Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter Inc.
Addressing the Issue of Youth who are Homeless and At-Risk-of-Being Homeless in Southwest Saskatchewan
At any given time, sixteen to twenty male and female youth in southwest Saskatchewan, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, require housing support. The majority are youth from within the city of Swift Current, however, research has identified the need in communities within in rural southwest Saskatchewan.
Anecdotal information reflecting circumstances faced by youth:
- male youth, whose mother has had to access the Women’s Safe Shelter, where policy does not allow for older-adolescent male residency
- youth who are on court-ordered residence with no appropriate residence to enforce
- lack of a safe, secure place to live in terms of pre-/post-addictions treatment
- difficulty for 16 and 17-years olds to find an approved residence required in order to be able to access the Ministry of Social Services “16-17 year old program”
- child who requested front-line worker find a placement because of the violence in the home
- parent-child conflict resulting in child leaving or being ‘kicked out’
- one female youth, not welcome at home, lived at the hospital in a rural community for one month
- youth with mental health issues, involved with police, nowhere to go, so taken to Emergency at the hospital
- increasing number of grandparents or uncles and aunts taking on the role of parent with no support or resources
- negligent parents/guardians resulting in unsafe family home: ie: abuse, addictions, neglect
- youth exchanging sex for accommodation
A safe, secure living environment in Southwest Saskatchewan, for youth to build resiliency and strong foundations to adulthood and independence through skill building, connectivity with family and community, and positive health and life choices.
Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter project
Representatives from a number of agencies and organizations began meeting in February 2013, to revisit the idea of establishing a youth emergency shelter, for the benefit of youth and families in southwest Saskatchewan.
The committee reviewed evidence demonstrating that youth homelessness has been a long-standing issue in our region, dating back to 1998. Previous studies and proposals were reviewed: Community Health Services Application for Southwest Residential Treatment Pilot Project (1998); Youth Homelessness and Hunger Action Committee Youth Outreach Project (2005) and Cypress Health Region/Department of Community Resources Residential Youth Treatment and Support Centre Proposal (2006), followed by a community scan with the goal of identifying current support to homeless youth. Interviews were conducted with individuals representing twenty-five agencies and organizations who work with children and youth.
Research was conducted to identify organizations operating facilities that were emergency-need based. We found that, while there were a variety of programs and supports for homeless youth, there were few instances of organizations that provided emergency shelter specifically for youth.
On-site visits were made to Street Culture Kidz, Regina and to The Inn Between, Medicine Hat, to gather information on structure, policies and funding models. We learned that Street Culture Kidz is funded by the Ministry of Social Services through an agreement for service. The province of Alberta provides funding to The Inn Between for five beds, with the sixth bed being community-funded.
The situation in our region is what could be termed “hidden homelessness”. While youth are not usually seen sleeping in doorways in traffic areas where they would be visible, they certainly are found to be living in intolerable and sometimes dangerous situations. Youth are ‘couch-surfing’ at friends’ homes, sleeping in parks with no protection, sleeping in cars, tents or in the team pit at the baseball diamond, or remaining in very unsafe circumstances because there is nowhere else to go. Youth identified as homeless or at risk of being homeless were primarily aged 14 to 18; although some instances of 12 and 13-year-olds were also identified. The youth considered to be homeless are a nearly-even percentage of males and females.
Definitions, for the purpose of this project:
- “Youth”: individuals aged 14 – 18
- “Homeless”: youth who are in immediate crisis, and are unable to access safe, secure, adequate shelter
- “Southwest Region”: consistent with the boundaries of the Cypress Health Region
A nonprofit organization, under the name of Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter Inc. has been established; and charitable status has been approved by Canada Revenue Agency, Charities Directorate.
The Board of Directors of Southwest Youth Emergency Shelter Inc. has determined that:
- a youth shelter will be established in the City of Swift Current which will serve the southwest region of the province;
- admittance will be by self-referral and/or agency referral;
- the Youth Shelter will be staffed by two Support Workers per shift, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week under a shift model staffing plan;
- there will be provision for a minimum of 6 to a maximum of 8 individually housed residents;
- male and female clients will be accepted;
- length of stay will be up to 3 months, with an option for extension under special circumstances;
- consideration of bed requests from other geographic regions will be given if there is room available;
- programming opportunities and partnerships within southwest communities will be a priority, i.e. Metis and First Nations groups, Salvation Army, community-based organizations, etc; and
- our model would encourage the space as a setting for available short and long term learning opportunities to meet the needs of youth and families.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
- To increase awareness about youth homelessness and associated risk factors
- To create authentic partnerships that will support at-risk youth
- To establish safe and secure short-term housing for at-risk youth
- To support Southwest Saskatchewan’s at-risk youth within the region in which they live
- To provide youth with the opportunity to make positive choices and build strong foundations for long-term success