Studying youth homelessness in Prescott-Russell
When the word homeless is heard, people first think of a lonely vagrant, in an alley, sleeping on cardboard boxes. But sometimes, people can have apartments and even houses that are available but that they don’t consider a home. A house is a habitat, a home is somewhere you can reside and live safely.
Jodie Densmore of United Way PrescottRussell, and Julien Castonguay, a researcher from Concordia University, are currently studying youth homelessness in our area. While it is not United Way’s mandate to investigate social issues, the organisation does amass some data from all of the community groups that it supports, along with testimonies from social workers, police officers and volunteers throughout the community.
The United Way discovered that some young people in Prescott-Russell are at risk of becoming homeless, were homeless or are homeless now. Getting into a fight with parents, having an alternative lifestyle or being in foster care can lead a youth to couch surf or live with boyfriends and girlfriends.
“If you are 15, 16 or 17, you can’t access the services of a food bank because you need proof of address. Imagine the state of vulnerability these kids are in,” replied Densmore when asked why she chose youth homelessness as a cause.
According to Densmore, there are not a lot of available resources for youth in homeless situations. That is why she is promoting the 211 number, where people in distress can talk to someone and get directed to the right agency or service depending on the issue at hand.
Castonguay’s mandate is to collect information and data to learn how social workers and police officers cope with teens not having a home, or a home that is not a safe place for them to go back to. By doing this research, they want to confirm that youth homelessness is not only an issue in Prescott-Russell, but that it needs its own set of procedures and tools so that both, police officers and social workers can provide services to youth in homeless situations.
This will be an ongoing research that will reveal clues on how to deal with youth homelessness in Prescott-Russell.
Out of her small office space on Hawkesbury’s Main Street, Densmore manages over $200,000 in funds that are redistributed amongst organizations engaged in fighting poverty and empowering women, youth and the elderly.
Saying Densmore runs a small team would be an understatement. But although she manages most of the day-to-day by herself, she’s supported by an active administration board and many volunteers, such as Castonguay, to push the boundaries of her mandate beyond fundraising.
Concordia University resarcher Julien Castonguay, and executive director of United Way Prescott-Russell Jodie Densmore, are studying youth homelessness in Prescott-Russell.