Meeting Street Youth Where They’re At
The idea is to fully implement The Doorway’s outreach pilot project with two strategies:
• Increase time for staff & volunteers to build relationships with youth on the street, provide information about the goal-setting process (MyPlan) & assess for intake
• Staff facilitate MyPlan sessions in multiple locations throughout Calgary including public libraries, supported housing, other community spaces & other public spaces. To ensure the best possible participant outcomes staff would travel to these locations with the required supplies & technology.
Since 1988 The Doorway has walked alongside young people who wanted to transition from street culture to mainstream culture. To date over 1,250 participants have changed their lives by setting their own goals & taking action to achieve better health, stable housing, employment & building lives. Early in the pandemic The Doorway space was closed to protect participants & staff. The Doorway implemented alternate options for participants to continue their goal-setting via telephone or online & using EFT for payment however we learned that it is not as effective as when we meet the participant in person. The staff also delivered food, hygiene products &other supplies to participants as they found it difficult to access other community services. Gradually the space has opened for limited hours to ensure that staff could maintain the required safety protocols. Unfortunately, there have been few new participants coming to The Doorway’s space, so in June 2021 The Doorway front-line staff piloted a street outreach program. The outreach program includes staff &volunteers going to various locations that street-involved youth frequent & provide food & hygiene products. The pilot has been limited due to lack of funds but it has allowed us to connect with young people who are engaged in street culture & learn more about what is currently confronting them. We discovered that there is still fear of using public transit &accessing community services. Many are unvaccinated due to mistrust of health systems. We also met many young people older than our maximum age of 24 years who could benefit from our programming. A recommendation was made to the Board of Directors to increase the maximum eligible age for service to 30 years inclusive which reflects the provincial & federal governments’ definition of youth. This was approved by the Board late August.
Who Will it Benefit?
The main beneficiaries are the youth who build relationships with staff and volunteers and participate in the goal-setting which helps them address their unique needs and goals. Staff and volunteers benefit by developing a greater understanding of the challenges confronting today’s youth, particularly in light of the current pandemic. The community ultimately benefits by having engaged youth seeking employment, housing, better health, addressing criminal justice issues and addictions, and reuniting with family and friends. Participants in MyPlan have an opportunity to set goals in 13 different areas of life including Housing, Legal, Planning, Finances, Identification, Problem Solving, Health, Drugs, Employment, Education, Personal, Leadership and Volunteerism. During this process, they discover solutions and reflect on their goals and activities while talking with community members. The Doorway’s process is about changing the way youth think – moving from street culture to becoming part of mainstream culture – to employability, education and sustainable healthy living conditions. The skills they learn through this process become lifelong skills they carry into the future. Participants have taught us success in getting off the streets is not just about changing where you sleep, it is changing the way you think. We have seen one of the most powerful tools we can provide a young person with, is acceptance for who they are, with a belief in who they can be.