Youth homelessness is a persistent and growing problem throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The causes of youth homelessness are wide ranging and complex, often involving issues related to childhood trauma, mental health, addictions, poverty, disrupted education, and a lack of safe and affordable housing. In addition to the tremendous cost to youth and their families, there is also a significant cost to society in terms of lost productivity, health care, justice and corrections, education and other areas. The issues behind youth homelessness are inherently complex. Without a unified and integrated approach between community and government there will continue to be a growing number of youth in our province who fall through the cracks and into homelessness. Once there, many youth run the risk of falling into long term cycles of homelessness into adulthood. In the instance of young families, there is also the risk of homelessness being perpetuated across generations.
Many Canadian communities have taken steps to create plans to end youth homelessness. It is our belief that through careful review of these plans, open dialogue with peers, and a focus on learning, that we can do the same in Newfoundland and Labrador. On December 4th and 5th, 2014, with the support of local and national partners, the first ever Community Planning Institute on Youth Homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador was held in St. John’s. This institute was an opportunity to learn from communities across the country and to see how we can mobilize our own energies, creativity, resources and political will to ensure that every youth has a safe place to live and a supportive community to care for him or her.
The objectives of the institute were:
- To obtain a clear understanding of the causes, impacts and costs of youth homelessness
- To learn how other Canadian communities are planning to end youth homelessness
- To frame out what a Newfoundland and Labrador plan should include
- To lay the foundation for the development of a unified and integrated response to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador
In an effort to seed such a vision, the forum brought together senior officials of all three levels of government, service agencies working in the field of homelessness across Canada, groups representing youth and Aboriginal members, post-secondary educational institutions, the business community and other interested persons and organizations.
This document outlines a path forward in mobilizing our efforts to prevent and end youth
homelessness in our province.