Safe homes, brighter futures: B.C. organization sets youth up for success
Better Together is a collaboration between Coast Capital Savings and the Georgia Straight to celebrate programs, partnerships, and individuals making positive change in our communities.
(This story is sponsored by Coast Capital Savings.)
Safe housing, while a given for some, is something that hundreds of people in B.C. don’t have access to. With too few shelter beds available and the affordable housing crisis, this issue has only been exacerbated in recent years. Research has shown that the majority of unhoused adults had their first experience of homelessness before the age of 25. As of 2018, there were nearly 700 unhoused young people living in Metro Vancouver alone, most of them either living on the streets or couch surfing.
Brian White has experienced this firsthand. Moving to Victoria, B.C. when he was 17, he found himself struggling with unstable employment and without secure housing. Luckily, he was introduced to Threshold Housing Society, which would help him through two challenging periods in his life and guide him through early adulthood.
Threshold Housing Society opens doors for youth like White. For more than 30 years, it has worked to prevent adult homelessness by serving at-risk youth between the ages of 15 to 24 experiencing homelessness, aging out of government care, or fleeing violence in the home through safe housing, support services, and community. Since its inception, Threshold has expanded to four communal homes and 18 apartments, housing an average of 55 youth per year, and continues to build its critical support services like life-skills programming.
But the organization’s partners don’t just provide monetary support. Every year during the holiday season, Coast Capital spearheads an initiative to provide every Threshold Housing youth with a Herschel backpack full of personalized gifts. Everything from the work boots they need to land a job to games and treats. “Often, our youth aren’t used to getting presents,” shares Jasmine Campbell. “The gift bags are an amazing way to make what can be a heavy and sad time of year, a bit more magical.”
Threshold has transformed the lives of hundreds of youth in the Greater Victoria area, with 49 percent of youth served employed, 27 percent in school and 24 percent having graduated this past year. For White, the organization’s impact was incalculable. It gave him a safety net during the most challenging periods of his life, providing flexible payment plans and the resources he needed to get back on his feet. “If it wasn’t for Threshold helping me through those rough patches and providing that support, I don’t know where my life would be.”
His time with Threshold also helped him to build a strong set of foundational core values that have carried him through the last seven years. Now living with roommates in Victoria, White is grateful for the life skills it taught him, such as financial planning and budgeting, smart grocery shopping, and household chores. “It’s made me a better roommate,” he says. “You learn so much about how to live in a communal space and how to be considerate to those around you.”
In addition to these practical skills, Threshold also helped him learn the value of teamwork, accountability, and fostering healthy relationships. Some of his favourite memories from the program stem from the connections he built over group dinners and activities with his housemates.
Now, White is living in Victoria and working for BC Ferries—his dream job—where he has worked his way up from the catering department to customer service representative and first-aid attendant. His ultimate goal is to drive the ships and he has applied to BCIT’s Marine Diploma Cadet Officer Program to turn that dream into a reality. Because of his experience with Threshold, White has also made it a priority to connect with his community through activism and volunteering, including giving back to the organization. “It’s not just a program, it’s a home and a community,” he reveals. “For any youth who are struggling with the transition to adulthood, Threshold Housing Society is an amazing support system with kind people who are there to help in any way they can, because they truly care. What more could you ask for?”