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Community Profile: Mobile Youth Outreach Team

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Youth helping youth: mobile outreach team distributes supplies and makes connections

Youth homelessness in Nanaimo needed to be addressed prior to COVID-19. Now the need is amplified. We’re seeing even more vulnerable youth because of reduced access to services due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

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The Mobile Youth Outreach Team is a no-barrier outreach service for youth aged 12-29 who are experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo. Aimed at addressing the youth’s immediate needs, the team delivers free personal hygiene goods, food, harm reduction supplies and survival gear.

This initiative was started by the Youth Advisory Council, with initial funding from Nanaimo Community Action Team. Coordinators Delaney Gunn, from Literacy Central Vancouver Island, and Ruby Barclay, from Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, empowered young people with lived experience in homelessness or living in care to lead this outreach program. These young people helped Delaney and Ruby understand their needs and the current issues in youth services.

On Wednesday evenings from 6pm – 8pm, the team sets-up on Wesley Street. The first week the mobile team supported 24 people, and the second week 33 people. “The reason we’re reaching so many young people is because the youth leading the outreach are their peers, they have this lived experience as well. They are on the ground, reaching out and connecting with the vulnerable youth,” explains Barclay.

 

Meaningful connections

The team not only distributes essential supplies, but develops meaningful connections with the young people they serve. “Being in the moment, having conversations, connecting with people, giving time and space to hold those conversations and hold their opinions and values – this is how we use much of our time when we’re out there,” says Gunn. 

The team also collects important data about the vulnerable youth through survey questions. They are learning what their needs are and what the best ways to respond are. “We're learning directly from the young people experiencing homelessness and about what their experiences have been that lead to homelessness. All of this important data allows us to continuously adapt and improve our program to best serve their needs,” says Barclay.

 

Donations needed

Ruby and Delaney are personally accepting donations including gently used items (backpacks, shoes, blankets, clothing, sleeping bags, tarps, tents, survival gear) and/or funds. 100% of donations go to supporting the youth. To make a donation or for more information please email:

Delaney Gunn: youth@literacycentralvi.org

Ruby Barclay: rbarclay@nanaimoaboriginalcentre.ca