Rural Homelessness: The Lanark County Experience
In his article “Street Youth: Differences Between Small Towns and Cities”, 1991, Les Voakes reported the number of street (homeless) youth within most towns of Ontario could be calculated by multiplying 3 per 1,000 of the overall population. Therefore, a small town with 6,000 would likely have at least 18 homeless street youth at any given time. The Addiction Research Foundation (Smart et al.1990) reported their findings for Toronto with a similar calculation of 4 street youth per 1,000 of the population, but also noted that 56% of their respondents were not born in Toronto. It has become apparent that much of Canada’s urban “street youth problem” actually originates in small communities. Homeless youth from Lanark County will often travel to Ottawa and other cities in their efforts to find services and housing.
In Lanark County and area there has been a growing frustration due to the ongoing lack of resources, staffing, and options. In 2002, Transitions Action Coalition (Transitions) was formed from various community agencies throughout the County in response to these concerns. Initially, Transitions wanted to illustrate the reality of youth homelessness in Lanark County, which was often denied or minimized within the community.
The first task was to conduct a preliminary survey of local high schools, by circulating a questionnaire about homelessness. Nearly 1/3 of the youths surveyed had left home at least once, prompting Transitions to conduct a more thorough assessment. The more in-depth study of 100 youth was conducted through a participatory research model that involved youth, service providers and Transitions members from a range of disciplines, including social workers, addiction specialists, teachers, sociologists and anthropologists.
A key aspect of the process was youth involvement. Youth interviewers were provided with skills development, resource training and mentoring. It was hoped that with assistance, they would also contribute to writing the final report. A training day was arranged with a variety of workshops including: interviewing techniques and skills in probing sensitive issues, personal safety, and information on resources for youth in immediate need. Local service providers supported the youth researchers throughout the project, providing resources, consistent and accessible community contacts and assisting with problem solving.
“Transitions: Youth Homelessness in Lanark County” written in 2003, was a group effort by youth writers and Transitions members who came to be known as the ‘Eh Team.’ The process focused on providing information in a meaningful way for a wide audience, meanwhile having clear messages for decision-makers, particularly politicians and funders. It was also important to Transitions that the report maintain a youth voice, thereby presenting the same sense of urgency they had communicated about the issue.
The report identified and highlighted significant factors associated with rural youth homelessness including: employment, education, substance abuse, family factors, as well as mental and physical health. Of particular concern was that 63% of the respondents were 15 years of age or younger when they first became homeless. Homelessness at such a young age has obvious negative implications for all other areas of a youth’s life. Specifically, 46% said their unstable housing situation affected their school performance. Another 46% had contemplated or attempted suicide. Only 1 in 3 of these youth sought out any form of assistance or intervention. 23% said they felt they had mental health concerns and only a small percentage of them had received a clinical diagnosis. These numbers suggest that a large number have not been identified as having mental health concerns and therefore have not yet received the appropriate help.
Since the dissemination of this report, Transitions has been gaining momentum and is closer to accomplishing their primary goal of developing a service and support model for homeless youth.
In June 2005, Transitions received a grant from The National Crime Prevention Strategy of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to move into phase II of their development plan. This phase included the hiring of a community developer to conduct primary and secondary research as it directly relates to homelessness in Lanark County. This has meant convening and organizing a community forum, compiling a report based on findings of the community forum and writing a business proposal and sustainability plan for implementation.
With funding support from both the National Crime Prevention Strategy and The Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO, Transitions plans to host a two-day community forum on March 29th and 30th, 2006. This forum will bring together various members of the community to address youth homelessness. Key components to the success of the forum will be community collaboration and a consideration for the geographical and demographical uniqueness of Lanark County. What works in urban centres may not necessarily be a good fit for Lanark.
In summary, it is apparent that services available to assist homeless youth in rural areas are currently lacking. Many of the services are either inaccessible and or are not geared to the local youth’s needs. It is Transitions’ intention to change the current status of services and to provide a new and effective model of intervention that will address the specific needs of homeless youth in Lanark County. We are committed to decreasing the number of Lanark’s homeless youth who migrate to urban areas.
To access the full report, visit www.TYPS.com.
For more information on the community forum or about Transitions Action Coalition please contact Andrea Brown, Transiitons Community Developer at Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth (sponsoring agency) at 613-283-8260 x226 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstracts for many projects are available online in the library of the Centre Web site at www.excellenceforchildandyouth.ca.
Encouraging Youth to Speak Out
Youth can make a difference in our communities. Some of the projects funded during our inaugural competition include:
If you know of any creative/innovative youth in your community who may be interested, information on how to apply is available at www.daretodreamprogram.ca or by calling toll free 1-866-282-7601.
If you would like to mentor a youth interested in this program, please contact us and we will help get you connected. The deadlines for submission of applications are March 31 and October 31, 2006.
Information posters were recently mailed to the majority of secondary schools in Ontario as well as community youth organizations. If you would like a copy to post in your work area, call or email to request one.
More on Grants and Awards
Expertise Mobilization Awards
If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing a research or educational project, but lacks the time to do it within his or her daily schedule, this opportunity is waiting for you. These Expertise Mobilization Awards are offered twice a year. The next deadline for applications is July 4, 2006.
Professional Development Awards
Education and Training Awards
The next deadline for Graduate and Post-Doctorate/Fellowship Awards is December 1, 2006. If you know of any graduate or post-doctorate students or fellows interested in child and youth mental health, please direct them to our Web site for information on how to apply. We welcome submissions from all disciplines of mental health training. Prepare students now to secure funding for next year.
The Child and Youth Mental Health Services Directory helps young people, parents, and caregivers find services in their region, and connects service providers to share information on the services they offer. Just launched, it is a growing resource, so join the directory or recommend an organization to us!
The Researchers Directory is growing too! Join over 100 child and youth mental health researchers from across Ontario. It could be your first step in finding that perfect research partner. We also encourage doctoral and postdoctoral students conducting relevant research, to enter profiles into the directory.
Are you interested in Doing More With What You Know? The Centre will be launching a toolkit with helpful tips on effective knowledge exchange strategies and models of productive community-university partnerships. The package is geared to applicants of our Grants and Awards programs, however anyone can access this key resource online.
Therapeutic Crisis Intervention:
TCI was developed based on the best available evidence and many months of consultations with experts, including front-line people in the field. Cornell University continues to do program evaluation and research related to theory, adult education and training techniques, and physical interventions. Evaluation of TCI’s effectiveness has demonstrated decreased negative events such as physical restrain episodes, fighting incidents, physical assaults, runaways, and verbal threats. It has also increased staff capacity through greater confidence in their ability to manage crises and help young people develop coping skills. In addition to invoking less fear in staff as they are better able to focus on the young people seeking help.*
Safeguards Training for Children and Adult Service coordinates Open Enrollment TCI training for the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada. Safeguards offers an intensive five-day train-the trainer course that builds the in-house training capacity in the TCI curriculum. Participants in this course learn to teach TCI techniques, including how to supervise safe restraint practice sessions, how to use practice sessions and training aids in agency programs, how to handle resistance to training, and how to evaluate trainees’ skills.
At the successful completion of the course, participants receive a Trainer Certificate and the opportunity to network with other TCI trainers to share experiences and learn from one another. Service providers often face challenges implementing new evidence-based practices and treatments when they return to work; the TCI model provides direction and support on how to build in policies and procedures that facilitate the successful implementation of the program.
For more information on TCI in Ontario or Safeguards’ train-the-trainer program, you can go to the Safeguards Web site (http://www.safeguards-training.net/). *Agencies can access the complete TCI System Implementation Guide on the Cornell University Web site http://rccp.cornell.edu/tci/tci-1_system.html
Education and Training is a key pillar of the Centre's philosophy, part of what helps us define our direction and priorities. According to Herbert Spencer, “The aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” These words are the inspiration of Jane Tallim’s approach as the Centre’s new Education and Learning Specialist.
In upcoming editions of CHECKPOINT this section will list opportunities in education and training that could be available to you.
Education: Empowering and Mobilizing
As the new “resident teacher” for the Centre, Jane, together with partners in the field, promotes and supports education and training among professionals and the wider community. This includes assessing existing education and training activities; consulting with organizations and individuals to determine gaps and challenges; developing and facilitating access to web-based training; and providing mentorship and educational consultation to organizations wishing to create their own educational programs. For parents and youth, Jane will be developing resources to help them get the most out of the knowledge, tools and services being developed at the Centre of Excellence.
A large part of Jane’s activities will revolve around public education programs to build awareness of the importance of child and youth mental health. This will include learning more about what is already being done around public education in this area, bringing key players together to discuss how best to support each other’s activities, and developing new tools and initiatives to build awareness of the importance of child and youth mental health and illness. Having spent close to a decade as Director of Education for Canada’s Media Awareness Network, where she created award-winning education and training resources on a wide range of media and Internet issues affecting children and youth, Jane brings a wealth of experience in both formal education and public awareness. Jane can be reached at the Centre by email at email@example.com or by phone at 613-737-7600 ext. 3324.
Don Buchanan, McMaster Children’s Hospital
“I’ve been interested in how to help families and young people understand more about the problems that bring them to a children’s mental health centre for a long time, and I know that providing good quality information can make a big difference in how parents and young people manage their mental health concerns.”
Don Buchanan’s “Developing a Community Education Service” project involves working with other children’s mental health agencies across the province to develop community capacity to provide parent workshops and groups. He has developed a web-based data system for communities to enter information about their courses and has produced print and electronic “catalogues” of the course offerings.
“We currently print about 250,000 catalogues a year, and one goes home with every child in our community schools. This changes the notion of parenting courses from something that ‘you get sent to because you’re a bad parent’ to a universally accessible program that can benefit all parents. We are also working to improve the courses that are available, through emphasizing the importance of fidelity in providing evidence-based courses.”
Don Buchanan is the Coordinator of the Child and Youth Health Partnership at McMaster Children’s Hospital, one of five Child Health Networks across Ontario. He is also a recipient of an Expertise Mobilization Award from The Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO. His project “Developing a Community Education Service” is focused on disseminating best practices in educating families and young people about children’s mental health problems.
A number of communities are currently involved in this project, including recent presentations in Kingston, Halton, Brockville, and Woodstock. “The first step is to get the people around the table who are interested in parent education” says Mr. Buchanan. “By working together to market the courses, all the agencies benefit. I tell them that the competition for your parenting course isn’t the other agencies in town, it’s hockey, and bowling and watching TV, all those other things that parents can choose instead of your course.”
The presentation includes a review of the evidence that parent training is an effective intervention; sharing marketing research Mr. Buchanan has conducted on parent preferences for courses and an overview of the web-based data system. There is follow-up training and an Internet List Serv for continued support to communities developing a similar service.
Mr. Buchanan has worked in a variety of roles at McMaster Children’s Hospital that led to his current work. “I started as a front-line staff person in a residential program, worked in the classroom attached to the residence, managed the psychiatry intake service and then helped establish our Family Resource Centre and Community Education Service,” said Don. “The constant theme through all of those jobs was trying to help families and young people learn more about their mental illness, and how they could then understand their problems from a different perspective.”
A special edition of CHECKPOINT dedicated to an overview of the Final Report from Senator Kirby’s Mental Health and Illness Review in Canada to be released in April. Will it change anything in the big picture and what impact might it have on your day-to-day work? Watch for it….
Regional Conferences to Resume…