The City of Brandon has been selected to join a nationwide program that aims to tackle the problem of youth homelessness.
"Mobilizing Local Capacity to End Youth Homelessness" is now in six communities, including Kamloops, B.C., Kingston, Ont., Saint John, N.B., Wellington County, Ont., and Yellowknife, N.W.T.
"We realized there is definitely a need … the community has made youth homelessness a priority, and they have the community co-ordination piece in place enough that this would make (Brandon) a strong partner," said Mary-Jane McKitterick, national community development co-ordinator for the Mobilizing Local Capacity to End Youth Homelessness program with Eva’s Initiatives.
McKitterick, who is based in Toronto, attended the official announcement at city hall on Tuesday.
"We’ll work very closely with the (Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation) through their steering committee to develop a community plan that will prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness," McKitterick said.
"It will contain various pieces — it will have prevention aspects, emergency pieces, accommodation, housing, the full continuum so the gaps are closed for youth homelessness."
Approximately 50 people were in attendance for the announcement, including Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell and Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire.
According to the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, it is estimated that between 150,000 to 200,000 Canadians are homeless. At least 20 per cent of them are between the ages of 16 and 24.
Marty Snelling, general manager with BNRC, estimates that in Brandon, anywhere between 20 and 60 youth are homeless at any given time.
"However, the ones couch-surfing is a much bigger number in this community," he said. "That is the one group that we really want to get at. The people that we’ve selected from the steering committee, I think we have a really good opportunity to really achieve some positive results."
Kelly Holmes, executive director of Resource Assistance for Youth in Winnipeg, said the goal is to move away from emergency response and be more proactive.
"We want to give them the resources that they need to better their lives, to improve their quality of living so that they can become sustained adults and be able to contribute back to society," she said.
"It’s about building a safety net that doesn’t allow anybody to fall through."
» Twitter: @jillianaustin