As October rolls around, two significant global awareness days come into focus: World Homeless Day (October 10) and World Mental Health Day (October 10). These two observances might seem unrelated at first, but a closer look reveals a profound connection between homelessness and mental health. We’ll dive into this interconnection and explore the work we do and how it is impacting the lives of homeless youth. We’ll also share ways you can get involved and play a part in helping us end youth homelessness.
The Interconnected Challenges
Homelessness and mental health are intertwined in complex ways. Many individuals experiencing homelessness are also grappling with mental health issues, and conversely, homelessness can exacerbate mental health struggles. When a young person is encountering obstacles in obtaining and securing stable, suitable, and adequate housing, they can be more inclined to face mental health struggles and encounter more barriers when trying to access timely mental health support. Not to mention, the harsh realities of life on the streets can cause stress, trauma, and emotional distress, further compounding mental health challenges. The reverse is also true — youth dealing with mental health issues can experience challenges in securing permanent housing and can face discrimination based on their mental health. This creates a cycle that can be incredibly difficult to break without proper support.
The mental health findings as a result of Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey (2016) by homeless hub are distressing:
- 85.4% of homeless youth were experiencing a mental health crisis
- 42% of homeless youth reported at least one suicide attempt
- 35.2% of homeless youth reported at least one drug overdose that required hospitalization
Covenant House Vancouver
At Covenant House Vancouver, we understand the link between homelessness and mental health and are dedicated to providing support and resources to youth experiencing homelessness. Not only do we offer a range of services that include shelter, food, clothing, and medical care, but our holistic approach to our services includes supporting youth with their mental health needs.
- Safe and Supportive Shelter: Covenant House Vancouver is a safe and welcoming shelter for young people in need. Having a secure place to sleep and access to necessities is a critical first step in stabilizing the lives of homeless youth.
- Mental Health Services: Recognizing the significance of mental health in breaking the cycle of homelessness, we offer comprehensive mental health support. This includes counselling, therapy, and access to psychiatric care. We provide a space where young people can talk about their struggles, trauma, and anxieties in a non-judgmental environment.
- Skill Development: Life skills are a critical component in empowering youth and helping them regain independence and move towards a brighter future. These skills include education, job training, cooking, budgeting, personal hygiene and self-care, and assistance with finding employment.
- Holistic Approach: Our approach to healing is holistic, which means that weaddress, not only the immediate needs of youth, but also their needs for their long-term well-being. This approach aims to restore dignity and hope to those who have lost it.
Let’s explore how you can make a difference in the lives of homeless youth and contribute to the effort to end youth homelessness:
- Donate: Consider making a financial contribution to Covenant House Vancouver or a similar organization in your area. Your donation can help provide shelter, food, and mental health services to homeless youth.
- Volunteer: Many organizations rely on volunteers to support their mission. You can offer your time and skills to help with various tasks, from serving meals to mentoring youth.
- Advocate: Raise awareness about youth homelessness and mental health by sharing information on social media, organizing fundraisers, or engaging with local policymakers to prioritize these issues.
- Mentorship: If you have expertise in a particular field, consider offering mentorship to young people who are striving to build a better future for themselves.
- Spread Compassion: Sometimes, a simple act of kindness can make a world of difference. Treat homeless individuals with respect and empathy, acknowledging their humanity.
Mental Health Tips From Covenant House Youth
We asked Covenant House Vancouver youth to each share one piece of advice that they’ve received and have practiced to maintain or improve their mental health and here is what they shared with us:
World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day remind us of the silent struggle faced by homeless youth and the crucial role mental health support plays in breaking the cycle of homelessness. Even the smallest efforts can make a world of difference in the lives of these young individuals. By getting involved and supporting organizations like ours, we can collectively work toward ending youth homelessness and ensuring that every young person has the opportunity for a brighter future. Together, we can build hope from the ground up.