Sofa to Safety Raising Awareness of Youth Homelessness in the Valley
By Kelly McGregor
Watch the streets and in front of local establishments across the Annapolis Valley over the next month for a bright yellow sofa. The Portal Youth Outreach Association is doing a series of pop-ups to bring awareness and education around the issue of youth homelessness in the Annapolis Valley and their need for more host homes.
The couch highlights the fact that youth homelessness most often looks like couch surfing. The Portal’s last survey indicated that there are 60+ youth at risk or experiencing homelessness in the Valley. Couch surfing is dangerous because it can and often does lead to sexual or criminal exploitation. The Portal is recruiting members of the community to open their spare rooms and go through the process of being screened so that the youth that reach out to The Portal have safe options.
People often misunderstand and think that the child welfare system has options for youth 16-19, but that’s not true. If they were not already in care, then there is no access to the foster system or group homes. In the Annapolis Valley there are no youth-specific emergency shelters, so The Portal’s host home program is the only option. When we don’t have enough host homes, youth are staying in unsafe situations—sometimes even in dumpsters.
People also sometimes assume that at-risk youth are dangerous and are worried about the risk involved in hosting. These youth are more likely to be the victims of crime rather than commit crime, and in seven years and 105 host homes there has only been one incident of theft. The Portal screens and intentionally matches the youth to homes. The Portal also provides ongoing support to both the youth and the host.
Maybe you are not able to be a safe place for a youth right now but The Portal would love for you to come out to one of their pop-ups, take a picture with the yellow sofa and tag #sofatosafety to share your support for ending youth homelessness in the Annapolis Valley. You can find out their next location by going to their website, portalyouth.ca, or following them on facebook @portalyouthcentre or Instagram @portalyouth.