Covenant House Toronto has been supporting homeless youth for over 30 years. We provide emergency housing, transitional housing and a variety of wraparound supports to help youth move towards adulthood. This includes a health care clinic staffed with nurses, physicians and psychiatrists, culinary job training program, on site high school, family reconciliation program, housing and aftercare supports.
We have seen significant increases in the complexity of youth needs, particularly in the area of mental health. This has been challenging for our child and youth work staff to manage in the context of an emergency shelter setting. We recognized that there was a need to build capacity in our staff to more effectively respond to the mental health challenges of our youth. To this end we established an on -site partnership with a local children’s mental health agency. They rent space in our building to operate a mental health day program but also provide a half time staff member who is embedded in our shelter program.
The objectives of the project were twofold:
- To increase capacity of staff in both agencies to respond to the mental health needs of transitionally aged youth. Our staff required support around identifying and responding to mental health issues of our youth. The partner agency was looking to increase their understanding of effective strategies in engaging an older population of youth.
- To identify promising practices to facilitate youth’s voluntary engagement with mental health services
Impact for Youth
This partnership is relatively new and is currently being evaluated. Staff have been administered a pre intervention survey that created a self- reported baseline of their current knowledge and confidance around management of mental health issues in our youth. A post intervention survey as well as qualitative interviews will occur over the summer to evaluate the efficacy of this approach in building capacity of both staff groups.
While it is too early to report outcomes for youth we are looking to see if this will have some impact on increasing the numbers of youth who are willing to engage in mental health services.
Agencies would need to be able to engage in their local community a partner service that has expertise in the area of managing mental health issues and is interested in expanding their expertise around engaging our unique population of youth. As in any partnership it is critical to spend time at the front end identifying and addressing differences related to agency culture, program philosophy and values. For example one key difference in our service models is that their clients are seeking mental health services so are already engaged somewhat in addressing mental health concerns. On the other had our youth are seeking shelter and therefore not as service ready. It is also critical that there is recognition of the mutual need to increase capacity and learning in each agency – that there is a win/ win situation.
Director, Program Services
416- 204- 7050
Address 20 Gerrard St. East
Toronto ON M5B 2P3