A new program has started up in the Cowichan Valley to combat youth homelessness.
Host Homes Cowichan is a pilot program facilitated by Social Planning Cowichan. The program will match youth and young adults, (16-26), who are close to or are experiencing homelessness with a host family that can support them towards independent living.
“Youth homelessness has a gap that we’re seeing right now in terms of offering services,” project director Rosalie Sawrie said. “This provides hopefully a more permanent option for people to figure out what else they need, otherwise we see a lot of couch surfing in that age group. This gives them time to settle down, have a place to stay, have people who are there to care and support them, and identify what goals they may have.”
There are approximately 24 confirmed homeless youth living in the Cowichan Valley, according to a CVRD survey. The problem of youth homelessness is compounded by a lack of supports in the community, and a rental market with an average price of $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit.
“There are a lot of additional barriers for any young person trying to find a rental. Especially because the market is so saturated with people looking…often landlords don’t want to take a risk on someone who hasn’t rented before, or someone who’s young,” Sawrie said.
Host Homes Cowichan is looking for host families to match with youth. They are asking Cowichan Valley residents of all backgrounds and family compositions to consider becoming hosts, as different youth will have different needs.
The main requirements for hosts are that they have a private bedroom for youth, and can provide three meals per day. There is a $450 monthly stipend for host families to offset the cost of additional food. For youths, the main requirement is that they are receiving support services from an accredited support organization.
Youth and host families will be supported by Host Homes Cowichan. Both parties agree to terms and conditions of the living arrangement prior to moving in. If the living situation does not work out, then youths can be relocated, and host families can host other youths.
“We’re really hoping this will be a success so we can expand on the program, and perhaps we can expand to look at seniors, and other age groups as well as youths. That’s something we’re really hoping for long term. We really have to be creative with our housing solutions, because people are having difficulty in finding a place to live that they can afford… we’ll really need the community support to get there,” Sawrie said.