Subsidized housing spaces for youth are tough enough to find


Not knowing where you’re sleeping from one night to the next leaves many young people anxious

Mark Muldoon received 117 referrals to house youth in 2015.

The executive director of Threshold Housing Society, a non-profit organization offering transitional housing for youth, says they only have 30 rooms in total. That means he has the unfortunate task of saying “no” more often than he says “yes.”

The calls from the Ministry of Child and Family Development, high school councillors, First Nations child and family services, Pacific Centre Family Services Association, foster parents and even self referrals just can’t be fulfilled.

“We draw from as far north as Nanaimo and Duncan. We even have youth from Port Alberni, Port Hardy, Cobble Hill; and they all come here,” Muldoon says. “They’re all drawn here because perhaps they have to finish school, perhaps employment opportunities are better here, (maybe) mental health services are a bit better.”

One way or another, he says, the youth find their way to Greater Victoria. Contrary to what some may believe, he adds, the vast majority are great kids and face different challenges that mean they can’t be lumped in with adults.

“Unless this society really separates out adult homelessness and youth homelessness, they are never going to get it right. With youth homelessness, the kids are not there by choice, they have been abandoned, they are escaping abuse, they are aging out of foster care or there’s family conflict,” he says. “But the prejudice out there is huge. They think these kids are anti-authoritarian … that these youth are just somehow bucking the system and they just want to party. That’s not our experience.”

West Shore-raised Camellia Lawson remembers what it felt like at 16 to not know where she was going to sleep the next night. She said it was one of the most challenging times of her life. After cutting herself to the point where she didn’t know if she’d be able to stop, she handed over her pocket knife to her adoptive parents.

Instead of packing her books for school the next day, she packed her bags, because she knew she likely wouldn’t be back home anytime soon.

“I was in the hospital for a little while and the discharge papers came through from the psychiatrist, and it was signed off for me to leave, (but) my adopted parents decided it wouldn’t be best … So they kind of handed over their rights while I was in the hospital,” she says. “It was a weekend, so no one knew what to do. (An) on-call social worker at the hospital was trying to figure out what to do.”

Still in high school, Lawson was fresh off a stint in a mental hospital to help her deal with challenges and had nowhere to go. It was one of the worst days of her life, she says.

“(Youth) don’t know how to reach out for services. Sometimes the services are overfull and (people) slip through the cracks. It’s definitely an issue.”

Shyann Hoppe is a nursing student at the University of Victoria studying youth homelessness and advocates options for youth on the West Shore. She says the problem spreads far further than just the physical need for shelter.

“Anxiety, and other types of psychological disease processes, are all affected by outward factors that you’re predisposed to if you are homeless,” she says.  “At the end of your day you’re exhausted. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, if you have worked a full shift, if you are running errands all day; how good it feels at the end of the day to go to a house, a place you can call a home … It doesn’t matter where you live, having that place to go really solidifies your holistic well being.”

Hoppe, part of a cohort studying the West Shore specifically says even a couple of weeks of not having a place to go creates anxiety, a general feeling of malaise, and affects mental and physical health and the motivation to succeed.

“I think it’s very important to have that support and motivation in life when you are a youth,” she says. “There aren’t any resources that are easily accessible for the youth in the West Shore right now, and that is one of the reasons we focused on the West Shore.”

Stories in this series:




Just Posted

Canada’s first home game in the America Rugby Championships comes this Friday

It’s Canada versus Chile Feb. 22 at Westhills Stadium in Langford

Canadian Premier League announces media partnership with international broadcaster

Langford Mayor Stew Young said partnership is a “big deal” for Langford

Disturbance near Saanich Plaza

Emergency crews on scene for Blanshard Street call

Victoria mayor preparing to tour Alberta oil sands

Lisa Helps heads to Alberta after an invitation came from Calgary councillor Ward Sutherland

Canadians spent more than $8 billion on pet-related items in 2017

Fifty-seven per cent of Canadian households own pets

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Regulator’s report unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline expansion battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

B.C. woman shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

Leona Huggins was the only Canadian in the gathering ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican

Galchenyuk scores in OT as Coyotes edge Canucks 3-2

Vancouver manages single point as NHL playoff chase continues

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Most Read