TORONTO, June 15, 2017 - An innovative multi-agency pilot program to help at-risk youth stay off the streets in Toronto has expanded to Thunder Bay.
The Housing Outreach Program-Collaboration (HOP-C), which involves a team of mental health professionals and peer support workers helping young people transition out of homelessness, has been operating since 2015, with initial funding from the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Under the leadership of CAMH researcher Dr. Sean Kidd, HOP-C has shown great promise, leading to improvements in housing, education and employment for many of the youth who took part. It has also catalyzed close partnerships between several organizations including Covenant House, LOFT Community Services, the Centre for Mindfulness Studies and the Wellesley Institute – with CAMH as the lead partner.
Dr. Sean Kidd
Thanks to a grant of $976,900 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund, the HOP-C initiative is now the subject of a formal clinical trial in Toronto and a scaling initiative in Thunder Bay.
“The way our system is set up it tends to be largely crisis oriented, but often those supports fall off once youth locate housing, and the outcomes tend to be poor,” says Dr. Kidd. “This approach is designed to provide peer support, mental health support, addiction support, as well as outreach-based case management in this critical time of transition. The idea is to provide support in that first year of housing, connect recently homeless youth to services and supports, and give them a stronger sense of self and community so they are more likely to be successful in permanently leaving homelessness.”
The Thunder Bay initiative, called HOP-C North, has engaged a partnership with Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, which will adapt the HOP-C model to make it culturally relevant to Indigenous youth transitioning out of homelessness.
“We wanted to see how HOP-C will work in a smaller setting that doesn’t have as many community supports,” says Dr. Kidd. “Thunder Bay has a major homelessness problem. We wanted to collaborate with local partners who will lead and test a northern and Indigenous relevant version of HOP-C.”
In tandem with the HOP-C expansion, a new “survival” guide, written by formerly homeless youth for homeless youth, has also been published.
“Having this come from the direct experience of young people who have been there means they can provide highly relevant information in a format that others experiencing what they did can relate to,” says Dr. Kidd.
Guide facilitator Mardi Daley, 23, who led a collaborative effort by several HOP-C participants, has been there. During much of her time in high school in Toronto’s east end, she lived an extraordinary double-life. An honours student by day, she and her mother lived in a homeless shelter at night, a reality she kept hidden from her teachers and friends at school.
“It was very uncomfortable being in school and not being able to go out and socialize, not being able to invite people over to my place, not being able to tell friends where you live,” says Mardi. “Just having to constantly make things up, it was tough.”
Mardi will be going to Thunder Bay this summer to work with the HOP-C North team to co-produce a version of the survival guide that is culturally relevant to Indigenous youth. The goal is to make the guide adaptable to all homeless environments, including internationally.
Through the Local Poverty Reduction Fund, the Government of Ontario invests in local innovative programs that target groups disproportionately affected by poverty including women, single parents, people with disabilities, youth, newcomers, visible minorities, seniors and Indigenous Peoples. These programs will help break the cycle of poverty for children and youth, increase employment and income security and end homelessness in Ontario. This granting program is being administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please follow @CAMHnews on Twitter
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