By Sanita Dhillon – Communications Assistant, Wood’s Homes
Sometimes you need a little reminder of why you do the work you do. For me, I recently had that moment of inspiration during my tour of the New Horizon program. This was an opportunity for me to learn more about this program in order to better communicate its work with homeless youth in our community.
The New Horizon program was launched in 2010 because Wood’s Homes had been looking for a way to provide stable, supportive housing for young adults at risk of homelessness.
In partnership with the Horizon Housing Society and the Calgary Homeless Foundation, the program provides 12 subsidized apartment units in Calgary’s Fairview district for young adults ages 18 to 24 who otherwise would be living on the street. Through a lowered monthly rent, clients can live here for six months to upwards of two years.
Young people are selected for this program through an intake process that considers their hard work, dedication and hunger to build better lives. Wood’s Homes staff are on site during the week to teach them how to find and keep a job, how to budget their money, shop for groceries, cook and clean, and set up bank accounts.
The apartments are fully furnished (thanks to our corporate support) and clients are able to keep the furniture when they successfully complete the program.
During my visit, I was able to get to know the staff, meet one of the clients and really see what this place meant to the youth who come to stay here. I saw that this was a very positive and welcoming environment that helped youth feel comfortable and build their confidence.
My tour guides were Chelsea Schick and John Wynne – the welcoming and fun-loving Youth and Family Counsellors at New Horizon. I think that they are the perfect people for their roles. I could see how attentive and helpful they were to the young adults who came in their office for their weekly appointments to discuss their goals.
Since it was a quiet afternoon with just a few appointments, Chelsea was able to give me a longer tour of the building. She told me that the youth currently living in the building are a great group – they are all trying their best to get on their feet.
I asked why the youth end up needing this support and she explained some of the various reasons. They might not have any or little social and financial supports, they might have previously struggled with problematic behaviours, it may not be healthy for them to live with their family, or they might have struggled with other mental health issues that made it hard to stay on track. New Horizon staff teach healthy decision-making for smoother transition into adulthood.
As John explained to me later, there are times when the program just isn’t right for some people. The client has to be completely dedicated to getting his or her life together and staying off the streets. It can be difficult when they have people around them that pull them back into unhealthy habits or when they are just not ready to make major life changes.
Chelsea and John are available for one-on-one appointments with the youth during which they teach goal-setting and provide advice and counselling. They sometimes have to be the tough guys (this is where their boss Christina helps they say!) and sometimes they have to be understanding and negotiate with the young person. I could see from the way the youth interacted with them that their personalities really helped set a friendly and approachable tone.
Setting up for the future
As we walked through the hallways, one of the clients, a tall, blonde 19-year-old boy, stopped to chat and joke with Chelsea.
She asked him if he wouldn’t mind letting us have a look at his place. He said yes, but that he would have to tidy up first! She told him to make sure it smells good!
As we waited for him, she told me that he was such a good kid. He loves hockey and he is working at a nearby store. He is here because he just didn’t have enough supports in his life right now.
He popped back out of his place and invited us inside. There was a lot of hockey gear and snacks out on the kitchen table. It was a nice setup for him. I could see that for now, he was working on getting himself ready for his future. For now, this was his home.
Home sweet home
As we continued our tour, Chelsea told me about one of their current clients, a young girl who was new to Canada and didn’t have much support here. She is working full-time at a restaurant and saving to go to back to school next year.
Chelsea said she was so impressed with how much pride this young woman took in decorating her apartment. She would save money and buy little things to make her place her own. Chelsea really wanted me to get a chance to see it so she texted the girl and asked if it would be OK for us to take a quick peek. The girl texted back yes and we went inside.
The room was girly and looked very comfy. She had lots of bright pillows and colourful artwork. It looked like my room. I felt that this girl was just like a younger version of me. It made me feel more connected to the work of Wood’s Homes.
Taking inspiration home with me
My visit to New Horizon was uplifting. Working in the Support Services building on our Parkdale campus, we don’t always get a chance to interact with the youth we serve. But when we do get a chance to visit, it reminds us why we are all here!
Driving back to the office was really nice that day.
Click Here to learn more about the New Horizon program.
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If you are experiencing a crisis and need to speak to someone, please call our counsellors at our 24/7 Crisis Counselling Line: 403-299-9699 or toll-free: 1-800-563-6106.
Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.