What is the SHY Program?

The Safe Housing for Youth program (SHY) was initiated by the Threshold Housing Society in May 2012. With the help of local grants from Coast Capital Savings, Victoria Real Estate Board, and Provincial Employees Community Services Fund, the Society was able to hire a SHY coordinator (Tara Skobel).  Her first task was to help negotiate program agreements with adult subsidizing-housing providers to provide 1-2 units dedicated to housing youth (16-24 years of age) at an affordable rate. By September the program was housing 5 youth with the hope of housing 3 more by December. To learn more, watch the following Vital People clip created by Veronica Cooper of CHEK-TV under the auspices of the Victoria Foundation. The original clip was aired October 28 on CHEK-TV.  For more information see our website.  (Also, see side bar to view clip).

         

 

Hidden Homeless Youth: Who are They?

There is a misunderstanding among many community members that the majority of youth in need of transitional housing are youth living in the rough, in the parks, outside or on the street.  Over the last couple of years, the youth population that has grown and in need of affordable transitional housing is actually composed of youth still in school or holding low-paying jobs.  They often shun government assistance for fear of being stigmatized or they are ineligible for assistance. This group couch surf, live in crowded basements, someone’s RV or with inappropriate partners.  This vulnerable population is growing.  Our metro region does not have the capacity to house them.

To understand more about this growing population, please watch and listen to this video called “Invisible: Diaries of New York’s Homeless Youth,” produced by the Reciprocity Foundation in New York city.  This short, mini-documentary, is a wonderful window in youth who are not criminally or drug entrenched but have a difficult time getting their lives in order without stable, affordable housing.  This video can also be accessed by clicking here: Documentary

Creative and Novel: The 2012 Youth Homelessness Summit

On October 19th-20th, the doors of Victoria’s historic Odd Fellows Hall (1315 Douglas Street) will be open to the greater community for a unique and dynamic event. See details here. This 2-day offering of presentations, workshops, panel discussions and mixed media will focus on strengthening local community, addressing youth homelessness, and understanding the connection between the two. To make the summit accessible to everyone, all sessions are by donation with proceeds going to help youth in Victoria who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Summit sessions will be facilitated by a diverse group of people and expertise, including local youth who are or have experienced homelessness, community leaders, citizens inspired by community, leading researchers, and organizations working locally in youth homelessness.

This will be a different kind of homelessness summit; one that addresses the housed as well as the homeless in engaging the issue The organizers acknowledge that the general public are just as much a part of the issue and solution as the homeless community. Rather than focus on homelessness as simply a problem that needs to be fixed, the Summit will explore the issue as a community reflection to be better understood. One that can help show us the way to a more inclusive, compassionate, efficient and vibrant community all round.

Yes! We Need A National Day of Recognition For Youth Homelessness

Mahatma Ghandi once said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

It may come as a surprise to many that there are legions of homeless youth in the country.  They are voiceless, invisible and desperate. On October 12, 2012, a commentary appeared in the Times Colonist by Mark Muldoon, the Executive Director of the Threshold Housing Society, calling out for a special day to bring the country to its senses.

Last year, Ontario MP Carolyn Bennett introduced Motion 546 requesting Nov. 17 to be declared National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day.  It may come as a shock to many people that such a day needs to be declared, but the level of youth homelessness has reached “epidemic” proportions. That was the term used by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group when he was enlisted to help raise national awareness about the crisis.

The statistics are startling.  Conservatively, there are estimated to be 65,000 homeless youth in Canada between the ages of 16 and 24. This is about one-third of the estimated homeless population in the country; some non-governmental organizations estimate the numbers are much higher. In the past 25 years, there has been a 450 per cent increase in the number of youth shelter beds in Toronto. There are between 1,500 and 2,000 homeless youth in Toronto on any given night. In the 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, the youth homeless population increased 29 per cent from 2008. In any community, about 40 per cent of the youth who are homeless belong to the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community. First Nation youths are also disproportionally over-represented.  The suicide rate for street-involved youth is about 10.3 times he national average for Canadian youth. Research shows that 87 per cent of Canadians are unaware of just how many homeless youth exist in our midst.

"Innocence Stolen Everyday on our Streets"

There is a rather crass cynicism in the general public that at-risk youth of being homeless are on the street, or living precariously, because it is either a type of “rite of passage,” an adventure, or they are simply going through a rebellious stage of their adolescence.  For the most part, such thinking is a myth.  Many near-homeless or homeless youth today were thrust out of their homes forced by neglect or abuse or graduated from the foster-care system when they reached nineteen.

There are a lot of dangers a youth faces once ejected from his or her familiar surroundings.  The most pervasive one is the anxiety of not have a safe place to sleep and the gnawing dread of never finding one.  But the most insidious danger is that of sexual exploitation, or the draw of the sex trade to simply survive.  In this week’s Monday Magazine (September 20, 2012), Simon Nattrass’ column (posted below) forcefully exposes this dark reality in our midst. His words are eloquent and his message blunt.  His last paragraph hits close to the heart of the matter.  Allowing any youth to be sexually exploited murders a vital spark in their inner being, that is, their living flame of self-worth that feeds their dreams and hopes.

After a long stint of living in shelters, Marie was finally doing well. She had all the right supports: housing, drug and trauma counselling, and even volunteering in the community. But when personal trauma became overwhelming and her addictions resurfaced, she couldn’t hold on to her supported housing and, once again, her only option was the street. Weeks later, she was on a corner in Rock Bay, surviving in the best way she knew how.

“Innocence Stolen Everyday on our Streets”

There is a rather crass cynicism in the general public that at-risk youth of being homeless are on the street, or living precariously, because it is either a type of “rite of passage,” an adventure, or they are simply going through a rebellious stage of their adolescence.  For the most part, such thinking is a myth.  Many near-homeless or homeless youth today were thrust out of their homes forced by neglect or abuse or graduated from the foster-care system when they reached nineteen.

There are a lot of dangers a youth faces once ejected from his or her familiar surroundings.  The most pervasive one is the anxiety of not have a safe place to sleep and the gnawing dread of never finding one.  But the most insidious danger is that of sexual exploitation, or the draw of the sex trade to simply survive.  In this week’s Monday Magazine (September 20, 2012), Simon Nattrass’ column (posted below) forcefully exposes this dark reality in our midst. His words are eloquent and his message blunt.  His last paragraph hits close to the heart of the matter.  Allowing any youth to be sexually exploited murders a vital spark in their inner being, that is, their living flame of self-worth that feeds their dreams and hopes.

After a long stint of living in shelters, Marie was finally doing well. She had all the right supports: housing, drug and trauma counselling, and even volunteering in the community. But when personal trauma became overwhelming and her addictions resurfaced, she couldn’t hold on to her supported housing and, once again, her only option was the street. Weeks later, she was on a corner in Rock Bay, surviving in the best way she knew how.

Quilts for Kids at Thrifty Foods in October

During the entire month of October, Threshold’s tins “Quilts for Kids” will be placed at every Thrifty Foods’ cashier in the region. This is a total of 13 stores. The “Quilts for Kids” program was started by a group of quilters who felt it important that youth in transition have a tangible object that would represent care, hope and the need for a sanctuary.  Each youth that leaves a Threshold House, and the scattered housing program (SHY), receive a quilt.  It is a sign that their life is precious, that someone cares about them, and that they deserve a safe place to live.  Often, the quilt is the only object of beauty they possess.  The quilting program is currently run by Fran McArthur.  Producing a quilt is a labour of love and Threshold is honoured to have people willing to devote so much time to their production.

If you are in a Thrifty store, please think of the youth in transition and donate what you can to this cause.  We all sleep better in the warmth of love. 

Homeless youth are hidden victims of society

Andrew Wynn-Williams, the Executive Director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homeless has spearheaded, during this season of “back-to-school,” a campaign to bring awareness about youth homeless in our community.

Kudos to Andrew and his staff for  highlighting this issue. In the August 30th copy (2012) of the Times Colonist, Andrew wrote an op-ed piece that gives focus and direction to combating this pathway into adult homelessness.

September is just around the corner, and students and parents are busy shopping for school supplies, choosing back-to-school outfits, and stocking the fridge with juice boxes and snacks.

Homeless youth are hidden victims of society

Andrew Wynn-Williams, the Executive Director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homeless has spearheaded, during this season of “back-to-school,” a campaign to bring awareness about youth homeless in our community.

Kudos to Andrew and his staff for  highlighting this issue. In the August 30th copy (2012) of the Times Colonist, Andrew wrote an op-ed piece that gives focus and direction to combating this pathway into adult homelessness.

September is just around the corner, and students and parents are busy shopping for school supplies, choosing back-to-school outfits, and stocking the fridge with juice boxes and snacks.

Groups call for resources for young ‘hidden homeless’

The following article appeared in the Times Colonist, August 30th, 2012; written by Judy Lavoie.

 Around a table at a Vic West house, three young people are tucking into beef stew, mashed potatoes and fruit salad. It’s dinner night at the transitional home for youth run by Threshold Housing Society, and life-skills coach Peggy English has been teaching cooking skills. “That means I cook it,” she said.  Matthew, 20, and Katherine, 19, have aged out of the foster care system, while 18-year-old Cody left foster care early. All are grateful to have one of the few spots in Victoria for the growing number of homeless youth. Matthew, who had been with his foster parents since he was nine, doesn’t like to think about the alternatives.

    “If I hadn’t got it, I would have been on the streets,” he said.

 Young people have become the “hidden homeless” of Victoria, said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. It is estimated that about 600 youth between 19 and 24 are without homes and couch-surfing, living in vehicles or camping. Although accurate counts are difficult to conduct, Victoria is likely seeing a trend like Vancouver’s, which had a 29 per cent increase in homeless youth over three years, said Wynn-Williams.

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