Street Kids International and FPYN Conversations with Frontline Youth Shelter Workers

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Frontline youth workers play an important and often vital role in the lives of youth in the Greater Toronto Area. People on the frontlines are now facing increasingly complex issues in the needs of youth and the capacity of organizations to address those needs. These complex issues can be magnified among young people who are homeless. The role of a frontline youth worker continues to evolve over time as the scope and breadth of services provided by shelters changes to meet the dynamic needs of homeless young people. The needs of young people on the margins of society requires comprehensive service delivery from shelters and more importantly, from their frontline workers. Youth require support with a range of concerns including mental and physical health issues, substance use, immigration, education, the legal system and systematic barriers. Often youth need a consistent friend, mentor and supporter. As a result, the pressure for those on the frontlines is increasing at the same time that funding, support and capacity is decreasing.

In the Spring of 2012, Street Kids International (SKI) and the Frontline Partners with Youth Network (FPYN) collaborated to conduct a series of discussions with front line workers in youth shelters in the GTA. Both organizations were interested in knowing more about the current challenges and needs of people working with homeless youth in addition to exploring potential opportunities to better address these challenges and needs. This project is a first step in giving frontline workers the space to talk and to better understand what specific needs frontline workers’ who work with homeless youth have.

This report is a summary of the common themes and needs that emerged from our conversations with frontline workers and outlines potential next steps in moving towards more effective support for frontline youth workers.