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The Choices Emergency Shelter

The Choices Emergency Shelter, connected to our Integrated Youth Services Centre, provides for the immediate basic needs of youth who identify as male or gender non-confirming. Young people accessing the Shelter can not only access food and a roof over their heads in moments of need, but they can also avail of other needed supports and services that CFY offers. This concept of easy-to-access, wrap-around supports being made available to young people when they need them is a great example of how we offer integrated services for youth.

The Shelter is a client-driven service that works with young people in crisis on a day-to-day basis. The Shelter team works to provide a safe space for youth at the shelter until they are ready to take the first step toward stability.

Jolene Cooze, The Shelter Program Coordinator

“All of these supports and referrals can only happen if young people are doing okay. We are different from a lot of the other programs because it’s day-to-day and our young people are not often doing well. There is a lot of support, a lot of de-escalation, and crisis intervention. You can’t put an application for Income Support in someone’s face when they have immediate needs.”

The Shelter operates primarily on self-referrals, with many young people hearing about it from their peers. Anyone can refer themselves to the Shelter and many young people simply show up at the door requesting services; Young people do not need to show any kind of identification to access services. If a young person needs certain pieces of identification to access other services, such as Income Support or the Health Sciences Centre services, the Shelter staff will support them in getting these documents.

The Shelter staff supports young people in any way they can, with the primary goal of finding them housing as quickly as possible. Shelter staff work hard to support youth in moving into more permanent housing in the community, whether that’s connecting them to other CFY programs like RallyForward or Soft Landing or getting them “paper-ready” to apply for Income Support

Jolene Cooze, The Shelter Program Coordinator

“Success looks different for everybody. In our shelter, the status quo means we are doing well. We’d like to say that all nine people moved out into housing in the community, but it doesn’t always look like that. It’s day-to-day, supporting people to be safer and to be alive. At the end of the day when we have nine young people housed and they’re safe, that’s a success.”

The Shelter currently has the resources to provide temporary housing to nine young people, and it is at full capacity most of the time, with its length of stay increasing as of late. Despite this, the Shelter team is supporting many more young people each day, because young people are struggling now more than ever due to increasing substance use, mental health challenges, housing shortages, and more. The Shelter is staffed 24 hours per day which means Shelter staff take the lead on supporting young people when other CFY services conclude for the day. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of its team, the Shelter is providing options for young people when they have nowhere else to turn.

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