Youth INN Recreation

The Cause

The Youth INN Recreation program will offer recreational and developmental activities for vulnerable children and youth who haven’t had access to such opportunities. The program is an expansion and enhancement of the current Early Childhood Development program, which launched in 2013 and has grown significantly due to its success and the growing need for childhood intervention.

Children and youth staying at Inn from the Cold have experienced repeated exposure to stress and trauma detrimental to their development. While living in a shelter, youth spend a great deal of time indoors with few opportunities for personal growth or participation in activities that their housed peers enjoy on a regular basis. The financial cost of such activities is one of many barriers. The lack of opportunity to participate in these activities increases the gap between homeless children and their peers, furthering low self-esteem and stress.

Youth INN Recreation will offer regular, ongoing activities for youth ages 10-17 staying in our shelter. Examples of activities include rock climbing, mountain biking, team sports, role playing and team-building games. Participation in such activities will generate the following outcomes for participants:

• Social and emotional development (trust, team work, feelings of accomplishment/success, increased resiliency and self-esteem, formation of healthy relationships, presence of role models)
• Personal development (mastering a skill, discovering new interests)
• Physical development (exercise, vitamin D, endorphins released during physical activity)

As Calgary’s first and largest Emergency Family Shelter, Inn from the Cold is uniquely positioned to understand and address the complex needs of homeless children and youth at the point of first contact with the shelter system. Last year 1,244 children sought shelter at our doorstep. We offer more than a bed and a meal; children and families receive specialized, coordinated and integrated services that help families break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Who Will it Benefit?

The program will be available to all children and youth ages 10-17 who are staying at the IFTC Emergency Family Shelter. All children and youth at the Inn come from low-income families, and 30% of families in 2014 reported having no form of income at all. In 2014, 18% of families who stayed at the Inn were new to Canada, and 53% were of Aboriginal descent. Due to the transiency of the population, many children arriving at the Inn have never attended school, have not attended school in years, or have experienced inconsistent schooling. Additionally, many children and youth have experienced or are currently experiencing trauma, social exclusion, abuse, and/or a mental health issues.

Last year over 400 youth ages 10-17 sought shelter at the Inn. While we currently offer basic programming for this age range, current funding and resources are limited. Funding from the Field Law Community Foundation will greatly bolster the quality and quantity of our child and youth programming, thus strengthening the social and emotional development of children experiencing homelessness.

The benefits of this program will be much further reaching than the program participants. Investing in homeless children and youth reduces their risk of becoming homeless adults. Studies have shown that participation in extracurricular activities increases resiliency and self-esteem in youth through peer inclusion, and reduces risk factors that may lead to substance abuse, criminality, and teen pregnancy.

This program can stop homeless children from becoming homeless adults. Thus, Youth INN Recreation will greatly benefit not just the youth staying at our shelter, but the Calgary community as a whole, as vulnerable children and youth develop the skills to break the cycle of homelessness and grow up to be independent, productive members of our society.