By Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Way Home Kamloops (AWHK) has received high praise for recommendations it brought forth from its youth homelessness preliminary summit, held earlier this year.

People at the online conference brainstormed ways to end youth homelessness, with provincial government representatives and people who have been homeless taking part.

It culminated in 14 recommendations that include providing increases to youth housing, mental-health supports and policy changes.

The non-profit group sent its recommendations to provincial government ministries.

AWHK program manager Kira Cheeseborough told KTW positive feedback has been received from Minister of Child and Family Development Mitzi Dean and Minister for Housing and Attorney General David Eby, who have said they are using the report to inform their work on youth homelessness and housing.

“It’s quite exciting,” Cheeseborough said.

The recommendations are also informing how AWHK delivers programming at its new housing project, Katherine’s Place, which is set to rise at Tranquille Road and Elm Street in North Kamloops in the spring of 2022, Cheeseborough said.

“We’ve been using it in all aspects of our organization. We’ve also put it out to the BC Coalition to End Youth Homelessness,” she said.

The first recommendation asks that a youth’s autonomy be respected, while the second calls for wraparound supports geared toward helping youth find a sense of purpose and belonging.

AWHK’s seventh recommendation calls for a change in government policy so that no youth ages out of foster care before stable housing with after-care supports are in place, even if it means extending their transition from foster care.

The eighth recommendation calls for the Ministry of Children and Family Development to establish a cross-ministry team to provide youth in care with supports and a youth advisory council to oversee and inform how the cross-ministerial team responds.

The third recommendation asks that youth housing provide basic necessities, health needs and transitional supports to help homeless youth develop independence while recommendation four suggests providing diverse housing options.

Recommendation No. 6 requests an increase in youth-specific, publicly funded housing.

The fifth recommendation calls for Indigenous youth, who are over-represented in the foster system and who disproportionately experience homelessness, to be supported in reconnecting with their community, culture and language.

Recommendation No. 9 asks to ensure youth in care are given information and support in accessing, re-applying and sustaining resources they are eligible to receive, as youths often have to find that out on their own.

The report’s 10th recommendation calls for a trio of housing and support initiatives brought in temporarily due to pandemic as emergency measures be permanently implemented, while No. 11 calls for collaborative community approaches to providing a continuum of wraparound services.

Recommendations 12, 13 and 14 suggest connecting youth with peer mentors, greater mental-health support for youth and increased employment opportunities for homeless youth that are career-focused.

The recommendations are not only applicable to government ministries, but also a guide for non-profit organizations looking to revamp or establish new programming, Cheeseborough said.

This item is reprinted with permission from Kamloops This Week, Kamloops, British Columbia. See article HERE.

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