Connect Youth is an agency based in Leeds & Grenville with a mandate to “provide service to all young people who seek our help and to create awareness within the community, so that both the youth and those that care about them know that there is a place they can go, and people who can help them cope with their problems”. The agency was started and inspired as a result of a community focus group that involved youth, following the suicide of one of their peers in June, 2001. The services they offer are designed to support young people, between the ages of 14 and 21, who are going through difficult times and to provide them with encouragement, practical advice and help, and to be a link with the wider community.
It is a wide area to deal with, including issues such as homelessness, rural isolation, even providing food and clothing. In the past, Connect Youth has been centred on the South Grenville area, but new funding has allowed them to plan a new initiative in the Kemptville area. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, made available through Service Canada, has provided funding to support expansion of the services and to open an emergency housing unit in Kemptville. The program is a joint Service Agreement with the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.
The housing unit is part of the Emergency Transitional Housing Program, and provides temporary, 21-day accommodation for young people in the age group 16-21, until more permanent housing arrangements can be secured. Applicants for the unit must have no current living arrangements, with all other housing options having been exhausted. They have to be willing to sign Participation in Service Agreement, be attending school or seeking employment, and be actively seeking permanent housing.
Throughout the 21-day period, the young person must meet with a Case Manager every 2-4 days, who will refer them to partnering services, help them to access basic needs, such as food, clothes, and hygiene, and help them connect with landlords and housing searches. The young person would attend a Life Skills Program aimed at teaching skills such as cooking, budgeting, planning, communication, conflict management and assertive communication. They would also receive continued support after they leave the shelter.
The need for such an emergency shelter for homeless young people in Kemptville has been made clear through the work already being done in Prescott. Connect Youth have found that 6% of current referrals come from Kemptville, so that makes North Grenville a suitable site for their expansion. Homelessness among young people in this area is often invisible. Those without a safe or secure home either move to Ottawa, or another community, or they may just be couch-surfing at the home of friends. The reasons for homelessness are many and various, and can include issues with addiction, abuse at home, even a sense of being alone in their circumstances with nowhere safe to turn for advice, support or information.
To deal with these problems, Connect Youth has set itself as objectives to, among other things, provide one-on-one support for youth in crisis or in need of assistance, provide information, referrals to community resources, and connection to other youth and community activities, and to share information with the community regarding needs of youth and resources available to youth. In some cases, support programs are already available in the community or county, but young people are unaware of them, or don’t know how to access them. Connect Youth assist them in reaching these resources and advocates for them so that they receive appropriate assistance. It is also a major objective of the agency to educate and inform youth, parents, and the community about the needs of youth and the resources available to them.
To apply for admission to the emergency housing unit which will be set up in Kemptville, contact Connect Youth at 613-246-2092 or [email protected]. An interview will be set up to determine the need and to complete the intake application and a Case Manager will communicate with other service providers and gather information. Upon approval, arrangements will be made to move in and the admission date will be determined based on availability of the unit.