Recognizing the unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness is a key part of finding solutions, said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director at the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.
The coalition recently conducted a study that engaged youth identified as experiencing or being at-risk of homelessness in order to discover what they need and what services are missing.
“We wanted to get a better handle on some of the reasons that youth are becoming homeless and some of the routes out of homelessness,” said Wynn-Williams. “it’s been proven time and time again that if we want to help individuals who are marginalized for whatever reason, you get the best solutions when you engage them in those solutions.”
One of the challenges the study found was the need for better transitions from youth to adult services.
“Youth don’t like to access adult services,” said Wynn-Williams. “They feel threatened. Between 18 and 24 is a very difficult age. That’s when most youth become homeless, because they age out of care.”
Another issue youth have is accessing the services that are available, he said.
“Trying to find out what services to access, how to access them and where to access them is challenge.”
The McCreary Centre is currently conducting a count of youth homelessness. That data is expected to be available in May. At that time, Wynn-Williams said they will be able to take the information from the Coalition’s study along with the quantitative data to service providers, government agencies and funders and find concrete ways to address the challenges of youth homelessness.
The Threshold Housing Society in Victoria is one organization offering services for homeless youth and youth at-risk of homelessness.
“The age group between 16 and 24 is the largest growing segment of the homeless population nationally,” said Mark Muldoon, executive director of Threshold Housing Society. “The most concrete issue is the fact that there is a lack of affordable housing in most cities, and especially in Victoria.”
One of Threshold’s programs is the Safe Housing for Youth program that provides affordable transitional housing for youth.
Youth also participate in workshops, including how to be good renters, grief and loss learning, financial literacy as well as leadership and personal skills.
“A great impediment for moving forward for a lot of young people with undiagnosed mental health issues or poor self-esteem or anxiety issues, is a lack of self worth,” said Muldoon.
For more information on the SHY program, contact Shannon Wilcox at 778-406-0558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.