Register file photo by Michael Swan

Youth offer guide out of homelessness

  • May 27, 2021

A joint project by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) and A Way Home Canada — and the slate of projects earmarked for the future — aims to ensure their jointly developed framework to prevent youth homelessness remains an ever-living document.

Hearing directly from youth has helped formulate proactive strategies and initiatives to help youth aged 13-24 from a life on the streets.

The organizations’ recent National Roundtable on Youth Homelessness and Prevention allowed youth to share with Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, with clues for the types of intervention to cut off the gateways to homelessness. They urged family, school, mental-health and peer-mentorship supports to help at-risk youth.

The key themes were very similar findings in the year-long study that serve as the bedrock for the COH’s and A Way Home Canada’s prevention road map, “What Would It Take: Youth Across Canada Speak Out on Youth Homelessness Prevention.”

Kaitlin Schwan, a senior researcher at the COH, was one of the co-authors of the 2018 report. She told The Catholic Register she was struck in learning how social institutions can create pathways to homelessness.

“In terms of the child welfare system, a lot of young people described how on their 18th birthday they were literally handed their clothing in a bag and kind of being on their own for the first time without having a plan for income, housing or any of the life skills needed to survive,” said Schwan. “We have a pipeline from that system into homelessness.”

The education system could play the biggest role in preventing youth homelessness, most youth said, “connecting them with social services and with knowledge about warning signs, rental housing and rights as tenants.” Schwan also said the study found quite a few youth shared how spirituality and religious communities provided refuge.

“There were quite a few young people who said that figures within their church or synagogue provided key support in the midst of a lot of family crisis and abuse. Young people talk about a deep need for community and faith communities can provide a feeling of belonging and connection when things are breaking down at home.”

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