The shelter program sees a highly diverse group of clients from youth who are having difficulty communicating at home to youth who have complex needs like mental health disorders, FASD, or addictions. It is critical that the program can adapt to meet the varying needs of all the clients so Sunrise House can ensure there are no barriers to their access.
The high-risk youth hold the most concern for us when looking at child maltreatment as Sunrise House know they are one wrong conversation away from finding themselves in harmful situations – gang involvement, criminal activity, sexual exploitation, etc. Youth Support Workers safety plan on an ongoing basis with high-risk youth to best ensure they are keeping themselves safe and that someone (often the shelter staff) knows where they are or who they are with. Sunrise House also work closely with the RCMP and have a liaison officer who will also come into the shelter and meet with youth to build relationships should they ever find themselves needing help.
In 2019, 168 Sunrise House youth were apprehended under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children’s Act in Alberta. This is down from 183 in 2017-2018, a 9% decrease year over year. These are positive numbers the numbers in 2015-16 was 160 so things appear to be stabilizing.
In 2015, the point in time counts indicated that more than 65,000 youth were experiencing homelessness in Alberta. Since then, point in time counts in major centres have shown an increase in this reporting demographic so it is safe to assume this number has increased in the past 6 years. Alberta’s solution, in 2015, indicated a shift to more of a collective impact model and away from focus solely on provision of emergency services. The strategies capitalize on 3 components: prevention/emergency services/housing and supports – but shifts the emphasis to prevention and housing.
Since its inception, Sunrise House has subscribed to the need for preventative activities to be layered with emergency housing. This is evidenced by the many layers of support provided via the Shelter, making the actual bed night one of value with the ultimate goal of preventing future homelessness.
On April 11, 2018, the City of Grande Prairie conducted its sixth bi-annual Point in Time Count of homelessness (Count), taking a snapshot of the city’s current homeless population. On this day, 228 people were found to be experiencing homelessness, the highest count to date. Of the 228, 22% or 50, were dependents and independent youth aged 13-24. 56% of respondents also indicated that they first experienced homelessness as a youth.