KAMLOOPS - Despite 56 confirmed homeless youth living in Kamloops, an advocate says the issue is often hidden from the public.
While a final report hasn’t been finished, preliminary numbers are in, and last year's homeless count found 56 youth between the ages of 13 and 24 with no home. Katherine McParland, youth homelessness manager with the A Way Home Committee, says part of the reason the issue doesn’t seem bigger in Kamloops is because it’s not an obvious issue.
“We know that that’s the minimal number of youth that experienced homelessness,” she says. “It’s very hard to measure.”
The count found 129 youth had experienced homelessness in the last year in total, with many sheltered at the time of the count. The annual general homeless count in Kamloops typically counts six to eight youth, McParland says.
Youth homelessness isn’t obvious because the public doesn’t often see youth living on the streets and may not realize a young person with a back pack is homeless, assuming they're a student. McParland says there are other, disturbing reasons for this. In some cases, youth are temporarily homeless as they run away from abusive homes and find shelter for couch surfing for a while or end on the streeet for only a couple weeks at a time.
There’s also what McParland calls survival rape.
“Survival rape is temporary shelter in exchange for sexual exploitation,” she says. “Females experience more hidden homelessness like couch surfing and survival rape.”
One highlight figure in the count was that the number of homeless females was almost equal to that of males. Typically, men are over-represented in the homeless population.
A solution attempted in Kamloops was a pilot program called Safe Suite, which offered housing to homeless youth. It wasn’t successful though; without full time staffing, the youth housed at the site weren’t able to adjust, with a variety of incidents including one suicide attempt.
Other projects are being researched currently for Kamloops, but McParland says the issue hasn’t received much attention.
“We’re looking at few different models,” she says. “What we can see there’s not a lot examples across the country.”
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