Kingston, Ont., and Kamloops have more than just the letter K in common.
They are the only two Canadian communities that have been chosen for pilot projects involving youth homelessness.
Homelessness Action Plan co-ordinator Tangie Genshorek said Wednesday that being a pilot community means a wealth of resources will be made available so a better idea of the youth homelessness situation can be determined in Kamloops.
“The youth are fast becoming a concern, especially those aging out of the ministry system,” she said. “Once they reach 19, they’re on their own.”
Youth are defined as 15 to 24. Despite the annual homeless count being held for several years now, there hasn’t been a breakdown on that age group.
This year’s count did show that nine children were homeless — a number that shocked many.
Genshorek said the project will take about a year and involves a national co-ordinator travelling around Canada to the participating communities to help with research and share information from other cities.
“It’s a start and that’s important. For the HAP in Kamloops, it’s really big because we’ll have that national support. I’m really excited we’ll have support and be able to feed into other communities across Canada and find out what they’re doing,” she said.
Having solid information will help to obtain funding or grants down the road, she said.
Carmin Mazzotta, City project manager for housing and homelessness, said homeless youth have been identified as a concern in reports, research and by frontline workers in the community.
“This is a great opportunity for us to do more research and identify the scope of the need so we can tackle the issue,” he said.
The project will run through the year in 2013, at the end of which there should be some strategies and plans mapped out to help homeless youth.
One of the reasons Kamloops was chosen was because the groups that deal with the homeless work well together, he said.
“They noticed our community partnerships. One real issue in a lot of communities is you have a lot of agencies working on their own,” said Mazzotta.
There was a survey taken last July that saw 42 youth who were at risk of becoming homeless asked if they had ever been without housing. Seventeen said yes.
Many of those surveyed admitted they had mental health or addiction issues as well.
“They’re an extremely vulnerable population,” he said. “One of the issues is there’s no particularly youth-dedicated or supported housing.”