A Strategy for Reducing Youth Homelessness in Lanark County: Research and Recommendations
By Justin Ramsay & Richard Leigh-Bennettt
Algonquin College Applied Research & Innovation Centre
This report has been conducted through the Algonquin Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. It was commissioned by and prepared for The Perth Youth CI Initiative – a partnership of the United Way Lanark County, YAK Youth Centre, Kelford Youth Services, and the Lanark Highlands Youth Centre. Support for the initiative was received from The Youth CI program, delivered by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Innoweave initiative, in partnership with the Laidlaw Foundation, and supported by the Government of Ontario.
As part of a Canada-wide focus on reducing homelessness, local organizations in Lanark County, Ontario have begun working together to develop a homelessness strategy. The proposed plan is to pool resources and establish full service youth homelessness centres in each of the four major communities within Lanark County, beginning in Perth. Before proceeding, further research was requested to examine the viability of such a proposal, and better understand the nature of homelessness in the area.
The research objectives consisted of:
1) Establishing a baseline of youth homelessness in Perth
2) Establishing the need for services in Lanark County (and Perth specifically)
3) Examine possible options for service model
Key findings from the report included the following:
• Using conservative estimates, 45 youth are homeless in a given year in Lanark County & Smiths Falls
• Transportation is a central issue. Youth cannot access the services required because (a) no form of public transportation within Lanark County exists (b) services are not centralized making them difficult to access (c) a dispersed population creates a dependency on owning or having access to a vehicle for transportation
• Many youth had experience with some form of substance addiction or mental health issue.
• Some youth were distrustful of traditional western medicine and counseling services
• All youth indicated some type of temporary housing solution is needed in Lanark County
• Nearly all youth indicated it was very difficult to find and maintain employment
• Nearly all youth were currently using (or had while homeless) relied on Ontario Works and social services.
• Nearly all youth interviews would be considered “hidden homelessness” and relied on couch surfing, staying temporarily with friends/relatives, or finding shelter in unmonitored public areas
• Most youth moved between various communities within Lanark County as necessity demanded
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