Youth homeless report highlights need for more housing - InfoNews

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Youth homeless report highlights need for more housing

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May 30, 2019 - 5:18 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Way Home Kamloops says its 2018 youth homelessness report will help shed light on the seriousness of Kamloops's homeless youth situation.

The organization conducted a survey last year which identified the number of homeless young people living within the city.

With help from Thompson Rivers University, school districts, non-profit organizations and government agencies, they found that 136 youth have identified as homeless within the past year. Of those, 56 have lived as ‘visibly homeless’, living on the streets or in cars, 30 identified as ‘hidden homeless’ and spent their nights couch-surfing or in motels, and 50 had experienced some sort of homelessness in the past year.

Katherine McParland, executive director of A Way Home, announced that they will soon be launching the Safe Suites program, which will give homeless youth have a place to call home. A Way Home has been raising funds in the local community to bring the project to fruition.

Currently, the organziation has 20 units for youth through their Youth Housing First Program.

McParland believes it’s very important to give options to youth so that they can find the ideal living situation in which they can flourish and succeed.

“We've got a combination of house, shared roommate situations, and individual apartments," she says. "What we've learned with youth is that they need choice. Some may want roommates, others may want to live alone."

The organization found that youth often struggle with finding housing not only due to cost, but also discrimination due to their age or current situation. The organization works with landlords and property managers to lease out different apartments and houses around the city which they, in turn, will use for the youth.

Youth Housing First and Safe Suites are just the start of A Way Home’s plans. They hope to introduce living solutions for youth including a facility with 24-hour staffing, open up more traditional living arrangements, as well as putting in place permanent programs to offer youth help with any mental health issues and addictions.

“We had a pilot where we took four youth off the streets and we didn’t have 24-hour staffing and the streets came in. Youth were experiencing sexual exploitation, violence and suicide attempts so we had to pause that project, that's when we identified the need to have 24-hour staffing,” McParland explained.

Although there are government programs to help youth in need, according to McParland there is a large gap that is left in the system due to the fact the youth must be enrolled in school or treatment programs to receive the funding. Youth who are facing mental health struggles or addiction may not be in a place to enroll in school or ready to seek the treatment they need. These youth are the ones often left with few options and find themselves living on the street or in dangerous situations.

A Way Home will continue to advocate for, assist, and work with government agencies in hopes that they one day will eradicate youth homeless in Kamloops and beyond.

— This story was corrected at 10:31 a.m. Friday, May 31, 2019, to clarify Safe Suites is still in the planning stages.

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