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.
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.