Looking to connect with at-risk youth

Some youth at-risk or those who may have already taken a wrong turn in life tend to hang out at the Red Deer Public Library, the G.H. Dawe Community Centre and the Collicutt Centre. The three locations are where two Arcadia Mobile Outreach and Family Reunificiation workers – Maritza Noriega-Cook and Terra Leslie – hope to connect with them before they become fully entrenched in homelessness.

Some youth at-risk or those who may have already taken a wrong turn in life tend to hang out at the Red Deer Public Library, the G.H. Dawe Community Centre and the Collicutt Centre.

The three locations are where two Arcadia Mobile Outreach and Family Reunificiation workers – Maritza Noriega-Cook and Terra Leslie – hope to connect with them before they become fully entrenched in homelessness.

The first of its kind in the city, the youth-targeted outreach program was launched in July. It is run through McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association.

The outreach workers spent the first few months navigating the downtown streets in the hopes of building relationships and trust with the youth under the age of 24.

Noriega-Cook said it has been working and relationships have been developed.

There have been a few “successful” cases where they have put the supports in place to allow the youth to re-connect with family or friends and to begin the process of finding housing or a job.

She said she did not have concrete numbers but there is a definite need for support.

Leslie said some youth, for example, may be couch surfing which means they are not necessarily in the downtown core.

“We want a consistent schedule in spots that we consider to be highly populated with our vulnerable population,” said Leslie.

Reunification with family or friends is not the only focus, said Leslie.

“We want to first focus on what is the most important, whether that is housing or a job or an income or anything that is causing them to be in that crisis mode,” she said. “And helping to connect them with supports … Then once they are housed, (we will) look at that family support piece or reunification and move forward from there.”

The two women are at the downtown library (from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays), the G.H. Dawe Community Centre (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays) and the Collicutt Centre (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays). They want to talk to youth and family members.

On Thursday, McMan will host a parent support night at 7 p.m. at its office in the Red Deer Park Plaza (#103, 5214 47th Ave.).

Leslie said they also want to dismiss the stigma that youth are trouble makers.

“They find themselves in a difficult situation and they are just human like everybody else,” she said. “They want a warm home to be and they do not necessarily know who to turn to and who to talk to.”

Email arcadia@mcman.ca for more information or call 403-309-2002.

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