Youth summit poses answers to homeless

We’re all familiar with homelessness here in the capital — with around 1,300 people living in the streets

We’re all familiar with homelessness here in the capital — with around 1,300 people living in the streets and alleys of the City of Gardens, no one is likely to forget about the plight of our region’s most vulnerable citizens. What we don’t see — and all too readily forget — is the ever-growing number of youth on and near our streets.

It’s not just the public, either — despite B.C. having the highest rate of child poverty in the country, the attentions of Provincial and Federal officials seem firmly locked on just about anything else. “Perhaps the greatest challenge to youth homelessness in the CRD is the need to raise its profile. It remains an invisible problem except by those who work with youth daily,” says Mark Muldoon, executive director of Threshold Housing Society.

As the effects of this officially sanctioned denial trickle down, providing support for street youth becomes a process of artfully arranging a variety of chronically under-funded services into whatever loosely-woven safety net service providers can manage. It’s this most basic problem that Adam Clarkson hopes to address by hosting Belonging: A Youth Homelessness Summit, from April 20 to 22.

Clarkson says the Summit will see service providers from around the capital gather to discuss their work and seek out ways to better serve youth on and near the street. “We’re going to try and distill out some of those specific ways forward; specific solutions for our area based on the expertise [of participants].”

Faced with public and official ignorance, lack of funding, and an endless stream of youth in need of shelter, safety, and support, getting together for a chat might seem to indicate a troubling lack of urgency. But, far from providing an excuse to pontificate, Belonging will begin a conversation that has never been had, laying bare the long-ignored world of street youth.

This event gives us hope that somewhere outside the rhetoric on “breaking the cycle” through enforcement targeted at street-entrenched adults, people are beginning to realize the simple reality that in order to end homelessness we have to reverse the flow of young people from an uncaring system to the streets.

Belonging Victoria will be holding a fundraiser gala on Saturday, March 3, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall. See more at belongingvictoria.com. M

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