Staff from the Threshold Housing Society help local youth at risk with key elements of their safety and security, not least of which is stable accommodation. (Courtesy Threshold Housing)

Staff from the Threshold Housing Society help local youth at risk with key elements of their safety and security, not least of which is stable accommodation. (Courtesy Threshold Housing)

A hidden homeless scenario: The search for safe housing for youth

Part three in a series on youth homelessness in Greater Victoria

Shalu Mehta/News Staff

Safe housing, while a luxury for some, is something more than 150 youth in the region don’t have access to with not enough shelter beds and an affordable housing crisis exacerbating the issue.

“Safe housing is a place where you can have some privacy, separation from the outside world as you desire, and avoidance of things like overcrowding and being around behaviour or activities that make you feel unsafe,” said Colin Tessier, executive director of Threshold Housing Society, a Victoria organization that aims to support youth and help them find safe housing. “It’s a place where a young person feels they have support and healing and can grow from.”

Tessier said many of the youth experiencing homelessness in the region, and those who work with the organization, come from precarious and often dangerous or unhealthy situations. They’ve likely been through a lot of transitions in their life and even find themselves in situations where they’re being abused. Their at-home situations become so dire that they start to search for other options to avoid being traumatized any further.

“There are youth who sleep on our streets every night and it’s more than a couple. It’s a hidden homeless scenario but they’re just trying to find a place to rest their head at night,” Tessier said.

Sofia, a youth accessing programs through Threshold who does not want her last name used out of fear for safety, felt she had no choice but to leave her home three years ago.

She said tension from her parents made her home an unsafe environment. She said she was limited in what she was allowed to do, wasn’t allowed to have friends, couldn’t get a job and wasn’t allowed to leave the house. Her parents kept her B.C. services card away from her so she couldn’t access mental health support over the phone so she turned to the internet.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Coming months will reveal fate of Greater Victoria’s rental market

When she was allowed to use the computer, she used it to access online counselling services and to look up ways to treat herself. Eventually, an incident at home led to her being able to access a psychiatrist over the phone.

“I didn’t see her too often but it was worth it,” Sofia said.

Her psychiatrist ended up connecting her with Threshold, where Sofia was able to access housing in one of their group homes.

“I was looking at homeless shelters but this seemed like more of a long-term solution,” Sofia said. “I just couldn’t achieve my goals at home and I felt stuck. I knew what I had to do but I was scared to take the next step.”

Sofia moved out at the age of 17, leaving her siblings and parents behind and cutting off contact with them. Now, at the age of 20, she’s living on her own in Threshold housing and is studying psychology at the University of Victoria.

“When I moved to Threshold the freedom felt really nice,” Sofia said. “I got a skateboard and constantly skateboarded everywhere. It was a fun way to cope.”

Now, as she gets older, Sofia is looking to transition out of Threshold and find a place to live but is worried she won’t be able to. With median one-bedroom apartment costs in Victoria sitting at about $1,600 a month, affordability is an issue. She said she feels young people are also discriminated against when applying for rentals. She doesn’t have any previous references outside of Threshold and said she worries that her applications will be disregarded.

“Victoria has a low vacancy rate that drives up prices and pushes marginalized populations even further out,” Tessier said. “There is racism and discrimination that permeates the housing market and also discrimination against those in poverty or who lack resources.”

READ ALSO: Victoria’s median asking rent for one-bedroom hits $1,600

According to a statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, options are being built for youth experiencing homelessness in Victoria. Currently, B.C. Housing funds 63 units of supporting or special needs housing for youth in the Capital Regional District as well as 30 temporary shelter spaces designated for homeless youth in Victoria. The housing provider is continuing to work with partners to identify housing options for vulnerable youth.

Youth transitioning out of foster care are also a priority group identified by BC Housing’s Homeless Prevention Program.

“It’s unacceptable for any youth to have to spend a night without a home or in search of a stable place to live in order to feel safe,” the statement said. “We agree that more needs to be done to address youth homelessness and agree that a cross-government, provincial response is required.”

Tessier said that while he’s grateful for Threshold’s partners and the various ministries they work with, youth homelessness is a wider, societal issue.

“One of the heartbreakers is that this is the system that creates long-term, adult homelessness,” Tessier said. “We need to strengthen our system, fill those gaps and find opportunities so more young people have the opportunity to change their life.”

-with files from Nina Grossman

This Black Press Media series will take a look at different factors of youth homelessness in the region. This is part three of the four-part series.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

affordable housingBC HousingHomeless

Just Posted

The Coastal Fire Centre is looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)
Coastal Fire Centre looking ahead at wildfire season on Vancouver Island

‘We’re asking people in the spring to be very careful’

There are lots of resources for seniors looking for information about COVID-19. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
COVID questions? Here are some phone-based resources available for seniors

Here is a list of numbers to keep on hand for Vancouver Islanders who aren’t fond of computers

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

Interior Health nurses were administering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aides in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. In Salmon Arm on March 11, guests, staff and support personnel at the Salvation Army's Lighthouse Shelter at McGuire Lake were vaccinated. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
Roden: I can’t wait to get shot

What, me worried about the COVID-19 vaccine? Not in the slightest

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

Cynthia Cummings, decked out in tie-die at The Funky Food Truck in Royal Bay, Colwood. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
Psychedelic food truck the next thing for veteran’s wife in Colwood

From tropical resort to thrift store and now a food truck, if Cynthia Cummings thinks it, she’ll do it

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp and gardener Greg Higgs restart the restored water wheel at the campus’ Japanese Garden. (Photo courtesy of Royal Roads University)
Restored water wheel returns to Japanese Garden at Royal Roads in Colwood

The wooden wheel was initially installed betweem 1915 and 1930

Nanaimo-based musician Shawn Hall, the ‘Harpoonist’ in the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer blues duo, is presenting a free, live-streamed show from the Port Theatre on April 23. (Photo courtesy Colin McTaggart)
Nanaimo musician Shawn Hall presents free online show from the Port Theatre

Last year Hall released ‘Satellite Man’ EP with new group Satellite and the Harpoonist

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read