Turning 18 can be an exciting time, it’s the magical age of adulthood. However, for youth under the care of Social Services, this milestone birthday brings an unwanted gift of uncertainty.
Dakota Riverfloyd Courtney, 19, arrived at Street Culture Project‘s downtown shelter when he was 15. He stayed there for two months before transferring to Glinn, a peer home for boys.
“The boys there were pretty welcoming and kind,” Courtney recalled. As he approached his eighteenth birthday, he knew that his time at the home was about to come to an end.
“I knew at Glinn you’re only allowed to stay there when you’re on Section 10 and that runs out when your 18.” Fear and anxiety triggered as the burdens of adulthood began to set in.
“I was just worried about where I was going to go.”
Youth under section 10 of the Child and Family Services Act receive support for services such as housing, medication and counselling when they are unable to live with their family for safety reasons or when there is no parent willing or able to take responsibility for the young person.
“On their birthday month, that’s when they are removed from government system and are on their own. If they’re a long term ward, they can have services up to 21. But at 18 they would go on regular social assistance if they didn’t have a job,” said Mike Gerrand, Street Culture Project director of operations.
Gerrand has been working at Street Culture Project since 2007; over the years he’s seen a gap in the system for youth post eighteen.
With the urge to take action, he decided to reach out to Namerind Housing Corporation for help, an organization that works to provide affordable housing. Within two weeks of the initial call, a plan was in action.
“In our current capacity, we work primarily with families. We saw the opportunity to work with Street Culture Project because they cater to youth and that was a missing demographic for us,” said Namerind Housing Corporation director of operations, Judith D Langen.
In June 2018, they opened up their first subsidized apartment dedicated to youth that have over-aged the system. Located just a few blocks from downtown Regina, this building features eight fully furnished one-bedroom suites.
A place like this can cost up to $1200 a month in the city. With the support of Street Culture Project and Namerind Housing Corporation, this ready to move in place is priced at only $600 a month with all utilities included.
Most of the tenants in the building have once lived in a Street Culture Project shelter.
“They kind of look out for one another which is another real positive thing so it’s a real safe space for them,” Gerrand mentioned. Along with the tenants is another familiar face in the complex. A full-time Street Culture Project staff lives in the building as an onsite mentor.
“We want them to be successful citizens contributing to the society and Regina. How are they going to do that without the support?” questioned Langen.
With wall-to-wall support and less financial burdens, the tenants can now focus on their future. “Of the seven tenants, we have six that are full time employed and some that are in school and employed. They’re able to do that because they don’t have to worry so much about getting extra hours at work because the rent is affordable,” Gerrand said.
With a place to call home, Courtney is one of the tenants that took advantage of this opportunity. He now works with Street Culture Project on their props team, helping mentor youth and teaching job skills.
“It feels good being older now and being able to help to youth learn stuff, rather than being the one getting help,” Courtney proudly stated. Through his experience, he wants to encourage others that were once in his shoes.
“Things will get better, it’s just a matter of time and like how much you want it to get better.”
With no government funding, the apartment subsidy is funded from the profits of Namerind’s pharmacy and commercial properties. In the future, they hope to receive additional funding to replicate this model and create more safe and affordable homes for young adults.
“I know that social services is definitely interested in what we’re doing. They are interested in the successes that we’re having for post eighteen. They may want a similar model for kids under eighteen that are in care as well. We’ve had some preliminary talks about that so we will see how it goes.” Gerrand said.
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