When CMHA Open Door staff arrive at 371 Festubert Street’s Open Door Integrated Youth Services Centre in the morning, they often find a young person, sometimes two, sleeping in the entranceway.
According to ‘A Way Home’ a national coalition dedicated to preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness in Canada, over 40% of youth were younger than 16 the first time they experienced homelessness.
Every night in the Cowichan Valley the experience of homelessness is a reality for many including youth. Whether it be couch-surfing, sleeping outdoors, or feeling unstable in their current situation. Although shelter housing is available for adults at Warmland Shelter or at the new Women’s Shelter, there are currently no shelter services for youth under 19.
The Open Door Integrated Youth Services Centre is a newly formed extension of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Youth Outreach Engagement Program (YOEP). The Open Door is a space where youth ages 12-24 can connect with staff over a coffee and a snack, do their laundry, have a shower, get clothing and access to medical care and counselling services. Close partnerships with other community agencies such as Island Health’s Discovery Addiction Services, allow YOEP staff to provide support by connecting youth with long term, ongoing resources not currently offered at the Open Door.
No matter what brings someone through the door, they are always met with caring and welcoming staff eager to offer support in whatever form is needed. It is hoped that the Open Door will prove to be as supportive and meaningful service in its fixed location model as the YOEP has been in its mobile capacity.
As an organization CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch continues to learn and grow in creative and innovative ways within its youth programming. Guided by a vision of accessible, inclusive, person-centered health and well-being support for all youth and young adults within the Cowichan Valley.
This program is currently open for drop in from 8am – 12pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is also accessible at others times throughout the week with the assistance of the YOEP.
A Nurse Practitioner is available on Tuesday mornings and an Outreach Nurse is available Thursday mornings.
BIKEWORKS/ARTWORKS PROGRAMS ON HOLD DUE TO COVID-19
One of the CMHA-Cowichan Valley Branch’s youth programs is a familiar Trunk Road landmark that has been operating for 15 years. BikeWorks is one of the CMHA’s most successful outreach and resiliency programs. Humble looking from the street, the inside of this site is nothing short of impressive. Here, amidst the evident years of creativity and connections youth find a space to explore artistic activities and learn to fix and build bikes while finding belonging and acceptance from staff and fellow participants. BikeWorks has become a safe space for many in the community. The guiding philosophy of the shop comes from Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage. Martin Brokenleg believes that there are four things that all people need to live healthy lives: Belonging, Generosity, Mastery and Independence. Through BikeWorks, a community is built that crosses economic, racial, age and gang lines.
This youth centre disguised as a bike shop also runs an ArtWorks program enabling youth to participate in a variety of creative individual and group projects.
Providing these critical “communicative spaces” is often the first step in helping youth to escape the spirals of addiction, poverty and homelessness. For many young people, being able to build and earn a free bike and have access to free arts and crafts activities are valuable additions to their lives. On any given afternoon, the site is buzzing with after school activity. Free snacks and small meals are often served during program hours and this brings in young families. In this way, the shop also functions as an anti-poverty initiative.
Donations of bike parts, bike helmets and art supplies are always welcome.
BikeWorks Hours of Operation:
September through June Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 2:30pm-5:30pm and Saturdays 12:00pm-4:00pm
July and August Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10:30am-2:30pm