Getting it done for our young people without permanent supportive homes.
Everyone needs a place to call home.
And that’s the goal of “Youthopia” — an apartment complex for homeless youth that McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association is preparing to open in the coming months.
“What we wanted was not just a housing complex, we wanted a community,” said Tracy Tanghe, programs manager with McMan, on the 11-unit apartment building on Second Street SE currently under renovation.
A sense of belonging is a “key predictor” of success for youth who have experienced trauma or are using drugs as a coping strategy, Tanghe said — which is where Youthopia comes in, by providing an opportunity for youth supported through McMan programs to have a small apartment of their own.
“It’s a very case-by-case management plan,” said Tanghe. Not all will be a good fit, she said, with the expected age range to be from 16 to 24, and capable of living semi-independently.
The building will be monitored at all times. McMan’s Youth Outreach/Hub office, as well as the mobile addictions/outreach support program will be based out of it, while two resident advisers will live in the building.
And there will be numerous initiatives to help guide and support the youth living there, such as transportation to the community garden which they have been involved with, life skills programming like meal preparation, bed bug prevention, sexual health and disease prevention, healthy boundaries, time management and job search skills like preparing a resume and interviewing.
The youth will learn all about how to be a good neighbour — and also what being a good tenant entails, including expectations for when they eventually move on and sign leases with landlords.
They’ll also be supported to find positive daily activities, wether it’s employment, volunteering or schooling, as well as navigating community resources and attending appointments they may have.
But like all youth, they will make mistakes and have setbacks, Tanghe — for example, having too many guests over. A residence like this will give them an opportunity to learn and be taught — but without the dire consequences like an eviction notice like if they were renting from a landlord.
Youthopia builds upon McMan’s “Launch Pad” — another five-unit apartment for youth that opened a few years ago.
“We knew we could do more,” said Tanghe, and it helps to bridge the gap when it comes to providing services for youth who are homeless.
For example, most landlords won’t rent to youth under the age of 18, she said.
Another bonus is that if youth have had success with the program, they can use it as a reference when they move onwards and seek housing space with other landlords in the city.
McMan is hoping for renovations to be completed for March.
Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition — especially if it’s the sort that can help make a difference in the lives of homeless youth.
That’s the challenge being issued by the local CIBC branch when it comes to getting each of the “Youthopia” units ready for occupants.
“I’d like to challenge other downtown financial institutions to match our donation to get this to fruition,” said Darren Hirsch, senior manager with CIBC, following a donation of $1,500 to McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association. Each donation of $1,500 will cover the costs of furnishing the small apartments — from basic furniture, to kitchen essentials and every other item a household needs. These items will stay with the units.
The project will give these youth a sense of safety, support, home and belonging — something homeless youth often lack, said Hirsch, adding that the support for the program comes from the “it takes a community to raise a child” idea.
CIBC is proud to give back like this, said Hirsch, and they hope that Youthopia will give guidance and enrichment to these youth, and help them become productive citizens.