Homelessness is an issue which faces many youth in the Annapolis Valley. On any given night, it is estimated that between 58-70 youth in the Annapolis Valley experience homelessness, not including those currently in the Child Welfare or foster care system. There is little awareness of this issue and this stems in part from the fact that visible homelessness (ie. unsheltered, in cars, parks, tents, etc) is not the main issue for youth. Hidden homelessness contributes largely to youth homelessness with 18-30 year olds couch surfing or staying temporarily with friends, family, or others because they have no immediate prospect of permanent housing. There is no emergency youth shelter in the valley, which puts youth more at risk of being or remaining in unsafe situations. Youth may also relocate to Halifax in attempts to find support or shelter, which may result in further unsafe situation if they are unsuccessful.
The Portal Youth center is an outreach program located in Kentville designed to give youth a safe space where they can responsibly “deal with their stuff”. They work with youth who are (or are at risk of becoming) homeless. Russell Sanche, a founding member of the organization, spoke to me about some of the individuals who have come through his doors of The Portal. One young man, Matt (name changed for privacy), was described as lacking the resources to deal with his mental health issues. This drove him to substance abuse and subsequently away from his parents and towards depression and suicidal thoughts. His issues escalated until he was connected to The Portal. Their support facilitated family intervention, community engagement and connections to the mental health assistance he needed.
The Shelter Project is an awareness and fundraising event to help end youth homelessness in the Annapolis Valley. If you are in Kentville between November 14th and 19th you will see a makeshift shelter being built at 437 Main Street (beside Independent Grocery). It will be a powerful image that represents the struggle of youth homelessness. Individuals are being invited to experience being in the cold from 5 PM on the 17th to the morning of the 19th. Portal Youth Centre staff and volunteers and concerned residents of the Annapolis Valley will join together to raise awareness and take steps to end youth homelessness.
Consider joining us in one of these ways:
- Take a shift staying in the shelter during the day or night
- Come with a friend and seek some information about youth homelessness
- Share the information to increase the awareness
- Donate money towards our Emergency Fund for Youth
- Start a conversation in your circle of friends to make a change in awareness
For more information or to sign up to do a shift in the shelter visit: www.portalyouth.ca.