Safe Housing for Youth (SHY) Program
This project also has a Changeshop where you can read more about its latest progress.
Go to Changeshop: Safe Housing for Youth (SHY) Program.
To find safe, affordable housing on South Vancouver Island for at-risk youth in the most cost-effective way while ensuring consistent and robust supervision.
About Your Organization
Threshold Housing Society
Canada, BC, Victoria
Country where this solution is creating social impact
Canada, BC, Victoria
Region in BC where your solution creates social impact
Is your organization a
Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)
How long have you been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two
The Need: Describe the need for your solution and the size and characteristics of the community(ies) your solution is engaging
In the 2008 “A Youth Housing Study for BC’s Capital Region” by the Community Social Planning Council, some 600 youths were identified as being without safe, stable housing. As of April 2012, there are only 16 dedicated beds for youth housing in all the Capital Region District (CRD). This number has remained the same for the past fifteen years. Threshold’s own experience is that once a youth finishes an average stay of about 12 months at one of our semi-independent houses, there are few if any safe and affordable housing units for them to transition into. The SHY program will address this need as we request agencies and landlords to participate in the program. As the SHY program evolves, it will be the only program in the CRD to increase the region’s capacity to house dislocated youth.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
The SHY program will work with the not-for-profit housing sector in requesting that one or two units be set aside specifically for youth housing. The SHY program will provide support and supervision of the youth; it aims to build positive rental experience for the youth and the landlord. This support will include consistent visitations with the youth as well as bi-monthly life skills workshops, ready-to-rent training, and community resource access education. Our hope is to create long term tenancies for youth. The program is designed for youth who need minimal supervision, have a plan to move into the future, but need safe, affordable and stable housing to actualize their plans. So far the response has been magnificent. We have housed four youths thanks to partnerships with local non-profit agencies that would normally only house adults if our program didn't exist. These partners are pleased with our high standard of supervision and guidance for youth living under their roofs.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include the primary activities involved in your solution.
Our target population are at-risk youth aging out of care and transitioning into adulthood who have multiple barriers to finding safe housing. Modelled after programs running in Vancouver, Winnipeg and London, Ontario, the SHY Program is designed to house at least 8 youth over a one year period. We are now housing a youth who had been in care for a number of years and recently aged out only to find no affordable and safe housing regardless of the fact he works full time at a minimum wage job. Before this, he lived in crowded basements or rooms with several other youths who also couldn't find better, affordable accommodations. As part of this program, this young man will go into the ready-to-rent program and learn how to be a responsible renter as well as the life skills course which will teach him how to manage his emotions, his money and his time as he builds a future for himself. He has already expressed the possibility of entering a trade going back to school now that the anxiety and worry of living in precarious situations has been taken care of. Because at-risk youth cannot afford to pay such things as the security deposit and tenant insurance, the SHY program will cover these costs allowing the youth to put their money toward rental payment and food. The hope is that after a year or two as a successful renter with supervision, the youth will have the confidence and tools to find their way into the world and follow their dreams. Without such a program as SHY, young men and women cannot get a foothold into stable housing that improves their lives immeasurably.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others working to address the same needs as you and indicate what sets you apart from them.
In the entire Capital Region District of Victoria, there are only two non-profits offering transitional housing situations for at-risk youth, the Threshold Housing Society and the Pandora "Y" Youth Apartments. The total number of beds available has been steady at 16 for the last fifteen years. Other non-profit agencies who offer subsidized housing in the region to adults will not offer housing to youth because of the need for supervision. Owing to poor jobs and other barriers, most at-risk youth cannot afford to enter the market-value rental sector. There are no provincial or municipal plans to provide more housing for at-risk youth. The alternative for many youth are short and often unpleasant stays in youth shelters, some form of couch-surfing or living in over-crowded conditions.
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
The SHY Program started as a discussion at a Youth Housing Network Meeting. In Victoria there are only 16 beds of transitional-supported housing. We needed to find a solution without incurring huge building expenses. When the discussion started it was about building a list of landlords who provided safe housing, affordable rent and were friendly to youth. The next question was how can we make housing affordable for at-risk youth that were growing into independence and needed extra support? The 'aha' moment was really when we decided to ask non-profit housing agencies who have housing stock to support the program by designating one or two subsidized housing units for the SHY Program. At the present rate, it is likely that by 2013, we will have added 8 additional housing units for youth to the South Vancouver Island area with the help from our friends at BC Housing, Pacifica Housing Advisory Association, Capital Region Housing Corporation and Greater Victoria Housing Society.
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve
We are trying to achieve safe and affordable housing for at-risk youth in order to stabilize their lives and eventually help them into the rental market. Key to the program is that we offer housing units at subsidized rates with support since many youths, aged out of care, have never lived on their own. Without this assistance the temptation is all too easy to stay in a negative peer group and miss opportunities for change and development. We want to teach at-risk youth: how to build a home and not just live in a house; have them understand their rights and responsibilities as a tenant as well as their obligations to a landlord; help them achieve their educational and employment goals by providing internet and phone in the housing units; build a sense of community within the SHY Program.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
We have increased the number of supported housing units for youth in our community from 16 to 20 within 3 months and are waiting for another 5 to open before winter. This has been a fantastic feat since there was no need to construct new buildings or renovate old ones. This solution seems simple and elegant and it has garnered a lot of support from the community. We are bringing a quality of housing that we could not have offered in the private market. Youth in the program are continuously stating how grateful they are for this opportunity and how they appreciate the extra support. So far it has been an amazing experience and we hope we can continue providing this service. At the moment, the response from the outreach workers and other agencies has been fabulous in terms of building a waiting list of potential candidates who would benefit from such program. As the program gains in reputation, we hope to begin looking for units in the market-value sector.
What is your projected impact over the next five years?
By housing more at-risk youth, we hope to prevent some youth from falling prey to street entrenchment, sexual exploitation, drug addiction and crime. Our hope for the project over the next five years is to continually build our inventory of available units specifically for youth housing. We want to expand into the West Shore area such as Metchosin, Sooke and Langford. There have been three studies done in 2012 on the need for youth housing in these localities. Currently need surpasses supply tenfold. Under the current rate of growth, the program might house as many as 25 to 30 youths in five years, with units being turned over to other youth as program participants move on to market-value rentals because they have been able to stabilize their life, save money, and begin to move forward.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Some barriers are funding. If we cannot secure funding for wages we have no support piece of this program and without the support piece we are unable to house youth. We will continue to look for funding in all areas to keep this program going. We believe in it and it is an amazing opportunity to support youth as the move into adulthood
Another barrier might be lack of affordable units. If this happens we will look outside funding to subsidize rents and look for landlords that might be willing to lower their rent for long term reliable tenants.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Contract with non-profit agencies
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Have 8 youth housed and supported
Continue to seek sources of rental housing friendly to youth throughout the region
Ensure that our youth receive supervision and care regularly
Tell us about your partnerships
The SHY Program has a number of community partners. Funding has been received from Coast Capital Savings, Victoria Real Estate Board and the BC Realty Association. Agencies that have been helpful in supplying housing units are BC Housing Corporation, Pacifica Housing Advisory Association, Capital Region Housing Corporation and Greater Victoria Housing Society. Shaw Cable has provide a reduced monthly rate to supply internet and telephone to the subsidized units.
Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?
Outside of expanding our geographical area to Langford, Metchosin, Colwood and Sooke, which have no accommodation for youth housing currently, we would like to work with agencies like CLBC to see if we can house youth with challenges but who are high functioning. Often these youth need to seek independence as well but have serious barriers to finding adequate, affordable housing.
What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?
We have great team spirit with an amazing leader who believes in us and is motivated to move forward and bring a quality of service that the youth deserve that we serve. As well we have had and continue to have community support and excitement about the SHY Program since the region, for so long, has been unable to respond to the dire need of more youth housing.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
There are about 70,000 homeless youth nation-wide and rising. Some have called this a national tragedy, especially in BC which has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. The issue needs much more media attention and national policy making to avoid creating an under-class that will burden the social welfare system. Stable housing is key to stopping this trend.