Directions: Past, Present, Future (Part 1)

Published: October 5, 2023

This October, as a combined celebration of Safehouse (one of Directions’ foundational programs) and in honour of Homelessness Action Week, we’re taking a look at the past, present, and future of Directions.
Read on to learn about how we are taking action to make sure homeless youth have access to the resources and supports they need.

Directions Youth Safehouse

One way Directions provides resources and supports to youth experiencing homelessness or without safe housing is through Safehouse – and this year, this program is THIRTY years old! The youth coming to Safehouse need a safe place to sleep. We make sure they have it.

Youth-Informed Service

From the beginning, the way we run Safehouse was founded on being youth-informed.
Which needs are most critical? We ask youth.
What ways can those needs most effectively be addressed? We ask youth.
THIS is what client-centered work looks like. THIS is what it means to treat youth equitably.

What is Safehouse?

So what is Directions Youth Safehouse?

It’s emergency housing for youth (ages 16 to 18) who need a safe, secure place to sleep. It’s a homelike setting for youth who don’t feel safe, for whatever reason, in their homes.

Directions Youth Haven

Directions Youth Services has beds beyond Safehouse. We also run Directions Youth Haven, a sister to Safehouse.

Emergency housing at Haven is intended for youth (ages 16 to 21) with more complex needs, so that we can make sure they’re as safe as possible. While both sites are low-barrier, Haven is where youth experiencing mental health issues or substance use issues can find, well, a safe haven.
With counselling available and nurse practitioners on site, this program is able to provide several inclusive, wrap-around supports under one roof. 

Directions Drop-In Overnight Shelter

In addition to Safehouse and Haven, we also have 12 beds at Directions Youth Drop-In in our overnight program for youth ages 19 to 24. During Emergency Weather Responses (EWRs), we offer an additional 10 beds to sleep in.

Youth Advisory Committee

Youth experiencing homelessness don’t always have a place to be heard, a places to voice their needs, concerns, or input. They aren’t typically given a say in what policies are set forth or what services are available and how.

So, to do things differently, we have a Youth Advisory Committee. Like when Safehouse started up, youth who visit us today get a say in what we do. Youth involvement is central to how we operate; the YAC makes sure there’s a format for that inclusion.

Under One Roof

One of the ideas that’s come from listening to youth is that it’s best for them when they can access multiple supports under one roof. So, we make sure this happens.

At Safehouse, there are rooms for them to sleep in, regular meals, and shared spaces where teens get to just be teens and hang out. Our Youth Workers are there 24/7 to help youth with their day-to-day needs, whether that’s help with homework or talking about what they’re struggling with.

At the downtown Drop-In Centre, we have the overnight shelter, showers, laundry facilities, on-site counselling, art programming, 2SLGBTQIA+ supports, the food and pantry programs, and so much more.

We do as much as we can in one place because it gives youth more of what they need without them having to commute, juggle conflicting schedules at service sites, and so on.

The Food Program

Imagine trying to plan for your future when you don’t even know where your next meal is coming from. 

This is the reality for the marginalized youth we serve. They’re just trying to survive.

How do we pull them out of crisis? Out of survival mode? We start by meeting their basic needs – as many as possible under one roof.

Safehouse and Haven have daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all available on site. Need a lunch? There’s food available for grab-and-go.

At the Drop-In Centre, we run a significant food program. Here, youth can get a hot dinner every evening and breakfast each morning. For those who come in hungry in between, there are snacks and drinks 24/7.

We give youth a way to know where their next meal is coming from. Then, we can work on what’s next.

The Pantry Program

At Directions Drop-In Centre, our Food Program has an extension: the Pantry Program. The pantry gives youth the chance to ‘shop’ for food items to take with them when they leave.

Kitchen Volunteer Groups

Because food is such a basic need we all share, in some ways, the food programming is the heart of what we do.

Did you know that you can get involved in our food program? We’re always looking for groups of volunteers to pitch in for meal shifts.

Want to help us make sure these young people don’t go hungry? Get in touch with us  today to schedule your group’s shift: [email protected]

The first part of Directions: Past, Present, Future has focused on the ways we give youth safe places to sleep and food to eat.

Read about other ways we’re taking action to support homeless youth here: Part 2