This inspirational story about a young woman who has lived in and out of shelters and transitional housing for years, before receiving her degree from U of T with honours and distinction, comes to us from CBC news.
Mardi Daley experienced precarious housing throughout high school and university, but despite this, she was awarded a scholarship to U of T. Through support from a transitional housing program and her own tenacity and hard work, she was able to succeed in her university studies despite many intersecting challenges. She describes school as an “exit ticket” from her difficult situation. She now works with precariously housed and homeless youth to help them find housing and meet their goals.
She created a journal with the youth she works with, called the My ____ Journal, which is meant to act as a survival guide and source of inspiration for youth experiencing housing difficulties. You can take a look at the pdf for the journal here. (If you’re interested in learning more about how journalling and art can be effective tools in dealing with life challenges, visit Riverwalk’s Art Journalling and Expressive and Therapeutic Arts pages!)
Mardi’s story speaks to the importance of having supportive housing and mental health services for people, and especially youth. It is so difficult to work on recovery goals, including schooling, if one is precariously housed. Mental illness and unstable housing are inextricably linked, and for most people, stable housing and support are essential in working towards life goals.
Furthermore, though Mardi’s story of academic success is in fact inspirational, it should be noted that many youth experiencing mental health and housing difficulties are not able to succeed in a conventional school or work environment, due to intersecting challenges. This doesn’t mean that they are less deserving of care or support. To the contrary – those who are not able to participate in typical developmental goals (eg. life skill development, education, employment) because of mental health and housing difficulties are perhaps in most need of support.
The stigmatized attitudes towards individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness speak to the need for a wider cultural shift in the way that we as a society view people.Mardi’s story shows that with the right supports in place, people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues have the potential to succeed and support others!
You can read Mardi’s story here.