Youth Housing Program
The Youth Housing Program is funded by the City of Yellowknife and follows the guidelines of Housing First for Youth (https://www.homelesshub.ca/HF4Y).
This program is open to youth 16-24 who are in need of a safe space to live. There are multiple housing and apartment units throughout Yellowknife that are available for youth to live with their partner / independently / with roommates. Youth receive support from program staff to ensure they are caring for themselves and learning the required skills necessary to live semi-independently or independently.
What is the Youth Housing Program?
The Youth Housing Program is run by two staff members who are available throughout the week to meet with youth in the program, catch up with them, and make sure the youth are taking steps in the right direction in their lives. Staff support youth who are living in units throughout the city to be as self-sufficient as possible. Overall, the program:
-ensures that participants have access to clinic, health, and treatment services as needed
-provides direct intervention and referral to appropriate services that are required for each individual youth
-supports a recovery-oriented approach
-provides opportunities and education to optimize youth’s health and wellbeing, with the end goal of ending homelessness
-provides support for participants in meeting their daily needs, such as grocery shopping, paying rent, completing basic household chores, finishing their education, and getting and maintaining a job
The 5 Core Principles of Housing First for Youth
1. A Right to Housing with No Preconditions: For youth, housing needs to be safe, affordable, and appropriate, based on the needs and abilities of developing adolescents and young adults. The Youth Housing Program will provide housing to individuals with no expectation that the individual meets specific program criteria prior to entry. However, individuals must agree to at least once weekly contact with program staff, and allow for this contact to occur in their home. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, regular video calls / phone calls / text messaging with the case worker will be an expectation of the youth in the program, and may take the place of at-home visits if necessary.
2. Youth choice, youth voice, and self-determination: As a rights-based, client-centred approach, the Youth Housing Program emphasizes youth choice regarding their housing and supports. The Youth Housing Program will engage in an intake interview with participants in order to identify what housing options are preferential to the individual. Of course the housing shortage in Yellowknife and the high cost of living, as well as the unique needs of the youth, puts limits on these choices. Through this process, the Youth Housing Navigators will ensure they receive all the necessary information for the youth to make an informed decision.
3. Positive Youth Development & Wellness Orientation: Case management that is offered by Home Base YK will not just meet the basic needs of the youth. Caseworkers will work to develop meaningful relationships with the youth in the program, and their work will then focus on improving the wellbeing of each youth, by providing social opportunities, cultural and traditional learning, and the pursuit of employment or educational opportunities. If youth in the Youth Housing Program are abusing substances, there is no requirement that they participate in any treatment or counselling while in the program, but the caseworker will ensure to share all information about services that are available to them in a way that the youth understand. Home Base YK staff take a harm reduction approach in suggesting ways in which the participant can reduce the potential harm and risks associated with their substance use. Given that 90% of individuals who are experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife identify as Indigenous, cultural appropriateness will be prioritized when ensuring that youth have access to a range of supports that can fulfill their needs.
4. Individualized and client-driven supports with no time limits: Youth will require support for various lengths of time, because each youth has different strengths and challenges. Therefore, there will be no program length, or graduation date established for the youth. The only limitation at this point is the single year funding, however the Youth Housing Manager will work diligently to secure funding for ongoing years for this program. The only requirement that will be placed on the youth in the program is that they meet at minimum once weekly with a member of their case management team. Some youth will need little to no support once they have been housed, while others may need some type of support daily, for many years to come.
5. Social Inclusion and Community Integration: Home Base YK has set up scattered housing for the participants in the Youth Housing Program, meaning that the Youth Housing Navigators will support the youth in finding apartments, homes, or rooms to rent through the city, not in one centralized location. This will provide a separation between housing and case management services, as youth have their own space, and the youth will be encouraged and assisted to engage with the community regularly. The program delivery will involve opportunity to participate in meaningful community activities in Yellowknife. For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff have been creative in finding ways to enable youth participants to be active and social in the community.