A survey of Penticton youth show that of those surveyed, over 23 per cent have experienced homelessness at some point. (File photo)

LETTER: Community is turning a blind eye to youth homelessness

‘I believe the saying goes “It takes a whole village to raise a child”’

I am writing you today to address the issue of our homeless youth in the community. It seems this community continues to turn a blind eye to this rising problem. What are some of the key issues causing homelessness in our youth? What can we do to support our upcoming generation? We need more awareness on this issue. We need to move past the stigmas and judgments on homelessness, mental health and drug use. Why is money the deciding factor in who gets the help first?

Studies have been done and we now know that recognizing early warning signs are imperative. “How would you know if your client is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless? For counsellors working in school or in the community setting, this seems like a simple question to answer, homelessness is a complex status that may be layered with shame, guilt, addiction, trauma, family strife, legal pitfalls, economic and employment barriers and inadequate physical and mental health treatment.” (Zac Bruns and Cody Andrews, Counselling Today) If counsellors recognize these as barriers, why is youth homelessness still such a rising problem?

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I made some inquiries, and this is what I found out: Free counselling is a six- to eight-month wait list, counselling with no wait list is $100-plus an hour. Beds in a recovery house that are government-funded have wait lists of one week to two months. Beds that people pay out of pocket have no wait but will cost $9,000 a month. Yes, you read that right! How many people do you know can afford $9,000 a month? People can barely afford the rising cost of housing in B.C. The psychiatric ward only holds people for 24 to 72 hours, after that… back on the streets.

In conclusion, we need to stop letting the dollar dictate who will be helped, we need early intervention, we need affordability, we need accessibility, or this problem will become far worse.

We need to treat mental health for what it is – a disease. Counselling needs to become part of our healthcare system, so it’s free and accessible, we need more counsellors to alleviate wait times. We need to extend mental health stays. We need to make drastic changes, but changes cannot be made unless we work together.

I believe the saying goes “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” This statement could not be truer in the lives of homeless youth.

Debbie Evans

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Homelessness