When we talk of youth experiencing homelessness, we forgot that it means more than having a roof over their head or access to food or water. The complexity that comes with ensuring that a youth is safe, secure, and supported goes far beyond the walls that surround them. The supportive homes that we offer provide a physical stability for the youth, but also help the youth understand their own complex needs in a tailored, at-their-own-pace way.
The role of a parent in our society is to patiently walk beside a youth as they navigate new experiences and skills, helping them understand that it’s OK to make mistakes and try again. Within the supportive homes, and with the help of the supportive services staff, we can provide a safe place for youth to make an effort for success and for youth to find dignity in making mistakes or struggling. Trauma is complex and is even more so when added to complex journey of adolescence. And yet, our youth and our staff don’t give up! They wake up every day and they do what they need to do to move forward and to achieve their goals. We cannot ask our youth to step into the world of independence without recognizing and addressing the many supportive steps needed to get there.
When COVID-19 hit our communities, the supportive homes became a necessity for our youth. Most individuals in the community, when asked to isolate, head to their homes, their apartments, their rooms, or their garage or RV to isolate from others, but also have access to safety, stability and basic needs. Without the supportive homes, a lot of our youth would not have safe spaces to exist. Families are complex and not all homes are emotionally and physically prepared to address the trauma of a pandemic and how it affects the family dynamics. Youth need the support, but they first and foremost need to be safe: safe to isolate, safe to express their mental health needs while isolated, and safe to still work on their goals. Our staff are trained and ready to provide this support and it has been incredible to watch them step up and adapt to the needs of the youth. And when there is capacity for us to take steps towards building skills or meeting goals, our supportive staff are willing and able to adapt the programming and resources available to them.
Director of Program Innovation
Youth Empowerment and Support Services