An epidemic of youth homelessness may be hitting our region.
That’s according to multiple organizations who note they’ve seen a big rise in the number of young adults and teens living on the streets.
One such group is the Centre of Hope.
“I can’t tell you the why – all I can say is we’re seeing it too,” said Amanda Holloway, Executive Director.
The majority of people they help on a daily basis are over the age of 45. In just under a year, they’ve started to notice more new faces, many between the ages of 16-24.
Holloway says it’s an alarming sight to see firsthand.
“They’re individuals who somewhere along the way got lost and they need our support.”
The organization doesn’t have any concrete numbers as of right now.
One thing they’ve noticed is a big chunk of the homeless, young and old, seem to be Indigenous. On average, around 46 per cent of the individuals they help are Aboriginal.
“They are incredibly disproportionate in the population of people living in homelessness in this region,” added Holloway.
The issue seems to be hitting communities across the region, many having to couch surf to stay out of the cold.
Salvation Army Working To Help The Homeless
Every Tuesday and Thursday, volunteers park a vehicle along MacDonald Drive in an attempt to help the less fortunate.
On a specific night in March, Mix News joined the group and watched them handout food, drinks, and even clothing to many homeless – some on their way to the Salvation Army’s ‘Mat Program. This allows around 30 people a chance for them to sleep inside, avoiding the cold weather.
At one point during the night, three young adults came by the vehicle.
Not properly dressed for the winter, they were handed toques, gloves, food, and coffee.
Major Bond Jennings says it always crosses his mind how some people this young get to this situation.
“We just wonder what happened along life’s journey that a person would end up here. There are so many circumstances that some of these people face in life that maybe this is the best they can hope for.”
Most of those who frequented the truck that evening looked to be above the age of the 30.
However, the group says it’s not uncommon to see the odd teen or young adult ask for help.
‘You see 18, 19 like that, they’re teenagers, young men, ladies – it hurts you to see it,” added Winsor Earle, Group Volunteer.
Municipality Seeing the Opposite
Despite both the Salvation Army and Centre of Hope noticing some upwards trends, the municipality says their stats show otherwise.
In a statement, the RMWB note they don’t see any signs pointing towards there being more youth homeless.
“We are also not seeing many youth access the services in place for the homeless. We awarded a contract to determine what the needs and priorities of youth are and also to get some idea of how many youth are actually self-identifying as homeless.”
The results from the research are expected by the end of April.
Meanwhile, Wood Buffalo council is working on a plan to fight rural homelessness. It’s expected to coincide with Fort McMurray’s 10-year plan which is set for renewal