Be the Change: the First Hurdle is the Hardest

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference....

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference….Read about it in our story!

 

Before he crouches in the starting blocks, Sam can see the university track team coach, standing at the finish line, holding up a university team uniform. Between Sam and that uniform are several hurdles with the first in letters so large that they make the first hurdle taller than all the rest. He reads, “Fee to apply: $95.”

If Sam can’t raise $95, it doesn’t matter that he can easily clear the academic and Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) application hurdles.

“Sam” is not his real name, but his university application dilemma is a real life story currently unfolding in Etobicoke.

A year ago, Sam didn’t dream about track or about university. He had money from odd jobs for drug dealers and gang members. So, how did he change direction?

If you care about the answers, you can be part of the change.

The Youth Justice Initiative

Rexdale Community Legal Clinic’s new Youth Justice Initiative was the catalyst.

When Sam had trouble with the law, a duty counsel lawyer put him in touch with Camieka Woodhouse, our Youth Justice Initiative worker.

She discovered that he had the potential to continue onto university and that his athletic prowess would probably assure him of a scholarship. Suddenly, Sam could see horizons that had previously been completely blocked by the ugly brick buildings encircling his neighbourhood. Once he could “see” the university, he began to work and dream and train.

Sensing a change in him, Camieka asked some probing questions. She was familiar with the barrier posed by the Ontario Universities Application Centre process.

Moneyed families, preparing to fork out large amounts for their children to succeed, barely notice the registration fee.  On the other hand, young people without family supports or money are completely stymied. They’re only eligible for OSAP if they are accepted into university, and they cannot be accepted because they cannot afford to apply.

Because of this fairly modest barrier, budding opportunities die.

Where legal clinics can step in to help

Legal clinics are funded by Legal Aid Ontario to provide access to justice for low income residents in their communities.

Most clinic workers understand this can go beyond legal remedies and could include reducing poverty, increasing access to education and generally making a difference in any way that they can. And so, Camieka began searching for the non-legal remedy. Without it, she worried that Sam would return to his previous career options, mostly involving various forms of crime and ultimately, violence and incarceration.

Camieka believes that Sam has the ability to cross the other hurdles without her, but she was very concerned that he would turn to his former criminal associates to get the registration fee, and that this would amount to “falling off the wagon.”

Unknown to Sam, several conversations cascaded into a happy ending. A conversation at the clinic led to a request to a service club, and within 24 hours, the Knights of Columbus had come up with more than enough for Sam to launch his career plan.

Being the Change

At the clinic, we puzzle over how to create a pool of funds for cases like Sam’s and how to make guidance counsellors, youth counsellors and students aware of it.

Too many in our community face these hurdles:

  • growing up in poverty
  • bad role models for future paths
  • lack of opportunities for youth

Camieka sees her clients strolling around the starting line, studying the hurdles. On either side of the hurdles, there are “run off” lanes where the finish line is much closer. At the end of that line, a corrections officer is holding not a lycra tracksuit, but a cotton prison uniform.

Finding another path is about Being the Change: partnering and networking in our community and reducing poverty by addressing the causes.

Camieka is one of many people at our clinic and in our community who is part of the change. Now, so is Sam.

 

Footnote: Sam is a real person. For purposes of this article, Sam has been given a fictitious name.  Camieka Woodhouse is a real person, who has moved on to a different job, as real people do. Her work with young people at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is being carried on by Tameka Francis.

 

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. 

Strengthening Access to Justice for Children and Youth in East Africa – Naivasha, Kenya 2013

STOCK PHOTO : SXU.HU

STOCK PHOTO : SXU.HU

Plenary sessions and working groups on Tuesday, day one of the conference, discussed the barriers and the possibilities for access to justice in East Africa. The participants, from the law societies and NGOs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, compared their shared issues related to gender. Many of the topics might have occupied a whole session: marriages involving girls between 14 and 18, child sexual and physical abuse in rural areas where there are neither police nor legal assistance, crime among the growing population of street youth, legal supports and due process for these children when arrested, inadequate correctional services for youth, an absence in many places of separate detention facilities for women and girls. Judges and those from government ministries shared in the spirited discussions.

The Canadian participants found that most of these issues resonated with the Canadian experience, although different in scale as well as in the resources to address the issues in Canada.

Girl in Kenyian Villiage

STOCK PHOTO : SXC.HU

Reporting on Gender Issues from Day One flowed over into Wednesday’s agenda.

The persistent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was an example of an issue needing its own conference! Social and legal approaches exchanged by the East Africans, and suggestions for social change were both daunting and  enlightening for the Canadians. We did not presume to enter this discussion but listened avidly. This issue is alive among populations recently migrated to Canada. As the East African participants emphasized, changes must come, but they will evolve over time, with education and community leadership from those with influence.

Mtaib Mtaib, CEO of the Zanzibar Law Societyn addresses delegates on needs assessment work in Tanzania. To his right, Joan Onyango, staff lawyer of Kenya Law Reform Commission and Elizabeth Wilson, Manager, International Development, Operations and Gender program, Canadian Bar Association.

Mtaib Mtaib, CEO of the Zanzibar Law Society addresses delegates on needs assessment work in Tanzania. To his right, Joan Onyango, staff lawyer of Kenya Law Reform Commission and Elizabeth Wilson, Manager, International Development, Operations and Gender program, Canadian Bar Association. ANN MCRAE

East African organizations, both NGOs and governments, typically have very limited resources, but they have opportunities to partner with funding organizations from the family of United Nations agencies such as UNICEF. Also, there are foundations and government aid agencies in almost all developed countries (such as DFATD, former known as CIDA, in Canada). Support for this conference provided by Canada’s DFATD through the Canadian Bar Association means that the local law societies can gain tools for needs assessment, outcome measures and planning processes. Such skills and tools will ensure the effectiveness and impact of each development dollar brought by funders.

Mary Marrone lead off the discussion of needs assessment, defining the goals and terms used, for those unfamiliar with conducting a detailed assessment of need. The local working groups then described how this plays out in their regions: How long will it really take to travel to each village? How and when can one  interview the women if they are not expecting you, and they are in their fields doing farm work? How does one identify which local leaders, men and women, can provide information about children’s issues? When is it appropriate to send the adults away, and ask the children about their concerns?

The depth and breadth of unaddressed social and legal needs could easily lead one to despair. The stories of sexual abuse and assault of children, as gathered by a modestly-resourced group in Uganda, and recounted by the conference participants, were only a narrow slice of a much wider socio-legal need. In the face of this, the commitment of the working groups to gather this data, to assemble it into persuasive reports, is impressive. They understand how necessary these data and reports are to lever systemic changes and funding for services. They also accept that access-to-justice projects cannot proceed everywhere at once, so they aim to make changes in installments: pilot projects to extend information and rights-based advocacy may lead to more wide-spread access to justice in the future.

Mary Marrone describes how the needs assessment model used by the CBA in various countries was developed during the expansion of legal clinics in Ontario in 2000 -2001.

Mary Marrone describes how the needs assessment model used by the CBA in various countries was developed during the expansion of legal clinics in Ontario in 2000 -2001. ANN MCRAE

For some relief from the weighty discussions, the conference site offers unparalleled nature-watching. The air is filled with coos, whistles, warbles and shrieks. Large and tiny birds are walking around, twittering in the trees, and soaring overhead in dozens, maybe hundreds of varieties, from the tiniest finches to eagles, pelicans, storks and cranes. A small  herd of waterbuck and a few gazelles and antelope wander through the grounds. A group of hippos comes ashore from Lake Naivasha daily (and nightly) to graze at the resort, to the fascination of conference guests.

Gazelle, impala, topi & hartebeest at Masai mara

STOCK PHOTO : SXC.HU

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mary Marrone is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, Toronto ON, Canada.

Mtaib Mtaib is the Chief Executive Office of the Zanzibar Law Society, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Joan Onyango is a Staff Lawyer with the Kenya Law Reform Commission, Nairobi, Kenya.

Elizabeth Wilson is the Manager of Operations and Gender Programing with the Canadian Bar Association’s International Development Committee, Ottawa ON, Canada.

External Links:
Lawyers call for harsh laws to curb sexual offences
Regional Lawyers Champion Childrens’ Rights
What can Canadian lawyers contribute to a legal conference in Kenya?
Kenya Law Reform Commission
East Africa Law Society

Ask the Hub – HOMELESSNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH IN CANADA (Infographic)

Ask the Hub – Homelessness and Mental Health in Canada

by Homeless Hub
August 09, 2013

 Image of Homeless Hub This post is part of our Friday “Ask the Hub” blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca and we will provide a research-based answer.

Dear Homeless Hub

Many times when I come across a person who appears to be homeless, he/she also seems to be mentally ill. In your experience, have you discovered that most homeless people are also dealing with a mental illness of some sort? If so, is one kind of mental illness more prominent than others?

Kerry Barbieri
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Dear Kerry,

Mental illness is often misunderstood in our society, and this is particularly true as it pertains to people who are homeless or street-involved. It can sometimes be challenging to determine how many homeless people have mental health issues and what types or substance use issues because of the lack of research and data. It is also a challenge to determine whether the mental health issue or substance use caused the person to enter homelessness, or whether these issues arose from their experience of being homeless.

In 2007, the Canadian Institute for Health Information published “Mental Health and Homelessness” report that outlined a number of studies on mental health. There was some general information, but they mainly focused on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, substance use and depression. Studies have found that as many as 29% of shelter users have met criteria for one of several mental illnesses including: anti-social personality disorder (along with depression), PTSD or psychotic disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The same report drew attention to research of homeless youth that found 24% of youth met the criteria for PTSD. Additionally, 40% of youth who met the criteria for Substance Use Disorder also met the criteria for PTSD.

Schizophrenia: There are also overlaps with schizophrenia. One study in Toronto of 300 shelter users found 6% had a psychotic disorder (including schizophrenia). Another study with 124 shelter users in Vancouver found that 7 out of 124 shelter users (nearly 6%) had schizophrenia. This is a significant increase when compared to the general population diagnosis rate of 1%. Substance Use – Throughout Canada, the well-being survey found that 1 to 4% of Canadians have suffered from issues with substance dependence. Several studies have looked at substance dependence and homelessness. A study in Toronto found 68% of shelter users reported a diagnosis of dependence sometime in their life. A study in Vancouver found 44% of homeless adults used non-prescription drugs in the past month. A study in Edmonton found 55% of youth had reported using at least one of the following four drugs in the past year: cocaine, heroin, amphetamines or tranquilizers.

Depression: Throughout Canada, 14-17% of women and 7-10% of men have been diagnosed with depression. In a study conducted in Ottawa, 39% of male youth experiencing homelessness reported symptoms of depression, compared with 20% of male youth who are housed. A separate study, also conducted in Ottawa, found 33% of adult males experiencing homelessness reported having difficulties with mental health; 20% had depression.

Homelessness in Canada

Homelessness in Canada INFOGRAPHIC: the homeless hub

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) estimates that between 25 to 50% of homeless people in Canada have mental illness. Out of those with severe mental illness, up to 70% also have difficulty with substance abuse.

MHCC also found that 520,700 people with mental illness are inadequately housed and up to 119,800 people with mental illness are experiencing homeless. Despite these high numbers, there are only 25,000 supportive housing units currently available across Canada.

The interim report (Sept 2012) from the At Home/Chez Soi project administered by MHCC states: “Over 900 individuals from our shelters and on our streets who have not been well served by our current approach are now housed in adequate, affordable and suitable settings. Eighty six percent of participants remain in their first or second unit (as of August 2012). At 12 months those in the Housing First intervention had spent an average of 73% of their time in stable housing. In contrast, those in treatment as usual (TAU) spend only 30% of their time in stable housing. This creates the possibility of better long term health and social functioning outcomes for individuals who have histories of trauma and poor health. Once housed many are beginning to take advantage of the safer places and the opportunities that are created to make better life choices – including pursing opportunities to engage in part or full-time employment.”

As you can see Kerry, it’s hard to get an exact fix on the numbers. What the research does tell us is that there is a strong link between homelessness or insecure housing and mental health issues. Certainly, research has proven that a Housing First approach to solving homelessness – no matter what an individual’s issues are – allows a person to stay housed and to address their other issues over time.

Tanya Gulliver & Isaac Coplan
Homeless Hub

For more information on the relationship between homelessness and mental health visit our Topic – Mental Health.

 

Article source:
Ask the Hub – Homelessness and Mental Health in Canada.

YOUTH WITHOUT SHELTER: Fall Wishlist

YWS Fall Wishlist

http://www.yws.on.ca/

REXDALE COMMUNITY HUB Grand Opening – Youth Poster Contest

Youth Poster Contest

The Rexdale Community Hub’s grand opening is scheduled for the weekend of Friday, September 27th, 2013. To commemorate the event, we are having a Youth Poster Contest, asking children up to 12 years of age to draw a poster representing what the Hub means to them. The winning poster will be reproduced, framed, and used as a Thank You Gift for donors to the RCH. The winner will also receive a small honorarium.

The poster should be 8 inches by 12 inches. The deadline for entry is August 28th, 2013. Entries can be submitted to the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic or Rexdale Community Hub’s Resident Engagement Worker. For more information call (647) 606-2679.

YOUTH SUMMER CAMPS

Footsteps to Success

An EXCITING, unique camp that challenges campers through a variety of activities. This camp is a partnership program with Toronto Catholic School Board, MotionBall Sport and Urban Arts. Activities included leadership training, sport, swimming, arts and field trips.

Location: 176- Martine Grove Rd.
Days: Monday to Friday
Father Henry Carr Secodary School Time: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Start/End: July 2 to August 9, 2013
Duration: 6 weeks
Ages: 10-15
Cost: Free

http://www.tcdsb.org/FORSTUDENTS/FocusOnYouth/Pages/Footsteps-to-Success-summer-camp.aspx

Rexdale Hub Leadership Camp

This dynamic and interactive camp aims to inspire and expose youth to technology. This is a partnership project with IBM and the Rexdale Hub Community Partners. Activities include computer technology, social media, movie making, acrobatics, sports with profession athletes and field trips.

Location: 21 Parorama Ct.
Rexdale Community Hub
Duration: 4 days
Days: Monday to Thursday
Time: 9:00AM to 4:00 PM

Cost: Free

Session 1:
July 22, 2013 to July 25, 2013

Session 2:
August 19 to August 22th, 2013Ages: 13-16

(choice of 2 sessions for the summer)

Leaders of Tomorrow Camp

The leadership camp provides youth with a basic understanding of leadership in a recreational setting. Join use for an AWESOME summer experience discovering who you are and how to unleash your inner leader. We will explore some cool stuff, play fun games and sport, take on projects, learn about leadership, meet leaders from different walks of life, and enjoy weekly field trips.

Location: 2580 Kipling Ave.
North Albion Collegiate Institute
Duration: 6 weeks
Start/End: July 2 to August 16, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 13-17
Cost: Free

Young Entrepreneurs Summer Camp

Dreaming of being your own boss? We will help you explore the possibilities, meet young successful business owners, create a virtual or real business, venture out to see businesses in action, maximize your creative vision. Activities include media arts, games, field trips and traditional camp experiences.

Location: 21 Panorama Court

Rexdale Community Hub
Duration: 6 weeks
Start/End: July 8to August 15, 2013
Days: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Time: 12:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Group 1
Ages: 13 – 17

Group 2
Ages 18-29

Dimensions of Diversity

This camp encourages young people to develop leadership skills and explore cultural diversity using media arts. Activities include conversations about diversity, weekly field trips, cross cultural food experience and sports activity.

Two Locations:

21 Panorama Court
MicroSkills ProTech Media Centre
Duration: 5 weeks
Days: Monday, Tuesday, Friday
Start/End: July 2 to August 2, 2013
Time: 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Ages: 13-17
235 Dixon Road, Unit 12
MicroSkills Youth Welcoming Centre
Duration: 5 weeks
Days: Monday, Tuesday, Friday
Start/End: July 2 to August 2, 2013
Time: 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Ages: 13-17

Cost: Free

http://www.microskills.ca/

Summer Nature Camp

The Science and Nature camp gives children the opportunity to learn and enjoy nature. Daily activities include: nature walks, ecology, bird watching, forest exploration, organic vegetable garden, insect observation, swimming and canoeing.

Location: 205 Humber College Blvd.
Humber College Arboretum
Start/End: Over the summer
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Days: Monday to Friday
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 5-13
(Different camp sessions for the summer)

Cost: Free for low income house holds

http://humberarboretum.on.ca/summercamp

The Leaders In Training Program

Offers youth the opportunity to gain valuable volunteer experience at nature camp and prepares youth for future leadership positions/ Acitivites include, interpersonal skills, communication skills, teamwork skills and gain volunteer hours!

Location: 205 Humber College Blvd. Humber College Arboretum

Duration: 4 weeks
(Two camp sessions for the summer)
Start/End: July 2 to August 30, 2013
Cost: Free
Days: Monday to Friday
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 14-15

http://humberarboretum.on.ca/LITs