Nfld. & Labrador

Choices for Youth releases plan to help end youth homelessness

The report, which was released on Monday, includes recommendations for community groups and government to help ensure that young people have a home.
Sheldon Pollett, the executive director for Choices for Youth, says there needs to be more services to prevent youth from getting into bad situations. (CBC)

A group that helps vulnerable young people in Newfoundland and Labrador has developed a plan in hopes of ending youth homelessness.

Choices for Youth released the report on Monday, which recommends ways that community groups and government can help ensure that young people have a home.

Currently, there are more than 500 homeless youth in St. John's.

Sheldon Pollett, the executive director for Choices for Youth, says there needs to be more services to prevent youth from getting into bad situations. 

"If you leave those young people to their own devices, figure it out yourself, far too many are going to end up in a bad situation," he said. 

"But when supported the right way, young people will maintain housing, young people will go to school, young people will get jobs."

Vulnerable youth

Jessica Wall knows firsthand what it's like to be a vulnerable young person.

"I lost my mom at the age of four, and I've been in and out of different systems. I've lived with 16 different families," she said.

Jessica Wall says when she turned 16, she aged out of foster care, and she didn't know where to go next. (CBC)
"A lot of people think that homelessness is just people living on the street, or in and out of shelters, but homelessness can also be not having a stable or consistent home to live in."

Wall is now in her 20s, but as a kid, she had a lot on her mind.

"I was constantly scared of aging out of the systems, between Child, Youth and Family Services, Youth and Family Services," she said. 

"When I turned 16, I aged out of foster care, and I didn't know where to go from there."

Focus on prevention

Pollett says the community needs to do more to prevent youth from becoming homeless, rather than waiting until they have nowhere to go.

"Shifting the focus from a crisis response when it comes to vulnerable young people, wait for the bad thing to happen and then scramble and try to figure out a response, so that you actually spend a lot more of your time and energy on preventing young people from falling into the circumstance in the first place," he said.

Pollett says it's all about putting the proper supports in place.

"If you support people around their housing, education and employment, around the real issues affecting their lives, the mental health, the childhood trauma, the addictions issues, and so on, then young people will go to school, they will go to work and they will stay stably housed," he said.

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