Do we have a problem with youth homelessness in The Annapolis Valley?
Unreservedly, yes. Youth are among the fastest growing and most underserved of Canada’s homeless population. They make up 20% of the homeless population. To some, the issue of youth homelessness is unseen and therefore not an issue. To those that know the youth and hear their story, it is a very real and challenging issue. There are different categories of homelessness: unsheltered, staying in emergency shelters; staying in women’s emergency shelters, provisionally accommodated and the hidden homeless. Often referred to as couch surfing, hidden homelessness includes youth who are temporarily staying with friends, relatives or others because they have nowhere else to live and no immediate prospect of permanent housing. All categories in this plan are of concern. The most concerning is the hidden homeless as there is no reliable data on the hidden homelessness in Canada at the national level and very little at the community level. Those that are hidden are missed and un-accounted for but also at the most risk. The situation for those at risk or those who are couch surfing can change within hours.
Through youth outreach work, in 2017, the current state of affairs for youth homelessness is as follows:
● Of the 119 youth (16- 19 years of age) identified as being at risk in 2017, 62 were homeless and 57 were at risk of being homelessness (close to 80% were in King’s County).
● Of the 62 that were homeless- all experienced couch surfing and over 40 were unsheltered (slept outside, in a tent or car) for some period of time; and 10 might have accessed emergency shelter.
● Of the 119 youth, 90% experienced other stressors like: family conflict, domestic violence or mental health issues.
● While homeless (couch surfing), 38% of youth were exploited for sex, money, crime or drug related issues.