By Christina Rider, Wood’s Homes Team Leader
On May 5, 2017, the Calgary Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness – 2017 Refresh was launched. As representatives from numerous not-for-profits gathered together to both celebrate and educate about the plan, we reflected on how far we have come in the push to get young people off the streets on paths to promising futures.
Along with the other at-risk youth serving agencies, Wood’s Homes participated in the 2017 Refresh through the Youth Sector committee, speaking to the success and challenges of running a Housing First program for high acuity youth, and connecting them to the many facets of youth support systems.
“Youth Homelessness exists within a broad and complex spectrum of circumstances.”
Calgary Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness – Youth Refresh, p. 9
Many of these circumstances are painful and connected to the youth experiencing family conflict. The reasons youth may leave their home and family are endless. Some may leave as a result of violence, either as a witness or as the victim themselves. Some may experience parents with addiction, and some may be forced from their homes as a result of their sexual or gender identity. It’s estimated that between 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S, compared to just 5-10% of the general population.
“About 43% reported a childhood mental illness diagnosis, 57% reported having seriously thought about attempting suicide and 38% had attempted suicide”
Worthington et al. 2009
With numbers like that, what can we do to bring change?
Wood’s Homes has long standing history of supporting homeless and at-risk youth. From shelter and outreach services to housing and employment programs, we’re working towards an end to youth homelessness and are proud to be part of such a meaningful, life changing campaign.
One of the unique ways we address youth’s needs is through our EXIT Reach Program; barrier free, confidential, mental health support. Staffed with two clinicians, youth are able to access clinical mental health support through walk-in services offered at Exit Community Outreach (easily accessible via Calgary Transit) or by appointment. The Clinicians are able to connect with the youth through Housing First programs in the community or at Wood’s Homes’ Exit Youth Shelter. By meeting the youth where they’re at, physically, mentally and emotionally, and by working through their trauma, this support can bring the feeling of stability at-risk youth need as they search for meaningful housing supports.
Working through a trauma-informed lens, New Horizon – Wood’s Homes housing program – provides homeless youth (ages 18 – 24) with supportive, independent living. Highly skilled on-site staff are able to implement innovative techniques to fit a range of client needs including basic supports, life skills, addiction, mental health and employment support, as well as help with community referrals and the transition to independent living.
Through programs like this, and with the dedication of Wood’s Homes and the numerous other not-for-profits engaged in the Calgary Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness, our city’s at-risk youth will finally see a solid plan with unified moving parts each working to, once and for all, end youth homelessness.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!