Youth services in Waterloo look for better ways to house people experiencing homelessness and at-risk individuals

Photo by Darien Funk

Amid a city-wide recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, OneRoof Youth Services, a Kitchener-based non-profit organization, hopes to expand a program they have offering temporary housing to at-risk youth. 

The program is called Host Homes. It involves volunteers providing spaces in their homes for those who might otherwise go into shelters. 

OneRoof hopes that with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, they’ll be able to more easily connect with volunteers and open the range of options available to youths in distress.

Host Homes are meant to provide an alternative to youth shelters. “With shelters we’re seeing 30 different people come in and out, sometimes more, so [Host Homes are] a good opportunity to have specialized treatment plans,” coordinator Natasha Monteiro said. 

The program also involves weekly checkups to help connect youths with any relevant resources they might need. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited access for many to substance abuse and mental health services. 

“More than ever, they need that kind of face-to-face contact, people checking in on them, making sure they’re connected to resources,” Monteiro said. 

Another advantage she highlighted, and one of the reasons OneRoof is hoping to have more volunteers offer housing, is that it gives youth more choice in finding a safe place. 

“With host homes, we hope with the more homes we get, the more choice we give to youth to choose a place they are actually comfortable with, to get them off of survival mode and get them working towards what they need to focus on,” she explained.

Wilfrid Laurier University has helped OneRoof Youth Services in the past, including collection drives and annual donations. 

Monteiro hopes that students will consider volunteering at OneRoof, as they’ve recently opened their volunteer services.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to get to know the atmosphere and the services we provide, and what help is out there,” Monteiro said. 

OneRoof has more information about Host Homes on their website, www.oneroof.org.

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