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Choices for Youth holds youth homelessness summit in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Joshua Smee, provincial expansion coordinator for Choices for Youth, addressed the crowd.
Joshua Smee, provincial expansion coordinator for Choices for Youth, addressed the crowd. - Evan Careen

Seeking solutions

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — You wouldn’t think homelessness amongst youth is an issue, but the problem is that it does exist.

A Social Innovation Summit was held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last week to address the topic of youth homelessness.

The summit, organized by Choices for Youth (CFY), was designed to bring stakeholders together to discuss issues involving youth homelessness and hopefully work towards solutions.

“We wanted to bring people together from across government, Indigenous organizations and community groups to come together around a common vision of what services are going to look like for vulnerable youth going forward,” CFY provincial expansion coordinator Joshua Smee told The Labradorian. “There’s a lot of change happening and this is a chance to get everyone on the same page about the approach to that change.”

The summit featured panels on topics such as improving services for LBGTQ2S youth, system changes for youth in this province and Labrador success stories.

Distinct supports

Smee said one of the reasons they held the summit in Happy Valley-Goose Bay was because they are aware of the issues facing Indigenous youth across the country and in Labrador.

“We recognize that Indigenous young people need distinct supports and want to draw attention to that,” he said. “It’s also nice for us to host this here and highlight some of the good work that’s already happening in Labrador that deserves a bigger profile.”

Smee said the summit also helped build bridges between some of the organizations doing work on the island and in Labrador, which he felt was successful.

“A lot of relationships were built here,” he said. “People who were in that room can now go out and talk about this stuff, because we have to champion it in our communities, make people aware that things are changing.”

Katie Wells, youth councillor for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, was in attendance at the summit. She liked how the event brought together youth and different sectors.

“I think it’s great they wanted to have youth at this,” she said. “If they don’t talk to youth, how would they know what issues we deal with? I think it’s been a great event.”

Wells said the summit also helped highlight the initiatives going on around the youth homelessness issue province-wide and how they can work together.

As part of the summit CFY created a series of draft principles for work with vulnerable youth. Smee said that was an important component of the summit and will help inform their vision going forward.

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