If you have concerns about a child call: 905.333.4441

Meet Kristy

As a transitional youth worker, Kristy works with young people aged 16 to 24 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Bridging the Gap is the Halton Children’s Aid Society’s community program for Halton youth experiencing some type of housing crisis.

For some reason they are not at home with families. They may be couch surfing—staying with a series of friends on a temporary basis—and running out of options. They may be camping out in the woods. They may be in an unsafe home environment and referred to Bridging the Gap by their school, a counselor, the Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) or another service.

Sometimes they have been children in care and are ‘aging out’ but refer themselves for continued support. However they come to Bridging the Gap (BTG), a transitional youth worker begins the same way with an assessment of immediate need. Is the young person safe now? Do they need a place for the night or a few days? Do they require hygiene supplies? Do they need to contribute to food at a friend’s home?

The process is always informal, and once any urgent care is managed, if they are open and willing, Kristy or another worker set up a meeting that is convenient for the youth.

“We go to them—any time that works—after school, in a coffee shop or a library. We ensure it’s confidential and they understand we work on a confidential basis. That’s when we gather some information about their resources—extended family, friends, support system, connection to school. Do they need a referral to a shelter or a long-term plan? Do they need assistance with an application to Ontario Works so they can get on their feet financially? We may need to help with information about housing programs for youth or connections to health clinics. Sometimes we help with looking at private rentals or setting up bank accounts. Every situation and every day is a little bit different.”

At any given time a BTG transitional youth worker may be working with 20 or more young people needing places to live in Halton. BTG does not have a waitlist for outreach service and responds to immediate housing needs. Kristy tells the story of one young woman referred from her high school.

“For her safety, she could not live at home with family. She was over 16, so the children’s aid society could no longer be involved. Her school was in the north portion of the Region and we only have one youth shelter (located in Oakville) which doesn’t allow youth to stay connected. She would have had to change schools and leave her friends.”

“We were able to offer her Host Home program space. Host Homes are just that, people who have offered space in their homes for youth to stay. They are thoroughly examined by the children’s aid society to provide a safe, rent-free, private environment for a maximum of six months. It includes a shower, laundry facilities, breakfast and dinner. There is also a curfew, no drugs or alcohol and no visitors. Our client met with the hosts and there was a comfortable fit. This girl had Grade 12 to finish and two jobs. She built a strong relationship with the Host Home providers and added them to her support system. She stays connected with the Host Home family now that she’s at university. She even stays with them on holidays from school.”

Another happy story came from an area where Halton is weak—a real lack of support for young single parents.

“One of my co-workers teamed up with others to provide support for a young woman who has twins. She found a landlord in Halton willing to work with us and children’s aid society reached out to the volunteer sector and staff. The young woman received everything she needed for the apartment and the babies including teams of people to paint and clean the apartment and supply child care. We also connected her with other supports as she manages life as a single mother.”

“We don’t turn anyone away unless they fall outside our service criteria. If they are too young or too old, we then refer them to others who can provide assistance. We don’t provide magical solutions. Sometimes we meet a youth who is 17 and has decided they are going to find an apartment with a friend. We’ll try to expose them to the process so they can learn more and see some of the challenges in finding a landlord who’ll take a chance on youth.”

One experience helped Kristy learn more about Canada’s immigration system.

“A young woman was referred to us as a refugee in a shelter. She knew no one and had no support system. I was on a personal learning curve about the immigration process, cultural councils, work permits and court processes. We helped her get connected in school and church and build a support system. That first Christmas she knew no one, but by the next Christmas, she said she was completely booked up! Now she’s applying to post-secondary education.”

“The great part is when you get a call later— a follow up. You hear things turned around with the family or someone completed the plan they made. That’s really great.”