25 Years of Leading Through Partnership & Innovation
A Message From the Executive Director
I am honored to be a part of such a tenacious and innovative organization as Choices for Youth (CFY) as we celebrate 25 years of activism and support. The theme of this year’s report – Collecting Voices and Creating Change: 25 Years of Leading through Partnership and Innovation – could not be more representative of our journey over the past two and a half decades. It is through connections with national initiatives, local partners, and our own internal culture of listening to the voices of youth that we have been able to lead the conversation on how to change the course of the lives of young people who face homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador. As an organization, while we have matured in our understanding of the paths leading to youth homelessness, we have also evolved in our approach and are actively exploring the trajectory of youth to transition out of homelessness.
As an active participant and leader in the national conversation on youth homelessness, CFY has been a frontrunner in a growing movement to change the response to the needs of vulnerable youth on a systemic level. This work has resulted in, for the first time in our province’s history, a call for a provincial plan to end youth homelessness. This process included the piloting of a community planning institute on youth homelessness in December 2014. This event brought together key stakeholders from around the province and presented proven approaches from across the country on how to effectively prevent and end youth homelessness. These efforts have recently culminated in the form of a panel discussion and report release titled “Towards a Solution – Creating a Plan to End Youth Homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador”. With the planning institute and this report as a starting point, it is our hope that by the summer of 2016 we will have a formalized plan to end youth homelessness in our province.
A particular highlight from this past year has been our work with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Metro Youth Mental Health Committee to support mental health initiatives in our province. The result was the inspirational role taken up by the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) to help host a HeadStrong campaign as part of a provincial conference to explore ways to better understand and support youth mental health and combat stigma. In the past year, the YLC has also played a huge role in shaping the work of CFY. Their connection to our staff and the Board of Directors has allowed them to share lived experiences and amplify the voice of at-risk youth. The importance of this cannot be understated. It is a connection that ensures everything we do here at CFY is directly relevant to and informed by the young people who are facing homelessness.
Finding the will to do what is necessary and prompt social change is a challenge that CFY staff have taken on admirably over the past 25 years. In my experience, the staff at CFY are led entirely by their belief in the potential of young people. Each member of our organization is rooted in the reality of what’s possible when a young person is given stability and support. They are inspired to innovate and find new ways to connect with young people, provide unique supports, and explore fresh ideas. Working in constant partnership with young people, a strong sense of camaraderie, and an incredible culture of wanting to give at-risk youth the opportunity to succeed – these are the reasons why CFY has remained a leader in the sector and continues to make important strides both locally and nationally.
The journey to prevent and end youth homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador has proven to be a long voyage, complete with challenges, opportunities and surprises. To succeed in this endeavor, we must build partnerships, learn from one another and engage all stakeholders. As we embark on this next chapter of our journey, we look forward to finding new opportunities and achieving new milestones.
Thank you for your ongoing support and for believing in the young people of our shared community.