The provision of aftercare –a key component of the Foyer program—is different at each location and is somewhat dependent upon age of the youth. In both locations, youth fall under Covenant House’s mandate until the age of 25. That means that youth are able to access certain services at Covenant House, such as crisis shelter, drop-in and outreach, thus keeping them connected to supports even after they are housed independently or elsewhere. In Vancouver, for example, youth under 25 can come back to the weekly community dinner, thus guaranteeing one good meal and social support/connection each week.
Youth over 25 face different issues because Covenant House is no longer mandated or funded to provide care. Covenant House staff are always available for a youth to reach out to and the 24-hour staffing in the ROP guarantees that someone is always there. Certainly in cases of emergency, staff would not turn a former resident away, but they are challenged in terms of providing ongoing supports. Covenant House will do their best to transition youth to new community supports, both for them to access as a youth, but importantly when a youth is aging out of Covenant House’s care.
Danny Aguilar, Covenant House Toronto’s Housing Worker says that the aftercare component is one of the most critical considerations for any agency developing transitional housing. He says, “It’s not just getting them graduated. It’s keeping them outside the shelter system and maintaining their own place. The after-care has to be there. Because sometimes when a youth just leaves a program, they feel alone.”
CHT: Toronto has several Youth in Transition (YIT) Workers who work with youth leaving the shelter or ROP program. These workers support youth in any type of transition (leaving a shelter or ROP, new to Toronto or Canada, life changes etc.) with a significant focus on youth who are leaving the child welfare system. An outreach-based program, YIT is specifically designed to help youth who may resist coming in to an agency setting to access services. Meetings are held regularly in a location that works for the youth, including their home, another agency or a neighbourhood location, such as a coffee shop. YIT Workers can help youth face challenges and feel less alone. They can provide support or guidance on issues identified by the youth or accompany youth to appointments.
YIT Workers also build local support networks for the youth, helping them with life skills or learn about the resources available in their community such as stores, laundromat or food bank. They also help youth access social and recreational supports to get them better connected to their community.
CHV: For youth living in scattered site, market, or other forms of housing, the Housing Workers and the assigned Case Manager provide the transition supports to the youth up to their 25th birthday. CHV believes that keeping with the same worker can be valuable based for attachment. For ROP youth specifically, staff formally follow up with youth minimally at the three, six, nine and 12 month markers after they leave the program (regardless of age). These contacts are recorded in the Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) database (for more on ETO see the Evaluation section). Youth Workers are able to remain in contact and continue to support past residents up to their 25th birthday as well, and many of them remain in touch via phone or email or continue to visit long after that.
Homeless Hub Thoughts:
Discharge and aftercare must be carefully considered when developing a transitional housing program. Creating programs such as CHT’s Youth in Transition or CHV’s aftercare supports could certainly be considered the gold standard of community-based supports for youth. While not every organization can fund the wide range of aftercare supports that Covenant House does, it is important to ensure that youth are aware of their options after they leave:
- What are the opportunities for them to come back to the original agency? Can they call, drop by or receive outreach visits? Are there activities that they are still able to participate in?
- Where else are they able to access support? Is there an adult drop-in or meal program nearby? Is there a community recreational option?
- Can they be matched up with a mentor during their stay who can continue to provide ongoing support after they graduate/leave?
- Are all of the necessary physical or mental health or addictions supports lined up, including both medical and community supports?