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Meet Zack.  Zack has lived most of his young adult life in the shelter system, living with disabilities as well as being on the autism spectrum. He has the support and care of his younger sister – who has been his legal guardian for the last ten years – and her husband.  But even with all this care, life can turn around so easily and so fast…  Just a few weeks ago, Zack and his sister ran into some trouble and, after having paid first and last month’s rent, their landlord evicted them. With nowhere to go and with the weather getting colder and colder, the family left Oshawa for Toronto with the hope of finding some support in the meantime.

Once you have no place to live, your mind focuses on survival, and sometimes that leads to making very hard decisions. Even though when they wanted to be all together, Zack’s sister knew that she needed to find a place that could take care of Zack while she and her husband were fervently searching for a place for the three of them to stay. They eventually arrived at St. Felix Centre, and Zack’s sister trusted our staff to provide comfort, basic needs and love for him. And so, Zack stayed at St. Felix Centre as part of our 24-Hour Respite and Drop-in programs with his two service dogs, Dakota and Bear. These two furry companions are a fundamental part of his mental health, and fortunately, St Felix Centre has a long tradition of being 100% pet friendly. With the support of staff and the love of his two dogs, Zack found the strength he needed to wait for his sister to come back.

In two weeks time, Zack’s sister was able to secure a place back in Oshawa. Unfortunately, getting Zack back with them presented more challenges than expected: They had no car, and it was impossible for them to afford renting one to get back to Toronto to pick him up. For most of us buying a train ticket does not pose any problem, but for people facing financial difficulties and trying to get back on their feet, the cost of one ticket can represent a fortune; Zack’s sister found herself in the position of not being able to afford the fare. To make things even worse, even if they could somehow buy a one-way ticket for Zack, he wouldn’t be able to carry his heavy luggage and his service dogs by himself to the station due to Zack’s severe spinal health problems. But then, St. Felix Centre ‘happened’ again!

Staff at the Centre found out about the challenge and worked together with Zack to ensure he would arrive safely to his family. The staff got in touch with his Sister to make sure everything was in place for her to receive Zack at their new place, then took care of the fare for the train ride. Two staff members helped Zack with his belongings and dogs, and escorted him after work hours (the only time the dogs where allowed to ride the train) to make sure he was safe and without any problems in the train to make his way back to his family. And so, Zack was able to return to his family safely with Dakota and Bear.

At St. Felix Centre we work tirelessly to provide safety and support for all people in need. We understand complex challenges may arise to achieve that, and that each case is unique and may require different actions to address those challenges. However, we know that through compassion, love and working together as a strong community we can overcome almost any obstacles. Zack’s story is a good example of how dedicated and strong our team can be in the pursue of seeing our guests smile again.

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