Choices for Youth is a housing support agency for youth 16-29 in the St. John’s, NL metro area.  It was founded in 1990 in response to “an identified need among youth, the community, and government to have an empowerment-based program available to youth for whom ‘home’ was not an option". The need for the program arose from the closure of the Mount Cashel orphanage[2]. While that site had to be closed, the needs of the community did not disappear.

For the first ten years of the program, Choices operated as in-care model/group home style. In 2000/2001, legislation changed in Newfoundland, which affected the agency significantly. “All of a sudden, young people had a right to choose other things, other than what we were offering them. So the organization was faced with, I guess in hindsight, a bit of a blessing, a critical moment of either folding up shop, that we’ve done our bit, that we’re not relevant anymore or reinventing ourselves. We chose to do that by becoming an agency that works for more of an over-16 population, harm reduction, at-risk youth, homelessness. [It’s] more of an outreach model supporting young people out in the community,” Sheldon Pollett, Executive Director, Choices for Youth.

While the provision of supportive housing options remains a critical component of the work that Choices does, it also strives to give youth “access to a variety of services that promote healthy personal development, and a sense of belonging within an environment of respect, tolerance, peace, and equality” (Choices for Youth website).

[2] The Mount Cashel orphanage, a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada (a community of the Roman Catholic Church) was closed on June 1st 1990, following several complaints of physical and sexual abuse and numerous investigations. Following Confederation, the government placed Crown Wards (individuals in the case of the child welfare system) at Mount Cashel so not all residents were indeed orphans. The sexual abuse scandal – which affected more than 300 residents – is considered to be Canada’s largest and one of the largest in the world. (http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/wells_gov_mt_cashel_timeline.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Cashel_Orphanage)