Youth in Transition Fredericton (Fall Grant 2017)
Youth in Transition Fredericton is an organization that believes that every human being deserves to have a home: one that provides respect, safety, stability, nutritious meals, and every opportunity to succeed. With the number and proportion of young Canadians without adequate housing having increased in the past two decades, Youth in Transition aims to provide homeless youth in central New Brunswick with a secure living environment that introduces opportunities for skill development and well-being, along with assisting residents in becoming independent and active members of society through positive role-modelling and leadership. Chrysalis House, the organization's youth residence, models a stable and nurturing home setting where its young residents are treated with dignity and respect.
YOUTH IN TRANSITION FREDERICTON
According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, approximately 35, 000 youth would find themselves homeless within a year, on any given year in Canada. “[Youth homelessness] is an invisible problem in our community because we tend to hide our homelessness in Fredericton,” explained Julie Gallant Daigle, Executive Director of Youth in Transition. “Youth are really good at hiding that they’re homeless […] they might stay with a friend one night and stay with another friend the next. I wager that a lot of these youth stay in the parental home, even though the circumstances are not ideal for their wellbeing.” Over sixty percent of homeless youth have experienced past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or have been neglected.
Youth in Transition Fredericton is responsible for the central part of the province, encompassing Fredericton and surrounding areas like Oromocto, Chipman, Minto, Stanley, Nackawic, McAdam, and Perth. First incorporated as a volunteer organization in 1989, Youth in Transition held one ultimate goal: to establish a safe, stable residence for homeless and at-risk youth. Through the fundraising efforts of many community-minded individuals, Chrysalis House was opened in 1996. Local collaborators like the Fredericton Home Builders Association and NB Housing played a major role in the success of the project, completing the build at-cost and assuming the mortgage respectively, leaving the agency virtually debt-free in regards to the establishment of the home.
Currently, Chrysalis House is able to provide a home to up to ten youth at a time, all between the ages of sixteen and nineteen inclusive. Although originally for female youth only, it has now been co-ed since 2014. The process through which a young person can become a resident of Chrysalis House is completely referral-based, meaning that youth are able to either self-refer to the home or be referred by an agency in the community. These could include agencies such as the Department of Social Development, Mental Health, Addiction Services, or the Department of Education. Close to 50 youth are referred to the voluntary home per year, 25-35 of which are generally able to be housed during the course of that year.
By the time that a resident of Chrysalis House turns 20 years old, Youth in Transition’s goal is to have them be able to transition out of the home and live independently in the community; however, this can present a challenge for youth who struggle developmentally with delayed transitions. Nationally, youth are considered up to age 24 inclusive for this reason. Gallant Daigle explained that they hope to be able to eventually provide certain services for youth up to age 25 and as low as age 15: “We focus a lot on chronological, biological age […] it really shouldn’t be about that. It should be more about [where youth are at] developmentally. What are you capable of doing, where are your needs?”
Chrysalis House provides individualized case programming for each of their residents, focusing on the specific needs and situation of that young person. In addition to individual programming, Chrysalis House runs a mandatory Life Skills program once a week. Life Skills works to help foster personal growth and prepare residents for a positive future. The program often works in partnership with other community organizations to provide diverse and impactful resources to the youth; some examples of collaboration include the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre running sessions on healthy relationships, AIDS NB educating on the topic of sex and sexuality, and the Charlotte Street Arts Centre introducing creative arts workshops. According to Gallant Daigle, the aim is to make the program as well-rounded and inclusive as possible: "Life Skills for us isn't just basic life skills, it's also exposing kids to things that they may not have the means to be exposed to and recognizing that there are lots of things that can have a huge impact on our world." Recreational activities are used to help to achieve this by allowing the kids socialize and have fun, from tubing down the Nashwaak to team-building at the climbing wall.
In recent years, Youth in Transition’s staff and volunteers found themselves faced with a recurring problem: the maintenance of the residents’ beds. For the reason of working with a transient population, Chrysalis House had traditionally used metal bed frames in order to prevent against issues such as bed bugs; however, this kind of frame was not necessarily sturdy enough to withstand the amount of use by so many kids. The bed frames, box springs, and mattresses were constantly “cracking and breaking” and having to be replaced practically every year – an unaffordable expense for the organization. “I mean, if you have thirty kids come through a house in one year, imagine the wear and tear on those beds […],” explained Gallant Daigle. “It was becoming really problematic.”
This fall, a $4,600 grant provided by the Fredericton Community Foundation helped to cover the cost of ten military-grade metal bed frames for Chrysalis House.
Gallant Daigle approached a local company, L&A Metalworks, for help in coming up with a design for the reliable and lasting bed frames that she had seen used in youth shelters in Ontario. Once they had collaborated on a successful design, the same company, who kindly provided the organization with a generous deal on the material costs, then constructed the beds. The Fredericton Community Foundation's contribution to Youth in Transition, along with a contribution from the Sisters of Notre Dame, covered the expense of the ten beds. Additionally, Premier Van Lines graciously delivered the beds to the youth residence at no cost.
The new beds were brought over to Chrysalis House and built onsite, as they arrived in separate - and very heavy - pieces. Gallant Daigle enthusiastically described how the new design is beneficial to both the durability and practicality of the beds: "There is no breaking these beds. The neat part is that they're higher off the ground, leaving room for totes underneath. We don't need box springs. They're durable and they're more comfortable […]." As a result of no longer having to worry about the maintenance of the beds, she states that the staff and volunteers will be able to dedicate more time to improving other aspects of the house and further programming.
For Gallant Daigle and the staff at Youth in Transition, however, the most rewarding part of the entire process has been the unbelievably positive feedback that they have received from the youth. "The kids who were living here who had the old beds - you should have seen their faces. I can't describe it. The genuine excitement […] and the thankfulness from the kids to have beds that were actually not broken was really neat to watch." She explained that the new beds represent much more than just a better nights sleep to the youth who reside at Chrysalis House. By maintaining and taking care of the furnishings in their home, the residents take more pride in their environment and their personal self: "When things are damaged or broken, your self-esteem is kind of reflected in that […]. The kids feel valued when things are maintained and it is huge for them to feel that they're in a safe space." The excitement and joy that the new beds have brought to the young people at Chrysalis House speaks to the impact that this project has had, as well as reflects the incredible value of community support.
The results of this project have been incredibly rewarding for not only the residents, staff, and volunteers at Chrysalis House, but also for the Fredericton Community Foundation. We are proud to have been a part of such meaningful community collaboration, to have worked with an organization as inspiring as Youth in Transition Fredericton, and to have been able to help make this project possible.
Community support and collaboration are absolutely vital in being able to operate and provide programming at Chrysalis House. If you are interested in becoming involved with Youth in Transition Fredericton’s efforts, there are various ways to make an impactful contribution.
- Financial donations can be accepted online at: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/youth-in-transition-fredericton-inc/ or through the donation link on the Youth in Transition website, http://www.yitfredericton.ca/, as well as in person by cash or cheque.
- In-kind donations are always appreciated in the form of school supplies, school lunch items (juice boxes, snack bars, etc.), toilet paper, paper towel, hygiene products, art supplies, gently used clothing, kitchen supplies, and the like.
- Volunteer opportunities exist when Youth in Transition holds fundraisers, with the next being their annual ’12 Hours for the Homeless’ fundraiser on October 13th. Get in touch to find out how you can volunteer or participate!
- If you are able to provide/run a specific activity or workshop with the youth for the Life Skills program, contact Youth in Transition to inquire.