Why the Monday Night Drop-In?
SOY (Supporting Our Youth)’s Monday Night Drop-In opened in 2001. It is still one of just a couple of services offering year-round tailored support and community for homeless, at-risk and street-involved LGBT youth, though they are increasingly shown to be at disproportionate risk of spending time on the streets, and of mental health difficulties, HIV infection, substance abuse and suicide. Being homeless is daunting enough for anyone, but for LGBT youth the odds can seem overwhelming. They often face discrimination and violence from their heterosexual peers, but they are disconnected from the wider LGBT community. The Drop-In program’s goals are to connect, empower and build the resilience of LGBT youth who are homeless, at-risk or street-involved, increasing their capacity to improve their overall wellbeing & quality of life.
How does the Monday Night Drop-In help?
The Drop-In offers a healthy, home-style dinner that youth and adults mentors help with, fulfilling basic needs with dignity while youth develop knowledge and skills around food and nutrition. Weekly activities range from button-making to watching LGBT-positive movies, and discussions and workshops that cover issues such as harm reduction, self-care and legal rights. Youth are also offered one-on-one advice, advocacy and referrals to help them access accommodation, financial support, food, education and training, healthcare, employment, immigration and settlement and other resources. The Drop-In aims to engage youth in activities that can increase their sense of worth and connection; help them to develop positive relationships and a stronger sense of identity and belonging; increase their awareness of their rights and opportunities; enable them to develop useful skills; and increase their access to community services and supports.
The Monday Night Drop-In reflects Sherbourne’s Strategic Plan priority to “enrich youth health and wellness in our community”. The Drop-In, refined with input from youth and volunteers, integrates social and community supports with access to primary care, mental health counseling and other relevant services. The Drop-In will help serve as a model for an expanded strategy (2013-18) supporting improved health and wellness outcomes for youth from all communities.
In 2013-14, there were 2051 visits to the Monday Night Drop-In across 51 sessions – an average of 40 youth per session, with up to 50 on any one night. There were 4-8 volunteer adult mentors at each Drop-In who positively reflect the diversity, sexual orientation and gender identities of the youth, and act as ‘out’, safe role models. Outcomes for homeless, at-risk and street-involved youth included 27 youth improving their housing status and 9 youth maintaining their housing as a result of SOY interventions; 29 youth obtaining full or part-time employment, and 22 completing an education or training program; 40 youth received employment support.
Did you know?
SOY has 20 designated housing units offered through community partners. It refers youth into the units and actively helps them to maintain their housing and overcome key challenges as needed.