Chilliwack Community Services is pledging this year to get more than a dozen kids off the streets of Chilliwack.
Federal funding of $50,000 came through for CCS, under the Homelessness Partnership Strategy, to tackle a recent increase in youth homelessness.
In fact, youth homelessness has been identified as a “key focus” of Chilliwack Community Services (CCS) for 2018, said Diane Janzen, CCS executive director.
“We are committed to eliminating youth homelessness and working to provide a pathway from poverty to positive and safe lives for youth in our community that includes safe housing, education and stable income,” she said. “If we can address these issues now we will prevent homelessness in adulthood.”
The 2017 FVRD Homeless Count revealed that 50 out of the 221 homeless people in Chilliwack were youth under the age of 19.
That means homeless kids accounted for 22 per cent of the 2017 total, and 28 per cent said they had a disability. Youth were 44 per cent of the total in the 2014 Homeless Count.
“It was surprising. Homelessness is a complex issue,” said Janzen.
The program will use the Housing First model, but there will be wrap-around support services to help them stay housed.
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“It’s not housing only, it’s housing first, but with help,” Janzen said. “The vast majority are fleeing abuse, struggling with addictions and mental health issues or fleeing a home where there were addictions and mental health issues. Part of it will be understanding why they left home.”
Partnerships will be a crucial part of the approach. Through the Connections Program, CCS will provide stable housing, links to education, securing income and trauma-based counselling, in partnership with the Chilliwack School District and Ministry of Children and Families.
The HPS funding will pay for the program coordinator, as well as materials and supplies for the housing, like beds and linens for example.
Appropriate housing will be secured for the youth by a program coordinator, and some units may be available as well in the Village on School Street, which is run by CCS.