Given the lack of affordable housing across the country, it is very beneficial to have workers whose primary focus is helping youth find, secure and maintain housing. Youth often lack key components necessary for accessing housing, including identification, references, income or the knowledge around how to even start their housing search.
Both locations employ Housing Workers whose job it is to help youth find housing after they leave ROP (or the crisis/shelter program). This support includes conducting an assessment of their housing readiness, needs and budgets. The Housing Workers will discuss the type and cost of housing available. This includes exploring housing options, such as independent living, shared accommodation, supportive housing or other transitional housing facilities.
When possible/requested, Housing Workers also support the youth in accessing and applying for that housing, including filling in applications, meeting with landlords and negotiating leases. Depending upon availability, a Housing Worker (or other ROP staff) may also drive a youth through their new neighbourhood to help them figure out where to access groceries, recreation, transit and other necessities in their new environment.
In the scattered site housing units, ongoing support is still provided by the Housing Workers and Case Managers in Vancouver. While this was also the case in Toronto, a recent switch has moved all aftercare into the realm of the Youth in Transition Workers (this will be discussed later in this chapter).
“The best part of the work for me is when I house a youth and you see them grow. You see them gain that confidence to be on their own. You can see that they’re actually cooking their meals. You see that they’re not depending on other people for their own money, they’re actually looking for work [or] they’re going to school. [They’re] doing what they want to do and succeeding.” — Danny Aguilar, Housing Worker, Covenant House Toronto
Homeless Hub Thoughts:
Avoiding the revolving door of homelessness, as discussed in the Youth Homelessness Overview chapter, is a difficult challenge to overcome. Housing Workers play a critical role in helping youth obtain and maintain housing. There are a few ways that a Housing Worker can help support a youth:
- Create a sense of connection to their new community. A youth who is more engaged will hopefully not seek out old neighbourhoods which may draw them back in to a previous way of life.
- Under promise and over deliver. Housing workers need to be clear about what they are and are not able to do. It is better to be able to provide better service than to not meet the minimum expectations of the service.
- Strive to reduce unrealistic ideas about what they can obtain by way of housing. Being able to work with youth to develop a budget is helpful to increase a youth’s understanding of their financial status in relationship to the market.
- Housing workers should give youth in-depth information about landlord-tenant legislation, and in particular, the youth’s rights and responsibilities. Helping a youth avoid eviction because of activities or behaviour that could have been prevented with a bit of knowledge, is a key way of reducing a youth’s return to homelessness.