Building trust is a crucial part of supporting youth experiencing homelessness. While for some Penticton residents the concept of youth homelessness is unimaginable, the data confirms that youth experience homelessness.

To address youth homelessness, Penticton is moving ahead with a collaborative strategy that involves youth in the front line of its program, says Adam Goodwin, City of Penticton, social development specialist. Prevention is the number one goal to any homelessness program, notes Goodwin. “Youth do slip through and we need to get a solid system in place that lets us intervene as a community and help end the individual youth’s homelessness.”

The City of Penticton along with OneSky Community Resources, Foundry Penticton, Penticton Indian Band, South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, South Okanagan Women in Need Society, South Okanagan Brain Injury Society, and the School District was successful in obtaining a grant for $25,000 to complete the youth homelessness project from the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC BC).

SPARC BC is “an independent, non-partisan, registered charity that works with BC communities in building a just and healthy society for all.” The grants build on SPARC BC’s research including an examination of the problem of ‘hidden homelessness’ in smaller rural communities and smaller urban centres as well as an examination of promising practices for creating culturally responsive approaches for addressing the issue of Aboriginal homeless. Through such research, SPARC BC is committed to working to identify opportunities and solutions for ending homelessness.

While the Covid-19 pandemic paused Penticton’s Youth Homelessness Strategy and has shifted the timelines, the recruitment process has begun. The plan is to have youth doing the research once those youth recruited receive good training. Core to the strategy is youth to youth trust with a goal to enable youth on the street to feel comfortable in sharing their stories and ideas. Tantamount in the strategy is developing youth facilitators with skills to use throughout their lives in the work place and beyond.

Youth recruits will learn how to approach and talk with people they may not know, how to gain their trust and retain confidentiality. Once trained, the youth recruits will conduct the research on Penticton’s youth homelessness. Says Goodwin, “It’ll be fascinating to see what insights and new information they bring back to inform our local plan.”

Tentative timelines after the youth recruitment phase include comprehensive training in August with reach out,  ongoing supplemental training, and research gathering in September and October. Depending on that schedule and the information collected, a final report is planned for late 2020 or early 2021.

Employers and members of the project interested in becoming part of the initiative can email Goodwin adam.goodwin@penticton.ca or contact him at the City of Penticton.

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