On any given night, approximately 2000 young people in Toronto are homeless. With only 500 shelter beds in the city, finding a spot can be tough. Communities all over Canada have the same problem.
The longer youth are homeless, the more they’re exposed to the risks of economic and sexual exploitation and the more likely they are to experience trauma, declining physical and mental health and addictions.
It’s essential that youth experiencing homelessness in Canada get support beyond having a place to stay. For those who shared their lives in CBC’s Red Button, reaching their goals means overcoming many challenges.
Horizons for Youth mental health worker Adam explains that many youth enter the shelter system with many diagnosed and undiagnosed health issues.
“Literally, just living in the shelter can contribute further to those kinds of mental health issues,” Adam says. “It’s difficult for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that, of course, contributes to things like anxiety or depression.”
Without A Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey found that one of the most common characteristics of youth experiencing homelessness is resiliency. Many are determined to overcome the circumstances that led to their homelessness and a desire to learn the skills they need to improve their lives.
If you’re a young person seeking help, here are some resources that can be accessed. Many helplines listed are confidential and free, with referrals made at the provider’s discretion.
Mental Health and Wellness
Kids Help Phone (1-800-688-6868) is a 24/7 national counselling hotline for youth. From Wednesday to Sunday, a counsellor is available online or through the Always There mobile app. Hours are 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. EST.
To call a crisis centre, Your Life Counts and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) have comprehensive lists of centres across Canada that are operating help lines. CASP will be launching a national suicide prevention helpline in late 2017.
Youth Space runs online and text messaging counselling every night, from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. PST. Services are free, but texting rates may apply.
Mental Health Services (1-866-531-2600) connects callers with mental health and addiction resources in Ontario. They can be reached by phone, email, or web chat. Their search engine has a database of relevant services and organizations in the province.
The Native Youth Crisis Hotline (1-877-209-1266) is available for any First Nations youth in crisis or looking for referrals.
Naseeha (1-866-627-3342) is a helpline for Muslim youth across North America, available weekday nights.
Drug Use and Addiction
Abstinence is difficult for many people, that’s why harm reduction is practised by homeless youth shelter Eva’s Satellite in Toronto, and Winnipeg’s Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY). Instead of completely staying away from substances, harm reduction emphasizes how users can keep themselves safe and lessen negative health outcomes.
Harm reduction health centres and programs may provide a needle exchange, a safe injection site, safe smoking and injection kits, methadone and naloxone, drop-in and peer support.
If you’re in Ontario and are struggling with substance use or gambling, the Drug and Alcohol Helpline (1-800-565-8603) offers referral services and general information.
The Works is Toronto Public Health’s program providing harm reductions services and supplies for people who use drugs.
In Newfoundland, Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Navigator (1-877-999-7589) guides callers to the right service providers for their needs.
Know Your Source provide advice on safer substance use, what fentanyl is, and how to identify an overdose. It lists support resources for B.C., Yukon, and Manitoba.
Vancouver Coastal Health provides harm reduction services to meet the needs of youth struggling with substance misuse or addiction.
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba’s youth intake helpline (1-877-710-3999) connects youth in Manitoba with varied options from service providers.
The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres has a list of rape crisis centres across the country, as well as women centres and transitional housing.
Guts Magazine is compiling a growing list of resources for sexual assault counselling and support services. So far regions include Edmonton, Toronto, Kingston, Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, and Guelph.
Talk 4 Healing (1-855-544-4325) is a 24/7 helpline, chat, and text service for Indigenous women in Northern Ontario, available in English, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, and Cree.
The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (780-423-4121) runs a 24/7 crisis hotline, as well as free individual and group counselling services.
Servants Anonymous in Calgary provides housing and recovery services for women who have experienced or are at risk of sexual exploitation.
The Trans LifeLine (1-877-330-6366) provides crisis support for and by trans individuals.
The 519 Community Centre in Toronto has several services, such as support programs for LGBTQ youth, a Sunday drop-in for low-income/under-housed LGBTQ locals and a weekly free meal program for marginalized trans people.
If you’re looking for trans-friendly housing or help to find a queer service, B.C. resource centre Qmunity (604-684-5307) provides advice and referrals.
Project 10 in Montreal provides an anonymous help line as well as programs and services to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersexed and questioning young people.
Jobs and Training
HireUp is a job portal for marginalized and formerly homeless youth ages 16 to 29.
Toronto-based Youth Employment Services (416-656–8900) runs Streets to Jobs, a project that provides youth experiencing homelessness with an individual job counsellor, subsidized work placements, supportive referrals and financial incentives.
Also in Toronto the Yonge Street Mission’s Evergreen Centre for Street-Involved Youth provides employment programs for young people along with many other services and SKETCH Working Arts provides creative workshop and training opportunities for homeless and marginalized youth.
If youth can stand the heat, the Youth Culinary Arts Program (403-813-7218) in Calgary takes them into the kitchen, where young cooks and servers receive weekly restaurant industry training. The Shift Program (604-709-5720), in Vancouver, provides youth with barriers to employment the skills and training to be able to work in culinary jobs.
Homeless youth under 25 in Ontario can call or chat online with a lawyer from Street Youth Legal Services (1-866-999-5329) for confidential legal advice at no cost. In-person chats are provided at a few locations in Toronto.
The Justice for Children and Youth created a localized street guide for youth in Toronto, including legal and general resources.
The Broadway Youth Resource Centre in Vancouver is a one-stop youth centre that provides a wide range of social, health, education, employment and life skills services to youth.
From applying for an apartment to job-hunting, having identification is a must for many tasks in society. The Partners for Access and Identification (PAID) project in Toronto and the Identification Clinic in Nova Scotia can help youth through the application processes for IDs. Calgary Legal Guidance gives free legal advice through its Homeless Outreach Program and can provide legal photo ID.