What We Need: Prevention of Youth Homelessness

Project title: What We Need: Prevention of Youth Homelessness

Participatory Budgeting funding request: $27,520

Organization/Individual: Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness

Location: Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness offices

What is your project?

No youth wants to be homeless; no youth wants to be at-risk. Through Participatory Action Research, this is what the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (GVCEH) has proven. Last year, GVCEH oversaw the inception of our youth group, Youth Educating and Advocating About Homelessness (YEAH). Since we began, we’ve worked to better the lives of at-risk youth, inspired by our own lived experience of homelessness. Through youth consultations, we discovered the needs of vulnerable youth and are prepared to address them with our project, ‘“What we Need” – Youth Homelessness Prevention’.

We will achieve this by implementing 3 activities: a weekly cooking group resulting in healthy, affordable food planning, relationship building, and mentorship (where we provide extra food to youth organizations); a monthly education forum, building empowerment through life skills training on topics posed by youth (such as ‘how to file taxes’, ‘healthy relationships’, ‘learning your rights’, etc.); and a tenancy program, diffusing barriers that contribute to homelessness through advocacy, support and educating youth and landlords.

This will equip youth with tools to find stability through fostering independence, belonging and empowerment. This project will support youth to flourish in a healthy environment. Our evaluation framework will consist of monthly check-ins with youth to assess progress using the 6 key factors of a good life, a best practice researched by Fostering Change.

How does your project benefit the lives of youth in Victoria?

According to the 2018 Point-in-Time Count, more than 1575 people are experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria. Out of the survey respondents, 57% said they had their first experience with homelessness under the age of 25. Of those, 41% were under 19. At this moment, over 259 youth are experiencing homelessness. While Victoria has been successful in the development of youth-centered housing models, there is still a need for emotional support, specifically through the best practice of peer-to-peer programming.

Now, while contemplating the measure of the benefit, we decided the answer is not up to us. Instead of deciding what we think would be beneficial for vulnerable youth, we decided to ask them. Through the course of our work, we have consulted with over 90 vulnerable youth in Victoria. The most common themes identified were a lack of belonging, confidence, independence and real-life skills being key contributors to their experience of homelessness. When brainstorming what a perfect program would look like, this is what the Youth Educating and Advocating about Homelessness envisioned.

Peer-to-peer engagement is our foundational belief. Therefore, consulting, planning and implementation is done through Participatory Action Research. Our for youth, by youth approach benefits youth by supporting personal growth. Our programs will also provide leadership opportunities for the participants to become the facilitators, creating a full-circle, peer-led approach.

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