The Children’s Aid Society of London & Middlesex has identified an urgent need for emergency housing for its clients over the age of 16. The Children’s Aid Society has a number of wards who have aged out of foster homes and are considered “difficult to place”.
These young adults are effectively homeless and Children’s Aid Society has few options in terms of housing. At times, these wards are housed in hotels/motels or adult homeless shelters which can effectively place young adults in unsafe environments where they are unsupervised, susceptible to drug use, violence and vulnerable to predators. YOU is uniquely placed in the community to provide supports for this demographic through its youth-centric housing, transition, careers, and skills training services. Through partnership with CAS, YOU has converted 340 Richmond St. into 6 residential units for CAS clients over the age of 16, where youth can receive 24/7 assistance from a Support Worker.
Michael was one of the first residents of 340 Richmond. His story is one of overcoming multiple obstacles to thrive in our community. Michael has been in the care of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) since he was a toddler. He was placed with a foster family who he stayed with for most of his life. “My foster family was great, they showed me love and care”, noting he was luckier than most foster children who did not have a stable foster home growing up. Even though he was supported by his foster family, Michael felt overwhelmed. These emotions made Michael feel he was a burden on everyone in his life. “When some people feel pain, they want others to feel that pain as well. But when I felt pain, my first reaction was that I didn’t want anyone else feeling this way.” In his last year of high school Michael wanted time away from his foster family to sort his mind. CAS moved Michael from his foster home into a temporary group home. This only made matters worse. “Moving to the group home gave me a wake-up call: you have to be careful what you wish for.”
Michael spent the next year of his life moving from one temporary home to another, experiencing neglect and physical abuse along the way. Due to his age, foster care was no longer an option. Like many youth who are aging out of care, Michael was a difficult case. CAS was still responsible for his well-being, yet he was too old to be placed with a foster family. CAS learned that Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) had a variety of services that could be beneficial to youth like Michael. In combining supports from both organizations, a new relationship was born. This unique partnership between CAS and YOU created an opportunity for youth transitioning out of CAS care and into the community, as YOU is able to provide housing, living supports, education, employment and training for youth. Recognizing the immediate need for support, YOU offered CAS temporary units in it’s Cornerstone building. Michael was one of the first residents of this new program. For Michael, The Cornerstone offered a safe and stable housing unit combined with wrap-around services.
“Moving into The Cornerstone was such an easy transition. I was able to see the apartment ahead of time. That is something people don’t realize: when you are jumping from home to home, you never know what to expect and viewing my new home before I moved in was so important to me.” The Cornerstone gave Michael the opportunity to have the space he longed for. “I am a self-reserved person and am happiest when I am given my own space. The balance I have at The Cornerstone suits my needs; if I require anything, YOU’s supports are there.”
Michael connected to YOU programming, including the Youth Job Connection where he obtained several employment certifications. Working with YOU employment counsellors, Michael was directed to a local employer. Today he remains employed and credits YOU for helping him obtain his dream job. He laughs thinking back to his job search, “The YOU employment counsellors set me up for success. If it wasn’t for YOU I would not have got the job – I completely flunked the interview”. Michael laughs recalling the process. “Now I am in a job that I love, thanks to YOU.”
Michael’s story has helped CAS and YOU to formalize their partnership and create the new spaces at 340 Richmond for CAS youth who are aging out of care. Here, youth will have wrap-around supports to ensure their transition to living independently goes as smooth as possible. Michael volunteered to be one of the first residents of 340 Richmond, which opened in the Spring of 2020. He was excited to transition from The Cornerstone to his new home at 340, knowing the space will continue to offer him a balance of independence and support. “With YOU, I am given the tools to grow. My foster parents always held my hand, which worked as a child, but now I am a young adult. YOU has taken the time to point me in the right path and allows me to get there on my own”.
"With YOU supports, I am able to grow. YOU enables me to live independently.” - Michael, YOU Alumni