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Yarmouth SHYFT stats point to difference being made for homeless youth

Adam Dolliver, executive director of youth services at SHYFT.
Adam Dolliver, executive director of youth services at SHYFT.

YARMOUTH - Adam Dolliver wants you to know you’re making a difference in the lives of homeless youth.

He says when he took the position in Yarmouth as executive director of youth services SHYFT – Supportive Housing Youth Focus Team – he was really surprised at how many young people needed somewhere to live.

“Homelessness in rural Nova Scotia looks a lot different than homelessness in Halifax,” he said.

“We don’t have people panhandling on the street, sleeping on Main Street. They’re couchsurfing, breaking into empty buildings, sleeping in tents or in the open,” says Dolliver. “It’s not as visible here.”

After opening in 2011, the organization came close to closing because of lack of funding. Due in great part to public outcry, the Community Services Department stepped up to fill part of the funding void.

Dolliver wants to share statistics from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 to let the public know how much it has made a difference.

“We’ve served 165 outreach youth. Those are youth that don’t actually live at the house but are individuals in Shelburne, Digby or Yarmouth county that we’ve met and provided services to,” he said.

SHYFT key worker Cheyenne Burke and assistant executive director Jerica Matthews prepare orange juice from donated fruit.

Supportive counseling is a large part of that work. It was provided 2,466 times to the 165 youth. Some return multiple times.

Programs and workshops, held in the tri-counties, were accessed 637 times. Referrals to other agencies –for example to mental health or pregnancy counselors - was provided 634 times.

There were 36 youth who lived at SHYFT. Typically youth from the tri-counties are assisted but of those 36 youth, 25 were from the region, five from Halifax County, one from Cumberland County, three from New Brunswick and one from British Columbia.

Youth are permitted to stay three months. If they are close to transitioning (to their own accommodations) an exception can sometimes be made.

The average length of stay was 35 days. There were 32 youth on a waiting list. Of those, 11 did not stay when vacancies became available (they may have found accommodation at another place.)

The occupancy rate was 71 per cent last year (averaged over the year). It is higher during colder months: i.e.: April was 91 per cent, January was 86 per cent, July was 30 per cent.

Some of SHYFT’s residents and outreach clients in July: Ronda McCullough, Cory Brosseau, Hillary Robicheau and Nicholas Surette.

Of the 36 youth that stayed in house, 86 per cent transitioned out to independent living. Eight per cent returned to their family home. Eleven per cent ended up in another institution – some to jail for violations of the law, others to other homeless institutions.

“There are different degrees of homelessness. It’s very complex and it brings in all sorts of other things like the social determinates of health and poverty,” says Dolliver. “All these things come together to cause these issues for the youth.  I know from my own naïveté that maybe there are other folks that don’t really know how much of an impact we’re having.”

This, he says, is why he continues to share information about the organization.

 

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