Person experiencing homelessness. (Black Press Media file photo)

Person experiencing homelessness. (Black Press Media file photo)

Program preventing youth homelessness launches in the Okanagan

Upstream Project’s goal is to help young people become more resilient

A new initiative has officially launched in Kelowna, aiming to help youth who may be at risk of becoming homeless.

The Upstream Project is a collaboration between A Way Home Kelowna, Journey Home, Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, Arc Programs, The Bridge Youth and Family Services and Foundry Kelowna, among others, intending to prevent instead of responding to youth homelessness in the city.

This means identifying a young person’s needs and connecting them with services that will help them stay in school, get the counselling they may need and ultimately, help them be resilient young adults.

The model was first introduced in Australia, which resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in youth homelessness and a 20 per cent reduction in school drop-out rates.

Youth services director at the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, Sarah Mackinnon, said the program has three goals.

“(We want to) reduce homelessness, reduce school disengagement, and reduce young people living in mental health distress,” she said.

A survey will be sent out to Grade 8 students within the Central Okanagan School District (SD23) to help them identify teens at risk of homelessness who may otherwise fly under the radar. She said the reason they’re aiming to survey younger students is to implement preventative measures earlier.

“There’s a national survey on homelessness that has found among chronically homeless adults, 40 per cent of them experience their first episode of homelessness before they were the age of 16,” she said.

“So our ideal is to survey young people before they hit 16 to identify those risks, intervene in them and turn off the tap of homelessness if we can.”

The survey will kick off in the spring and use student numbers instead of names to give young people anonymity, which Mackinnon said will hopefully make them feel comfortable asking for the help they need.

Jordan Siemens said a program like Upstream would have helped him immensely had it been around when he was first struggling.

“I wasn’t connected to any services or things that really helped me out in the community until I first walked into the (BGCO youth) shelter,” he said.

“I definitely think if there were people in the schools that were finding these kids right now and connecting them with different programs early on, it would definitely help them out. There’s no reason why you have to be homeless to access those services for the first time.”

Siemens echoed Mackinnon, saying that it’s important to intervene and connect teens with the help they need while they’re young.

“I think it’s going to make a huge difference for the youth in the community… I would love to see this shelter have no youth stay in it,” he said.

For more information on the Upstream Project, visit the BGCO website.

READ: CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Housing and Homelessness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Penticton fire truck
Residents evacuated after apartment fire in Penticton

The fire started in an apartment on Government Street Saturday night

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read