21 year old Cody Escuyos moved to Toronto three years ago from Fort Frances,
Ontario looking for “work, play and love”. Instead “I found myself living in
survival mode, burnt out, living on the streets and sleeping on the Bloor-Yonge
line,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until I ended up in a shelter that a huge weight
was lifted off my shoulders”.
However, Cody says “transitioning out of homelessness is more than getting
your own apartment. It starts with learning how to live, not just survive.”
Supporting At Risk Youth
The Ontario government is funding a $390,000 research pilot project to
support youth who are exiting homelessness in Toronto. The project was announced
on May 6 by the Minister of Children and Youth Services Tracy MacCharles at an
event at Sketch hosted by CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn.
“The most at-risk youth, who often struggle with mental health challenges and
need ongoing support, are the least likely to have access to the services they
need. That’s why the province is supporting this important and innovative pilot
project,” said Minister MacCharles.
From L to R : Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Cody Escuyos, Dr.
Catherine Zahn, Charmie Deller, Minister Tracy
The pilot project was developed by the Toronto Homeless Youth Transitions Collaborative, a group of organizations and experts in youth and homelessness that includes CAMH, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, Covenant House, LOFT, SKETCH, and the Wellesley Institute. The
project will help youth move past basic survival into a period of stability,
which is one of the biggest challenges facing previously homeless youth. It will
also help youth to go back to school or find employment, as well as provide
critical support and intervention to help youth overcome barriers and maintain
positive momentum based on their own strengths and resilience.
The research pilot, led by CAMH Clinical Scientist Dr. Sean Kidd,
- Social support for youth, including guidance from both a transition support
worker and a trained peer support worker to help them address challenges such as
mental health issues
- Counselling for groups to address complex trauma, and for families to help
them reunite and resolve issues
- Psychotherapy for those whose level of distress cannot be addressed through
“Young people emerging from homelessness need help with many things that most
people take for granted, such as a positive relationships with family and
opportunities for education and employment. This project will ensure they get
the help they need. We will give them the best chance we can to not just
survive, but to flourish,” said Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Medical Director, CAMH and
CEO of the Wellesley Institute.
“This project represents an opportunity to continue development of an
innovative array of support to help young people sustain the incredible gains
they’ve achieved in leaving the streets,” adds Dr. Catherine Zahn.
“Over two years we will offer our new service to youth who have recently
exited homelessness. But we also want to evaluate the new intervention to make
sure it works and works well for youth. We need more of these sorts of
community, hospital collaborations to deal with the challenges we face across
our sector,” says Dr. McKenzie.