The first ever cross country youth homelessness survey is coming to Huntsville next week and a Huntsville-based charity wants local youth to take part.
Created by York University’s Homeless Hub, Leaving Home: A National Study, seeks to better understand “the causes and conditions of youth homelessness in order to feed into more effective plans, strategies and interventions,” according to a release by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. The release goes on to say that the body of work resulting from the national survey will draw attention to youth homelessness, inform public policy and understanding what factors contribute to youth homelessness.
To undertake such a large project, the Homeless Hub and York University have enlisted the help of 70 agencies across the country. Locally, youth homelessness charity Top Hat House for Youth have become involved saying they’ll be conducting surveys on Wednesday, Oct 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22 at the YMCA employment centre in downtown Huntsville.
Nancy Warren, a Top Hat organizer since 2004, says the survey is open to any youth aged 13 to 25 who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness in any form. Warren adds that the survey will focus in on areas such as sexual identity, addictions, education, health, income and employment as well as home life situations and others. It’s important to note that no area of the survey is mandatory, so respondents need not feel pressured to provide any information they’re uncomfortable with.
Homelessness may seem like a non-issue in rural settings like Parry Sound – Muskoka, but Warren says the problem still exists despite being less visible. Warren says at any given time there area as many as 165 people experiencing some form of homelessness in the region. It’s that exact reason that organizations like Top Hat exist. With an intent specifically focused on youth and rural homelessness, Top Hat has piloted it’s organization here with hopes to create pathways that lead to long-term housing solutions for transient youth and encourages them to finish high school education and pursue post secondary education.
“We couldn’t find a program that focused directly on rural and high school aged youth,” Warren said of the idea to start Top Hat.
Top Hat is still developing, with plans to create two permanent housing facilities (one for boys and one for girls) nearby Huntsville’s High School. Warren says the housing facilities would be long-term, rather than transitory, offering housing for “two or three years, or more.”
The program and charity doesn’t just offer support and housing however, they also often work to re-connect and repair relationships between transient youth and their families.
“There seems to be a general misunderstanding regarding teens and rebellion,” Warren says. “In some cases they could go home; perhaps there are some that can be reintegrated into the home through working with the family. However, we only do that if it’s in the best interest of the youth and if it’s healthy to go back home.”
For those that do remain in the housing program, a “family model” will be implemented through support from local agencies and community volunteers.
“Top Hat will be about family and team building amongst these youth,” Warren says.