63.5 — the percentage of the St. John’s homeless population that arrive in St. John’s from regions outside of the capital city. For some, they move here by choice; for many, the move is because they have no other option. The most common cause of migration for this population? Overwhelmingly, a lack of access to services and supports.
Defining the Problem
At Choices for Youth (CFY), we know that youth homelessness is a creation, emerging from a series of factors that lead to a young person not having a safe place to call home. We know that to end homelessness, we must ensure that every young person has a place to call home. But just as importantly, it is critical that young people have access to the support that they need to maintain housing; including access to employment, food security, mental health and family support.
In St. John’s, 23.3% of our homeless population is between the ages of 16 and 24. In 2016, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness conducted a national survey of 1103 respondents across 47 communities, determining that 85% of homeless youth in Canada are experiencing a mental health crisis. From coast to coast to coast, the message is clear — we need to support young people by providing wrap-around support that meet critical needs and allow them to build a brighter future in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Before COVID-19, homelessness, mental health, and youth unemployment were serious concerns among young people and service providers. During the pandemic, these challenges reached new highs. In Spring 2020, CFY consulted with 498 young people on how the pandemic was affecting them; 67% of the youth that we consulted with indicated that their mental health had been affected as a result of the pandemic.
“I moved in with my friend once bubbles were allowed because I could no longer afford to live on my own due to COVID. I have placed my educational goals on standby due to financial reasons & my mental health has been all over the place due to stress and fear.”
Levering Local Expertise
Over the last few years, Choices for Youth has undertaken the challenge of determining what exactly can be done to better support young people across Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2017 as a partnership with the provincial government, Choices for Youth began the process of engaging with stakeholders across the province to find out where the gaps in service delivery were & what can be done to address them.
Over the past four years, CFY has engaged with 1200+ young people and 300+ service providers in 32+ communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. We heard about the need for greater mental health and addictions support, a need to increase access to housing, the need to support employment opportunities, and a need to better connect youth to services through transportation.
Through this community-based dialogue, what emerged is Newfoundland and Labrador Integrated Service Delivery (NL-ISD), a shared vision for a regional model of wrap-around support for youth ages 12-29, focused on health and mental health, education and employment, housing, family and natural supports, and outreach and engagement.
The idea behind NL-ISD is not to reinvent the wheel. There are incredible community-based supports that exist across regions in our province. The goal of NL-ISD is to fill in gaps where they exist while bringing as many of these integral supports under one roof.
Hiring a Director of NL- ISD
The concept of Integrated Service Delivery has come a long way in the last four years — most recently, we have seen the emergence of eight steering committees across Newfoundland and Labrador, all focused on a better way of developing services and support for young people. Together, we have partnered with provincial and national partners to leverage best practices while prioritizing local solutions. Now, we are ready to take the next step in bringing this shared vision to life. Choices for Youth is acting on behalf of the NL-ISD Interim Guidance Council to hire a Director of NL-ISD to move this exciting work forward. The Director of NL-ISD will be responsible for setting the strategic direction, and leading the developmental phase of NL-ISD. To learn more about NL-ISD and the Director of NL-ISD position, please visit https://www.choicesforyouth.ca/post/director-of-the-nl-integrated-service-delivery-initiative.