Youth Spotlight: Montrevia and Montrenae
Updated: May 8
Montrevia “Mo” (22) and Montrenae (20) (from left to right) are sisters and now roommates who have been visiting the drop-in center at Covenant House Illinois to meet with staff and access services, including food and transportation passes. “[CHIL] Is a safe place, to come for food and snacks, the staff help me talk through challenges” says Mo.
Though very close, each sister has a different perspective on their childhood, and each has unique personal future goals.
Mo and Montrenae grew up with five other siblings, raised by their mom who loved them very much, but at times home was an unstable living environment. “My mom is such a strong woman, and that’s why my sisters are also so strong. Us older siblings took on helping and raising our younger siblings” says Mo.
When they were kids the family was forced to separate, and Mo and Montrenae stayed with their siblings in shelters. “I love my mom despite everything I’ve been through”, says Mo, “I love everyone who helped me grow up. I’ve learned that life can humble you really quickly and that all people still have lessons to learn even if they are older than you.”
Despite experiencing homelessness and transferring schools, Mo graduated from High School. “I really had to focus and keep pushing myself forward to accomplish my goal to finish school, and I’m so proud of that!”
Montrenae has a different perspective; “Growing up was full of fun times until I was 11 or 12, when I became depressed, and my anxiety blocks out part of my memory. Mom was a loving lady when we were younger but as we got older, she became neglectful. When my other siblings started leaving the house, we all grew distant, it started to feel like we didn’t have to look after one another, and we started resenting each other because it look away from high school dreams for our own lives.”
“As we got older,” Montrenae explains, “things seemed to calm down. We started healing ourselves and letting go of some old stuff that doesn’t matter anymore. You can’t dwell on it or overthink it. Learn the lesson you need to from it and keep it moving. We just focus on now and moving forward. We’ve decided to forgive and forget traumatic experiences from the past. We just want to everyone to be together and to be happy.”
Mo recalls meeting with Beverly (CHIL’s Outreach and Aftercare Coordinator) and Camille (CHIL’s Education/Employment Specialist: “Beverly gives great advice; you can tell she really cares about us. She helped us when my sister was selected for housing with things we needed for the apartment like dishes. She’s also helping my brother now, who I encouraged to come and meet with her.”
“I started coming to CHIL to meet with Beverly after MO recommended I come with her," explains Montrenae “Ms. Beverly is so understanding, she said that ‘I don’t have to explain anything that happened to me, but we are going to figure things out and get you some help’.
“Camille is the job expert,” says Mo. “She finds you what you are looking for, helps you with your resume and with finding transportation. She has a good heart and it’s so calming talking to her. I like good people, the world is filled with so much bad and negative people don’t reciprocate good enough, so when you find it here, you don’t want to let it go.”
“If we hadn’t come to CHIL, I’m not sure where we would be. We’ve been homeless since 2010, mostly house hopping or staying in shelters. [Which is] risky because you never know how people are going to treat you and it could be with bad people doing bad things or sleeping on the trains. I think I would have been lost or worse” says Mo.
Until Montrenae matched for housing a little over a month ago, both sisters were living in a temporary shelter, which they remember as “very chaotic”. Both sisters are now working – Mo in retail and Montrenae at Amazon. They work long hours (12-hour days) for days in a row to keep up with their rent and expenses.
When asked what the future looks like, both young women are optimistic. Mo reflects “I’m going to have my own [retail] store one day. I love being a content creator, trying new things and being creative. That’s one thing that came out of being homeless: pushing myself to be adventurous and curious about things around me. I developed a lot of ideas from having nowhere to go and just walking.”
Montevia says “I hope I never come to this point again, hope I can be the person others come to for advice. I like to make people feel good. This experience made me look at things differently. You can be homeless today but with a job tomorrow, keep pushing yourself and others.
Thinking about advice they’d give to other youth in their situation or about lessons they have learned, Mo affirms that “When help is presented to you, you take it. A lot of people like me want to stay independent. Many people turn away help that could help them. You have to put yourself out there and get help if you need it, don’t miss out on an opportunity, don’t think you don’t need help.”
Similarly, Montrenae advises that young people shouldn't be scared to ask for what they need. “Don’t be afraid to try something new even when it feels scary because that’s when you’re supposed to jump,” she says. “Always, always fight the negative thoughts. Put yourself first. Look out for yourself too when raising siblings or helping others.”
Goals for the future – “My plans for the future change a lot,” says Mo. “Now that I have a house, I might not have time to go back to school. Most of all, I want to make sure I don’t get back into a situation I just came from. I also want to remain open-minded, because knowing the right things and the right people will take you far.”
To keep herself motivated, Montrenae has a few mantras she repeats to herself: If you can see it in your head, it’s a possibility for you. Write down your dreams, work toward them and they will come true. Remind yourself you can do it and have patience with yourself.”
This summer, the sisters are most looking forward to having a housewarming party at their new apartment with tons of food, friends and family. Also, this coming September Montrenae will be turning 21 - “I see myself having the best birthday this year because I prayed for stability and I’m going to stay on top of what I need to do to keep our apartment. I’ve accomplished so much and have a new perspective!”