The Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA) supports the activities that promote the health and well being of Indigenous People and to promote the resurgence of Indigenous culture, language, and teachings, particularly those of local residency. FRAFCA offers a wide range of culturally sensitive health and social services to urban Indigenous children, youth, families, and Elders based on community-identified needs. The Surrey urban Indigenous community is exceptionally young, with 50% of the population under 28 years old. Surrey also has the fastest growing Indigenous population in BC, expected to surpass Vancouver’s population within the next few years.
FRAFCA’s Youth Services Department offers a wide range of services for youth ages 15-30 in the Surrey Community. While we are an Indigenous Agency, most of our programs provide services to both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous youth participants.
➢ All Nations Youth Safe House (ANYSH), is one of the services FRAFCA offers to youth in Surrey. ANYSH is the only youth Safe House in Surrey, providing youth with a safe place to stay while they are experiencing homelessness or at risk in the community. At ANYSH we welcome youth of all nations who are looking to find a healthy alternative to street involvement, or who have recently found themselves without a safe living environment and are actively working towards positive changes in their lives.
ANYSH serves anywhere from 160-200 youth per year ranging between the ages of 15-18 years old. Many of the youth who find themselves at ANYSH are not connected to supportive services, whether that be through the Ministry of Children and Family Development or Youth-Serving Agencies. The youth who access services at ANYSH could be fleeing abusive homes, recently found themselves kicked out of their homes, struggling with addictions or mental health, exiting the youth justice system, fleeing gang involvement or sexual exploitation or landing at our resource from out of province or out of the country.
Our goal at ANYSH is to provide up to 30 days of residential care in a safe and supportive environment. At ANYSH we provide youth with the opportunity to make choices that result in positive changes in their lives, Connect youth with community services agencies/resources to build individual plans based on individual needs, Ensure youth can be safe and provide them with the opportunity to make healthy choices, Reconnect youth with families/guardians where appropriate. Support youth in experiencing and developing positive, healthy relationships, Support youth to develop skills, knowledge, and abilities to lead productive self-sufficient lives.
ANYSH is often sourcing out to community grants, donations and fundraising to continue to be able to provide high-level service to youth. Over the years ANYSH has received support towards renovations and repairs to the house, Christmas Gifts for youth, Hygiene kits and warm socks, Toques and Gloves, and donations for food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ANYSH, while not confirmed to be an essential service by the funders, continued to provide service to the youth in need. While many other supports closed or offered altered supports to the youth. ANYSH continued intakes and daily support without the proper PPE for their staff and clients. Staff worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and well being of the youth was the top priority. During this trying time, our costs expanded largely due to having to alter staff schedules to ensure limited people on site daily while ensuring we were still staffed 24/7. We experienced high costs in grocery spending due to challenges finding healthy food choices for our weekly shops, as many grocery stores had limited items on shelves or allowed to be purchased per home. ANYSH also had to find ways to encourage social distancing and motivate the youth to stay onsite rather than leaving.
ANYSH was lucky enough to receive funding from SurreyCares Community Foundation. With this funding, ANYSH was able to purchase proper PPE, sanitizer, gloves, gowns, spray bottles and install sanitization stations around the facility. ANYSH was also able to spend the funds on grocery purchases. With the help of these funds, it has allowed ANYSH to spend other funds towards a new working TV for the youth as well as purchase iPad’s to encourage youth to participate in job searches, connect with friends while distancing and complete school tasks over Zoom. The iPads were a great tool for keeping our youth safe while keeping them engaged and involved in their success.
ANYSH continues to reach out to the community to find financial supports for the ongoing needs of repairs, maintenance, safety, and security at the facility. ANYSH is a staple in the community for the youth, as they need a safe place when they have nowhere else to go.
➢ Indigenous Youth Urgent Needs Program is a program that was derived completely based on the gaps in services for the youth served at ANYSH. We currently operate the only short-stay shelter in Surrey for homeless youth who are between the ages of 15-18. ANYSH is funded by MCFD and stipulates that we are to provide shelter only.
All the youth are in significant crisis when they come to ANYSH. They come in various stages of readiness and health; however, most do not have identification or warm clothing; many do not have medication or additional clothing; most do not have a plan for housing or income security beyond their stay with us. The Indigenous Youth Urgent Needs Program has 2 Coordinators who advocate and work directly with youth ageing out of care or youth services and youth who are homeless, functionally homeless and disconnected from healthy supports. Additionally, the program works within a strengths-based framework and assisting young people to build on their existing skills and develop their own capabilities.
Through coaching and mentoring, youth are supported to access complimentary supports that will increase the likelihood of long-term stabilization and success. The youth taking part in the Urgent Needs Program range in age from 15-24 years old. The program assists youth to develop a transition plan; identify and prioritize needs; advocate, complete forms, access income security programs, and connect youth to other complementary support programs with the aim of ensuring stabilization.
Research shows children & youth raised in unsafe, unhealthy, or severely challenging environments often have more difficulty building strong, sustainable lives as adults. To break the cycle of repeating unhealthy patterns experienced in childhood, it is essential to provide children and youth with the care, security, and life skills they need to lead healthy, independent lives. This program supports many youths accessing ANYSH and other programs with FRAFCA and outside of FRAFCA who are struggling with a variety of issues such as homelessness, addiction, food security, cold wet weather solutions; finding a job, staying in school, overcoming mental, physical or social health concerns, reuniting with family, finding and learning to make the leap to adulthood.
The Indigenous Youth Urgent Needs Program has seen a growth in need and demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caseloads are over 20 youth per staff. Many of the youth are disconnected from their other supports. Our Urgent Needs Team continued to work and provide 1-1 support to youth during the crisis. Many of the youth are struggling financially and are requesting support for basic living needs.
➢ Indigenous Youth Outreach & Empowerment Support Services provides street outreach services and support to youth ages 12-18 years old who are or are at risk of becoming, street entrenched or who have already engaged in high-risk behaviour. Working in collaboration with the MCFD High-Risk Youth team, we provide non-judgmental and culturally appropriate support to youth; provide at-risk youth with healthy alternatives to street-involvement; advocate and connect youth and encourage and motivate youth to access support programs and services in the community.
Working from a harm reduction approach, we help youth to access services and resources that can help them to find housing or employment, return to their families or caregivers, enroll in school or training, positively address alcohol and drug issues, and many other issues and concerns. The Indigenous Youth Outreach and Empowerment Support Services aims to increase young people’s knowledge about issues impacting their health & safety and provide youth with tools to protect and maintain their well-being. Workers help youth recognize high-risk behaviours and manage the risks associated with their day to day living.
Crisis intervention is provided as needed, including attending appointments with youth. Workers support with advocacy & referral, including forms completion, securing identification and accessing provincially mandated, and funded youth services in the Circle 5 region. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the youth on our team’s caseload were set to age out of Foster Care. Services for those youth have been extended to continue to provide as much support as possible.
➢ Indigenous Youth Connections is responsible for coordinating, developing, and planning delivery of the Indigenous Connections Leadership program. The program aims to assist Urban Indigenous Youth between the ages of 15-24 to explore their full potential and develop strategies for their personal growth, and success, which enhances their ability to successfully integrate education, the work-world, and community. It is expected that over the course of the program, Indigenous youth will receive support to increase their skills, abilities and understanding of themselves and the larger community.
Previously this program supported youth through a weekly youth drop-in on Monday evenings, providing cultural teachings, art, and life skills while sharing a meal. As well as a weekly after school drop in at one of our local High School’s to connect with youth. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that was not feasible. The Indigenous Connections program is now completed online through Facebook Live on a weekly basis as well as Virtual Zoom sessions that youth can register for. Packages are put together with supplies for youth to participate in real-time and are delivered to their homes. Numbers for attendance in this program have quadrupled since the pandemic began.
➢ Surrey Youth Reaching Home is FRAFCA’s newest support for youth in Surrey. Our Youth Homeless Prevention Program supports youth, who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, to secure and maintain safe permanent housing and will provide access to education and life skills training, health care, employment, cultural programming, and social connections.
We deliver services in 3 key areas Housing Services, Prevention/Shelter Diversion and Client Support Services. The goals are to ensure youth have access to safe housing solutions. Our program supports youth with outreach efforts as well as financial supports. We aim to support youth to find housing, maintain housing, support transportation needs, start-up housing costs, eviction supports, reparation, groceries, clothing, and hygiene support. Our program supports youth from the first point of contact all the way through assisting with education and employment and ongoing check-up visits for 1 year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team is experiencing the stressors and pressures relating to finding housing for young people. The rental market is expensive and often challenging to find landlords willing to rent to young people. Many young people are facing eviction currently, making the demand and need much higher.
➢ The Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre is raising awareness and funds to build youth transitional housing in Surrey. Each year in B.C., roughly 780 youth age out of care in B.C. Although some youth leaving care are resilient and successful, they often face more challenges than their peers from traditional homes, such as not having a family network, limited financial help, poor life skills, and psychological scars linked to childhood trauma. Countless youth struggle with the transition into adulthood on their own, currently there are very few options for our youth to receive the help they seek.
We believe that providing a supportive housing model with wraparound services during these years is an essential service that is currently lacking in our community, but together as a community we can make this goal a reality.
We have been serving high-risk youth for 15 years in Surrey. Our goal is to begin expanding those services to youth who are ageing out of care and in need of housing support. We need to start finding long term solutions for stability for our youth. The Guiding Youth Home Fundraising Gala began in 2015, after a heartbreaking loss of one of our own youth. ANYSH housed a young girl for a period of time just before she aged out of government care. Several weeks after turning 19 and departing from ANYSH the young girl was found alone in a tent dead from an apparent drug overdose. This incident was one of many sad outcomes for the Indigenous Youth we serve at FRAFCA.
The Manager of Youth Services at FRAFCA decided enough was enough, and it was time something was done for our youth as all too often we hear negative stories of our youth after they reach the age of majority. No youth should ever be alone, and no youth should be cut off from supports because one day they are no longer considered a youth. This is an annual fundraiser that raises awareness to our community about the needs of our youth and raises funds towards our goal of building housing solutions where our youth can be supported on their journey to independence.
There are always great performances, and always involve our very own youth to share their stories, challenges, and success. While also providing raffles, auctions, and opportunities to win 50/50 and other great items. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are unable to host our 5th Guiding Youth Home Gala and are still very much in need of support towards building housing solutions for youth in Surrey.
Comments from ANYSH Youth
“So far I am proud of myself for all that I have achieved. I wouldn't have ever done it without the staff at ANYSH. They’ve given me a lot of help, support, and guidance. If this Safe House wasn't open, I don't know where I would be right now. I might be homeless, or maybe even dead. This place has given me respect and guidance, leading to a better life.”- Anonymous
“The staff have given me so much support, wisdom, insight, teachings and guidance. Thank you, all of you. You don't realize how much you have helped me. You have a great team! Thank you for your understanding”-Anonymous
The Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Youth Services Department is always in need of donations to support our growing needs and programming to support the success and independence of our youth. Please donate today at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/surrey-aboriginal-cultural-society/