Creating Peer Support for Youth at The Doorway

The Cause

The Doorway provides an opportunity for street-involved youth (17-30 years old) who want to exit the streets, a two-year self-directed planning process called MyPlan. They set goals and plan steps in 13 different areas of life including housing, employment, education and health as examples toward transitioning to mainstream culture. On average, our graduate success rate is 60% which means young people have achieved and sustained stability for six months post-graduation. The Doorway has more than 1250 graduates who chose to leave street culture, using the self-empowerment planning process in a space of respect, dignity, forgiveness and free of judgment. They build physical, psychosocial, spiritual strength while building their skills in planning and problem-solving toward their own goals.

Our intention is to create a peer support program that would engage graduates of our MyPlan program who have successfully transitioned to mainstream culture in providing guidance and support to youth in crisis and/or who have entered the MyPlan process. This project will explore how graduates can use their lived experience to support other youth engaged in street life helping to reduce isolation and feelings of shame about current realities. We have one graduate who is currently enrolled in a social work program who has expressed interest in providing this kind of support.

There is a major gap in serving the mental needs of street-involved youth. According to AHS in Calgary, approximately 20% of mental health needs are currently met, but stakeholders report an underutilization of services. This creates a strong impetus to provide flexible and easy to access supports. Current research highlights the impact of peer supports for addressing mental health needs especially for youth many of whom remain the most hidden and underserved. Peers would have to be trained both in a peer recovery model, provide supports and gain skills to connect youth in crisis. This project will also consider peer researchers.

Because our staff is very lean and devoted to serving youth in MyPlan and through outreach, the intention is to hire a consultant(s) to conduct a feasibility study to understand the current context of peer support for youth and identify key programmatic elements/principles for the proposed program.

Who Will it Benefit?

Like numerous peer support research studies, we anticipate that young people enrolled in MyPlan will achieve better health and wellness outcomes when having the opportunity to discuss their dreams, goals, and actions with people who have similar life experiences. We expect that peer support workers at The Doorway will help to encourage and support young people to increase young people’s confidence in their decision-making. Another anticipated outcome will be an increase in the number of graduates completing the two-year MyPlan process and reporting increasing stability six months after graduating.