CERA’s Youth Housing Rights Ambassadors

4 young people who know homelessness and discrimination from landlords + over 100 hours of paid housing rights training & storytelling coaching


So far, our Ambassadors have shared their words and stories with over 75 people in Toronto.  

+ S’s Story

I packed up and came to Canada, left my family, friends, everything I loved and was familiar with. I was on my way to independence and freedom. Unfortunately it was the beginning of a crazy spiral.
Prior to coming to Canada I thought everything would be easy. I promised I would never be in a shelter. I had lots of ideas about shelters, and that they were for people that have nothing. But I did end up in one. It was during this time that I really got to see Canada for Canada.

After reaching Canada and expecting things would change and get better for me, unfortunately they didn’t at first.

I remember the first night crying and feeling hopeless but there was nothing I could do so I just reluctantly sucked it up and looked on the bright side that I had somewhere to stay for that time period.

Surprisingly enough my expectations of the shelter system was completely incorrect. It was there that my life changed for the better. It met some amazing people; staff and residents who were able to point me in the right direction and enabled me to progress in this “Canadian lifestyle”. Because of the shelter, I received the proper documentation, opportunities and an amazing roommate. They helped us to find an apartment even when so many landlords didn’t want to rent to us because we were homeless, because we are young, or because of our source of income. They helped us to feel at home when we didn’t have one.

Even though we’ve moved on from the shelter and have found a place, we are always welcomed back, presented with more opportunities and continue to have a healthy relationship with the staff there who we are comfortable communicating with and now that we have continued support from.

There is a serious lack of resources for housing, and especially for young people. We need supports. I was luck I got them when I needed them.”


+ Parfait’s Story


+ R’s Story

“It all began in April 1992 in my homeland of Jamaica. I lived there til I was 7, then I relocated with my family in Toronto. I felt like there was no support system in place for me at the time, so I would go out looking for one and believe me if there was I would find it. So I thought until I found myself in jail. Four years would pass in there. After serving time I would be homeless. With nowhere to turn I felt trapped, how did I get here?

Looking back I remember praying to god for better days. I would have dreams and visions of being free one day. Then like the light in the night that day came, November 10, 2015 I walk out of the belly of the beast free at last free at last.

Do I feel like my time was lost? No, because I found something the people look for their whole lives. I found the eyes can c, the ears can hear the heart can feel and the mind can move.

I gained a strong sense of god and he got a plan for us all. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. But with good faith, consistency, and perseverance e you can do it all. Being released, I felt like I was given a second chance.

People ask me “What’s it like to get out of prison at the age of 22”?

When I was in prison, my lawyer told me he didn’t want to see me on the news, another casualty, another body. Later, when I was released, he told me to run away and never look back.

But to me, that felt like quitting.

When I got out, I didn’t have a place to go.

I ended up in a shelter.

Lots of people in shelters feel ashamed. The stigma is real.

But I felt at home. The supports are there if you are willing to take them. I’ve learned as much as I can about the system, about my rights along the way. And it has served me well.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-2-48-40-pmI decided I was gonna get up and I was gonna help other people because I know what it’s like to be down.

To go through what I’ve gone through in my 24 years of living, some would give up. It’s a miracle that God has put me through serving 4 years in the darkness. To come out and reshape my thinking and have a positive outlook on life. To be determined and dedicated to fulfilling my destiny. I have hopes and dreams of helping our troubled youth as a pastor – to help them understand that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel. Because I found it.

Here I am.

My story is all about:

Believing in yourself, in your inner strength

Believe in what’s possible

Know that you have rights

Stand up for yourself.”

– R , Youth Housing Rights Ambassador