Manitoba·Video

Social services workers pen plan to tackle youth homelessness

Social services workers in Winnipeg are launching their own plan to tackle youth homelessness in the city.

Winnipeg's existing approach to homelessness lumps youth with adults but the needs are different

On any given day, Holmes said there are nearly 300 young people ages 15 to 29 without a home in Winnipeg — and that's probably a conservative estimate, according to Kelly Holmes, executive director of Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY). (Pabak Sarkar, Flickr cc)

Social services workers in Winnipeg are launching their own plan to tackle youth homelessness in the city.

The Winnipeg Plan to End Youth Homelessness is being unveiled Wednesday, two years after advocates around the city decided they wanted to write it.

The plan, outlined in a new report called Here and Now Winnipeg, is intended to address a lack of youth-specific planning in the city's existing strategy, said Kelly Holmes, executive director of Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY). Holmes was also the chair of the steering committee for the report.

"We thought we would help them out by adding a youth component to it so they understood that youth are distinct and that they require a different response than someone who has been on the street for 30 or so years," Holmes said. 

Community driven

The report was put together by a steering committee made up nearly entirely of direct service providers, Holmes said.

It includes front-line service providers and directors of agencies around the city, including representatives from the Rainbow Resource Centre, Rossbrook House and the EAGLE Urban Transition Centre.

The Winnipeg Plan to End Youth Homelessness will be unveiled at Resource Assistance for Youth on Wednesday. (Google Earth)

City of Winnipeg homelessness initiatives got involved later, Holmes said, but the report got started independently.

"This is completely, from the ground up, community driven," Holmes said.

Committee members also drew heavily on consultation with young homeless people in the city, she said.

"We have a different lens around the issues that are related to youth and youth homelessness," she said. "I feel like that positions us in a kind of stronger and more interesting way than some of the other plans."

On any given day, Holmes said there are nearly 300 young people ages 15 to 29 without a home in Winnipeg — and that's probably a conservative estimate, she said. Nearly 85 per cent of them are Indigenous, and nearly a quarter identify as LGBT, the report notes.
Social services workers in Winnipeg are launching their own plan to tackle youth homelessness in the city. 2:12

Winnipeg's existing plan to address homelessness lumps youth in with adults, Holmes said, but young people need different things than their older counterparts.

"Youth are at a different developmental stage. Youth don't have rental history. Youth are still working out their hormones," she said.

"They don't have any practice with systems navigation or how to work or understand systems without advocacy. Many, many youth have come without mentorship or support in their lives so they tend to not fit well in adult service systems."

Integrated approach

The report lays out four key points in a strategy to address homelessness: access, prevention, housing and support.

The goals include the development of a network of regional hubs to increase capacity of existing agencies, as well as creating an interdepartmental "zero discharge into homelessness" strategy, which would ensure youth don't leave care and walk straight onto the streets.

It also recommends more transitional housing and more stable funding for youth under the Employment and Income Assistance program.

Holmes said the approach pays special attention to transitional times in youth's lives, which she called "fault lines" where young people can slip through the cracks.

The end result, if all goes according to plan, will be a more collaborative, integrated approach to youth homelessness, she said.

"There'll be systems integration, and we'll be working and planning around this differently," Holmes said. "We will hopefully, again, if all goes to plan, ensure that there are safety nets available to catch any youth that fall."

The report is being launched at RaY's headquarters at 125 Sherbrook St. at 11 a.m. Wednesday.