to leave.
The chaos and violence at home don’t make returning a viable option.
Stephanie spends most evenings sleeping with friends, stashing bags of various items of clothing at four or five homes throughout North Surrey.
“I leave some of my things at each house,” she says, “just in case I can only stay one night somewhere, and one night at the next place. That way it’s continuous.”
Stephanie is among the 10 per cent of Surrey’s homeless who are under the age of 18. Many nights, when she has nowhere to go and is forced to sleep on the street, she rides the SkyTrain to the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver where she has a few more contacts, mostly homeless friends of her mother. She says Surrey is not safe at night.
“In the beginning, I didn’t want to even ask people (to stay with them), because I know people have a certain outlook on homeless kids, like ‘she’s going to be doing drugs in our bathroom.’ I don’t want them to think that. I literally have nowhere to go.”
School has been a struggle. Attending regularly is difficult at best, but Stephanie has been told she must show up at least one day a week, adding to her feelings of desperation.
“I actually like school. I would like to try post-secondary, but I don’t think I could afford it,” she says. “I’d like to become a psychiatrist.”
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