Of 264 youth who completed a survey in Penticton, 1.6 per cent are currently homeless and 3.1 per cent are couch surfing.
These are just some of the findings of a recent survey put out by the city of Penticton and the Foundry who partnered to better understand youth at risk in South Okanagan.
The survey was advertised in local schools, at The Foundry, with posters in local stores and bulletin boards, and outreach to youth in the community.
Before the survey results, there was no true picture of how many youths in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness, said the city’s social development coordinator Adam Goodwin.
The average age of respondents was 15, with a range of 13 to 26.
• Of youth who participated in the survey, approximately 23.9 per cent indicated that at some point in their life they had experienced precarious housing and/or homelessness. (Data interpretation caution: This is a youth who participated in the survey, and cannot be generalized to all youth in Penticton.)
• Of these youth, 58.3 per cent identify as male, 8.3 per cent identify as trans-male, and approximately half identify as Indigenous (First Nation, Metis, Inuit).
Of these youth, they said some of the reasons for currently being in a precarious housing situation and/or experiencing homelessness include: they are in a conflict with the adults in their home, feel unsafe at home, left foster care, ageing out of care/foster care, and/or were kicked out of their home.
If they need help with something such as housing, youth indicated they would talk to friends, a school counsellor/teacher, and/or the Foundry.
There were also some preliminary interviews with youth. Some of the highlights of these interviews:
• There is youth slipping through the cracks from federal and provincial government ministries and systems.
• There is a significant need for more data about youth homelessness in the South Okanagan.
In terms of the next steps for the project, various youth and youth-serving organizations will review the results of the survey and identify youth-centred solutions to help the community move forward, said the city’s social development coordinator Adam Goodwin.
A full report will be available in July 2021, including recommendations around the next steps from youth and youth organizations.
Foundry Penticton, located on Main in downtown Penticton offers a variety of services including counselling/mental health support, substance use support, physical and sexual health, family peer support, employment and housing support.
A young person under 18 is not allowed to stay at a homeless shelter under provincial regulations. There are also no treatment centres for youth experiencing substance use in Penticton.
Ten beds just recently opened in Kelowna for those ages 12 to 18, but that is for the entire population of Interior Health.