Stu­dying youth ho­me­less­ness in Pres­cott-Rus­sell

Le Reflet (The News) - - COLLECTIVITÉ • COMMUNITY - Maxime.myre@eap.on.ca

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.

—pho­to Maxime Myre

Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­si­ty re­sar­cher Ju­lien Cas­ton­guay, and exe­cu­tive di­rec­tor of Uni­ted Way Pres­cott-Rus­sell Jo­die Dens­more, are stu­dying youth ho­me­less­ness in Pres­cott-Rus­sell.

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