Research project aims to
stop cycle of youth homelessness

TORONTO, ON, July 7, 2015 – Fifteen of our youth, striving to live independently, will get the support they need to succeed thanks to an innovative, new research project: a collaboration between Covenant House and several leading organizations and experts.

Over the next two years, 60 youth will have access to housing, life skills training, counselling and mental health support while they live in the community. In addition to providing youth for the pilot, Covenant House will also provide a transitional support worker who will guide them.

The pilot, which has received $390,000 from the Ontario government, was developed by the Toronto Homeless Youth Transitions Collaborative that includes Covenant House, CAMH, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, the Wellesley Institute, LOFT and SKETCH

“Our youth need the same support that most of us take for granted like strong family relationships and opportunities for education and a career. As well as giving these youth a unique opportunity, we hope to learn how we can better help more homeless youth to make their way on their own,” says Bruce Rivers, Covenant House executive director. “We’re very excited to be a part of this ground-breaking project.”

Previously, a group of our youth participated in an earlier study with CAMH and Dalhousie University that took a rare look at the barriers homeless youth face when they try to move to independence. It found many often end up back on the street because they lack education, job and life skills or mental health support.

The project will help youth move past basic survival into a period of stability, which is one of the biggest challenges facing previously homeless youth. It will also help youth to go back to school or find jobs as well as provide critical support and intervention to help youth maintain positive momentum and build resilience.

The research pilot, led by CAMH Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sean Kidd, includes:

  • Social support for youth, including guidance from both a transition support worker and a trained peer support worker to help them address challenges such as mental health issues.

  • Counselling for groups to address complex trauma, and for families to help them reunite and resolve issues.

  • Psychotherapy for those whose level of distress cannot be addressed through counselling.

Young sex-trafficked victims in Covenant House Toronto’s care will get more help thanks to a multi-year grant from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

The UNODC fund recently awarded the homeless youth agency $60,000 over the next three years to support its work with young, female victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The funding will help the agency to provide counselling, transitional housing and support through the legal process for those who choose to seek justice.

The fund supports actual, on-the-ground humanitarian, legal and financial aid to victims of trafficking.

“We are very grateful for the financial support and for UNODC’s recognition of our work with these young victims who are in such critical need,” Bruce Rivers, Covenant House executive director, said. “As we increase our anti-trafficking efforts, we are working to do more to prevent this terrible crime and to improve victim services.

In January, Covenant House announced plans for the city’s first transitional housing program for trafficked and exploited victims as the first step in its broader anti-trafficking plan.

While homeless youth are at high risk of traffickers on the street, unsuspecting young girls and young women are also being lured online, in malls and school yards, Rivers explained. The agency has worked with trafficked and exploited victims since it opened 33 years ago.

Recently, Covenant House’s sex-trafficking specialist, Michele Anderson, who has spent more than 20 years supporting young victims, was among the recipients of the 2015 Ontario Attorney General’s Victim Services Awards of Distinction.

For more, contact:

Contact: Rose Cino
Manager, Communications
(416) 204-7081

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