The topic of poverty is largely discussed here in London. Though employment rates have risen since 2014, it is important for people struggling to know the resources available to them. The younger that people are educated, the better chance they have at making their situation better.
One resource available here in London, is the Youth Action Centre (YAC), which is a program run through Transition Services, and Youth Opportunities Unlimited. The YAC is located at Richmond and York and specializes in basic needs for youths aged 16-24. Some of the services found at the YAC include meal times and a transitional housing programs. Youths who are struggling to eat or find housing, or may be in between living arrangements, can drop in Monday to Friday, from 8 AM to 10 AM for breakfast or 3 PM to 6PM for evening, with dinner being served at 4:30 PM.
Bre Warren, a worker at the YAC explained a little bit about what they do at the YAC, “Around those times, so 10 to 3 and 6 to 9 in the evenings, you can knock on the door, and staff will sit down with them and work with them on more of a one on one basis.” She adds that if they need assistance with housing or employment, the center has resources for them to explore.
During those times, youth can also come in and make themselves at home. They can make coffee, play board games, watch Netflix, play music, do laundry or collect hygiene products. Warren adds, “We also have all kinds of hygiene supplies like soap, shampoo, razors, we have laundry facilities, so they can come in and do their laundry for free. We have showers, so a lot of them that are couch surfing or staying in shelters, don’t always have somewhere to do that sort of stuff, so they can come in and we’ll give them everything they need and they can have a shower there.”
On top of basic need services, Warren explains that they also have programs available to help people with life skills. “We have cooking classes, budgeting and recreational programs. We have girls group, guys group, pizza and movie night and games nights.” Warren adds that many community partners visit the center, who can reach out to the youth about their services. Some of these include nurse practitioners, regional HIV/Aids connection, and an onsite clinic.
The YAC typically sees anywhere from 50 to 80 youths per day, and Warren explains that there is no particular age that she sees more of. She explains that some of the younger youth she sees (aged 16-18), are the ones who are coming out of the system. Youths coming out of homes, or foster care are typically looking for resources to get them on their feet. The older crowds she typically sees (aged 20-24) are struggling more so with mental health and addiction.
One upcoming event that Warren and the YAC are stressing the importance of, is HIV Testing Awareness week, which runs from September 21st to September 25th. The YAC is partnering with other organizations in and around London for the “Are You Doing It?” campaign, aimed to get people out to get tested. “Anybody that’s sexually active at all, should be getting tested at least once a year, and most people don’t even know that.” She adds that in 2014, approximately 36.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV/Aids, and 25% of Canadians who were living with HIV, weren’t even aware of their status. “We’re trying to target certain populations, and spread the word that everyone should be getting tested.”
Testing centers will be set up all over London and surrounding areas, and people even have the option to get anonymously tested, if they are skeptical.