KAMLOOPS — The final results for the first youth homelessness count in Canada are in.
"We identified over 129 youth who have experienced homelessness in Kamloops, 101 of these kids were within the same year as 2016," said Katherine McParland, youth homelessness manager with A Way Home. "We know that 56 of these youth were currently homeless the week of October 13th to 21st."
McParland, along with consultant JP Baker, compiled a report that details findings from the 2016 Kamloops Youth Homelessness Count conducted last October.
Community agencies and volunteers spent a week seeking out and speaking to youth to determine their living situations.
"It's not a simple case of saying, 'are you homeless?' because there's lots of youth who don't actually consider themselves homeless, but who we consider homeless," Baker said. "There's young people who bounce around on friends' and families' couches. If you ask them whether they're homeless they might say 'no', but then you ask them where they're staying tonight and they might say, 'I don't know.'"
Aboriginal youth make up the majority of the homeless youth population identified within the report. 59 per cent of the youth homeless at the time of the survey identified as Aboriginal.
The report also lists reasons why youth have lost housing. The number one response being some form of substance use of addiction issue. That's followed by family conflict, eviction, and abuse.
"This is one of the ways that youth homelessness is different from adult homelessness," Baker said. "Often youth homelessness stems from problems within a family home that the youth is trying to escape from."
Youth may also be homeless because they have aged out of foster care.
"Out of the 56 youth that were currently homeless, 40 per cent of the youth over 19 had aged out of foster care," McParland said, adding, "this is really important to me as a former youth in care who experienced homelessness, so it really calls for us as a community to create a movement to support these youth."
The Kamloops A Way Home Committee will be reviewing the report before drafting a number of recommendations in response. Those are likely to include safe suites: places for youth to live while they transition from the streets to permanent housing.
"We know that youth homelessness is so significantly different from adult homelessness," McParland said. "It really requires a prevention lens and a focus on youth housing."
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