KAMLOOPS – There are 129 youth in Kamloops who, at some point, had nowhere to live.
That's according to the first Kamloops youth homeless count, which scratches the surface of the issue of homelessness and collected information from homeless youth in the area.
Results say 129 youth have at one point experienced homelessness and 56 youth were homeless at the time of the count. Only youth aged 13 to 24 were included in the count. Addictions and substance abuse was the number one reason these young people had nowhere to go.
Family conflict, eviction, and abuse were other reasons outreach workers heard. Of the 56 youth who were homeless at the time, 27 per cent were between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. More than half of the total count were First Nations youth.
A count like this one is difficult, Katherine McParlane with A Way Home explains. Youth who are homeless often couch surf or stay with friends, which makes them part of the "hidden homeless," or people who don't have a stable living situation and aren't accessing social services. To complicate the task further, some have fled abusive adults and because of that tend to hide from authority figures.
Daniel Galbraith was homeless and explained that homeless young people can be fearful and distrusting when it comes to adults.
Advice from youth who have experienced homelessness was key in the count.
Galbraith and Kira Cheeseborough are leaders with Youth to End Youth Homelessness, a group of youth aged 13 to 24 who have been homeless. Both have a unique perspective and firm ideas of how to reach homeless youth.
Cheeseborough and Galbraith are liaisons between the youth group, A Way Home and The Boys and Girls Club. The three groups spearheaded the count.
As part of the count, the youth group collected donations from businesses and filled 60 backpacks with items useful for any homeless young person. The backpacks will be given out to local service providers who will distribute them to young people in need. Hygiene supplies, sexual health supplies and some comfort items are packed in the bags.
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