19-year-old Jamie Luis has been living at First Steps for over a year, and will soon be marking her first Mother’s Day as her daughter was born seven months ago.

"She’s always smiling, she loves to play with the older kids," says Luis. "And she’s just a very sweet girl."

It's been about a year and two months since she moved to the facility after finding out she was pregnant and in need of support.

"I needed help because I got laid off because of COVID," says Luis, "And I actually contacted Denise asking if I could have a tour of First Steps."

First Steps is a centre for pregnant and parenting young women and their children who have no safe place to go.

The organization not only provides transitional housing, but also access to programs and services to help their clients succeed.

Denise Morais, residential director, says one of the most unique parts of the program is that it tries to meet the women where they are.

"Everyone here essentially wants to be a parent," says Morais. "But they also have challenges with addiction, mental health, intimate partner violence, childhood trauma, poverty – so we try to address all of those needs."

Not only does First Steps have a daycare on site – it also has its own high school, the Dr. Christine Davies Education Centre which "provides schooling for pregnant and parenting women who would like to achieve their high school diploma."

Among those who have achieved that goal – is Jamie, who has not only graduated from high school, but is now enrolled to attend college in the fall.

"I have a lot of help from staff here and Denise," says Luis. "And I have truly believed that I can do it, and it’s for my daughter in the long run."

Morais estimates they’ve helped between 450 and 500 women – to help lift them up and find their footing for both mother and child.

"When I took my application in for college, I wanted to give [my daughter] the life that I never had, I want to give her the love, the attention, everything … that I never had, and that’s my goal basically."