Jun 2021 | Homelessness
Growing up is hard to do especially when you are a youth in Nanaimo. Normal childhood and teen issues such as puberty, school, and family matters are compounded when almost 1 in 4 children and youth are living in poverty in Nanaimo. Furthermore, it is difficult to allocate resources to help youth facing homelessness when they are likely to be undercounted, and are more likely to be a part of the hidden homeless. Youth from single-parent families, those who were currently or formerly in child welfare services, and youth in the LGBTQ2 community are especially vulnerable to homelessness.
The youth homelessness issue
Youth from various circumstances can become homeless, but there are several groups who are more prone to experience it than others. The primary cause of youth homelessness is an unstable family environment, as 73 percent of youth who became homeless before 16 years of age reported child protection involvement. In Nanaimo, almost one in four youth counted in the 2020 PiT Homeless Count were previously in foster care or a youth group home, showing the difficult task of escaping homelessness in adulthood if they had experienced it as a youth.
For youth who identify as part of the LGBTQ2 community, they are at a higher risk of homelessness than other youth. It is estimated there are anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as LGBTQ2, compared to 10 percent of youth overall. Even when they have access to supports such as protective custody or the shelter system, youth often choose to leave as many report discrimination and feeling more vulnerable and unsafe in shelters compared to living rough on the street.
How youth end up homeless
How do youth in Nanaimo end up homeless? There are a few paths:
Youth may find themselves in precarious family situations where the primary caregivers are not able to maintain adequate income for stable housing, or cannot find affordable housing. Youth in single-parent households have a 53 percent chance of being in poverty, which makes it difficult to secure stable, affordable housing.
For the 58 percent of youth who have histories in the child welfare system, there may not be any programs or clear path to transition to adulthood once they turn 18 years old and age out of the system.
Depending on personal and family circumstances like domestic violence, health issues, or family breakdowns, youth may find themselves facing homelessness. For youth in the LGBTQ2 community, their families may not be accepting of their identity, and face discrimination or abuse.
What is being done
There are a few programs and services that are being implemented to tackle different issues that leadto youth homelessness in Nanaimo. Programs focused on early intervention and LGBTQ2 supports for youth like the Take a Hike Foundation, partner with public schools to provide vulnerable youth with skills and resilience needed to graduate highschool.
AIDS Vancouver Island runs a low-barrier clinic in Nanaimo to provide testing, treatment and education for harm reduction.
Child care initiatives like the Mid Island Child Care Needs Assessment assesses the need for child care in Nanaimo and recommends local government actions on increasing accessibility, improving affordability, and quality of care.
The Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy identifies the current and future needs for housing, and outlines options for action in order to provide stable and affordable family housing.
The Nanaimo Health and Housing Action Plan recommends family and natural support programs – interventions focused on strengthening relationships between young people and their families and/or natural supports through mediation or brokering access to services and support, with an aim to keep the young person in place, thereby preventing youth homelessness.