Homeless youth identified
TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2015 – The Ontario government’s recognition of youth homelessness as a priority is an encouraging step forward, says Bruce Rivers, executive director of the country’s largest homeless youth agency.
The province announced recently it will adopt key recommendations of its Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness to help achieve its long-term goal of ending homelessness. Youth were among four priority groups identified for action.
Rivers was among the 14-member panel charged in January to provide advice about how to address homelessness, collecting and measuring data, defining homelessness, and establishing a target for Ontario.
“Homeless kids are often over-looked and misunderstood. By including them as a priority, the government recognizes that they have unique needs,” Rivers says
He says Covenant House Toronto serves as many as 250 youth daily. In recent years, the agency has seen youth requiring more support. About 32 percent have mental health issues, 31 percent are involved with child welfare, and about 30 percent identify as LGBTQ.
“Without adequate services and housing options to enable them to transition to independence, homeless youth are at high risk of victimization on the street and long-term homelessness. I was honoured to participate and be a voice for these young people.” Rivers continues.
Going forward, the government plans to hold consultations with youth who are and who were homeless as it continues to work on its plan. The government also announced its commitment to end chronic homelessness within a decade. It has defined the chronic homeless as people who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year.
Other highlights of the announcement included:
- reducing homelessness in four key areas: youth, Aboriginal, chronic and those being released from institutions such as hospitals and detention centres
- providing $10 million over two years in targeted funding to help prevent and end homelessness in Ontario
- adopting the recommended definition of homelessness, including chronic homelessness, to build common language and understanding about the problem
- planning to require local enumeration to gather data about homelessness
More than a place to stay, Covenant House provides 24/7 crisis shelter and
longer-term residential programs for at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth, along with comprehensive services, including education, counselling, health care, employment assistance, job training, and aftercare. To do all this, the agency relies on donors for about 80 percent of its $22.8-million annual operating budget.
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