Plans for permanent youth shelter in Brampton underway as young people in Peel face mounting instability

Rendering of new Brampton Youth Shelter (Image source: Region of Peel)

Homeless youth are a vulnerable population within a vulnerable population, and with the growing issues facing residents across Canada, such as the crises of affordable housing and rising cost of living, a permanent youth shelter facility in the City of Brampton has been desperately needed for years. It is finally on its way to becoming a reality.

The Region of Peel is proposing a permanent public youth shelter facility in Brampton at 1358 Queen Street West. An existing facility at Queen Street East and Goreway Drive, opened in 2017 with 30 emergency beds for youth, is designed to provide temporary support, and does not meet the needs of young people facing systemic barriers to secure housing. The temporary shelter was established as an “interim solution for youth, through a lease of a motel,” and was later moved under the leadership of Our Place Peel currently offers 40 beds to youth 16 to 24.

The new facility in the west side of the city would house 80 beds, and offer more permanent residence options for youth transitioning out of precarious living situations.

The demand has existed for years. In 2015 Our Place Peel’s existing youth shelter provided assistance to almost 250 young people, who received critical support, but another 457 youths who sought shelter at the non-profit organization’s facility had to be turned away that year.

At a Planning and Development Committee meeting held October 23, council received a staff presentation by development services planner Arjun Singh, to facilitate the creation of a 4-storey Public Youth Shelter in Ward 5 of Brampton. The proposal is still in the planning phase, with next steps involving staff reviewing the application as well as public comments and providing council with a final recommendation report for approval from council in the near future.

According to a 2016 report by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press titled Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey (the largest pan-Canadian study on youth homelessness), Young people aged 13-24 experiencing homelessness make up roughly 20 percent of the homeless population in Canada. Between 35,000 to 40,000 young people experience homelessness in a given year, according to the report. About 40 percent of participants reported that they were “under the age of 16 when they first experienced homelessness,” the report says, highlighting that the findings show youth who leave home when they are younger “not only experience increased hardship before they become homeless, but they also experience greater adversity once on the streets.” These individuals face a number of risks, including chronic homelessness, and can become targets of crime, including sexual assault, have higher rates of mental health and addictions symptoms than the general population and are more likely to attempt suicide, among other heightened risks.

Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS) gave a delegation at the Planning and Development meeting advocating for a permanent youth shelter in Brampton. Peel CAS representative Alicia Boothe shared some of the harrowing experiences youth who are experiencing homelessness face. “We know of many youth who have been sleeping in local parks overnight, spending time in the vehicles of their friends’ parents’ cars and even some youth who have been unfortunately lured into human sex trafficking as a result of trying to survive the issue of homelessness and trying to meet basic needs.”

“The main issue is youth in our community and providing them with a safe place to stay,” she said, highlighting that youth who are between preteen and young adulthood are particularly vulnerable, and are often targeted by human traffickers. “This is the heart of the issue that we wanted to bring forward, because the risk of homelessness increases the rate and the chances of exploitation, and this is a challenge we cannot ignore.”

Of 866 individuals in 2021 who were reported as experiencing homelessness in Peel Region, 16 percent were youth aged 16-24, and these are only the recorded numbers which do not capture the full extent of the problem. “The majority of homeless youth in Peel Region stayed in emergency shelters (37 percent) or transitional housing (16 percent) in 2021,” the presentation detailed.

Access to affordable housing was also highlighted as a key barrier for youth among this demographic, Boothe shared, explaining that the current average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is far above what would be provided to a young person on social assistance or the income of a single individual with no dependents.

“We are talking about, again, a vulnerable period of time for children and youth, particularly youth, and this uncertainty impacts the emotional, social well being of these youth, things like being able to continue their education. We’re talking about preventing human trafficking, which is a very real threat and issue in our Region and in the City of Brampton,” Boothe said. “Reducing homelessness is going to impact the lives of young people profoundly, and they’ll be able to break the cycle of homelessness and all of the related issues that come along with that.”

According to the 2016 Without a Home report, the school dropout rate for homeless youth in Canada was 53.2 percent, compared to 9 for the general population. The report highlights that out of those who dropped out, 73.9 percent reported they “would like to return to school.”

The proposed location for the new facility is in the Credit Valley neighbourhood in Ward 5 of Brampton. A few residents who live in the area gave delegations at the council planning meeting challenging the location of the proposed site, claiming it is not suitable due to a lack of transit service and amenities in the immediate vicinity. They also expressed some safety concerns for existing residents near the proposed shelter but did not explain why the shelter would create any safety risks.

Amy Shepherd, of Arcadis Architects, speaking on behalf of Peel Region, gave a presentation to council providing more details on the facility. Any youth in crisis and in need will have access to the shelter and the building will offer a mix of private and shared rooms, common indoor and outdoor amenity space and professional offices. There will be 24/7 on-site staffing and tenants will be expected to abide by the Residents Code of Conduct and Good Neighbour Policy. Youth will also be given assistance with family reunification, housing, education, employment, mental health support and more, Shepherd said.

The single-access site application would not contribute significantly to traffic in the area, as “most youth will not have their own cars, the youth themselves will not have friends or family visiting in their cars at the site.” She acknowledged the area is “not as well serviced” by transit compared to other areas in Brampton, but said the Region reviewed over 25 sites in Peel, and ultimately chose this location for its “site attributes” including commercial retail plaza’s in walking distance of the facility.

“We understand right now some of the surrounding development is 2-story, 3-storey houses, but the area has experienced a lot of growth,” she said.

The Pointer reached out to the Region of Peel, which is facilitating and funding the project, for the proposed budget for the permanent youth shelter in Brampton. While an exact budget proposal was not provided, a spokesperson said funding was “confirmed prior to the 2024 budget,” and that the project “falls within the Updated 10- 1/8Year 3/8 Capital Plan per the July 6, 2023 Regional Council report.” The report details that “sufficient funding” is available for the Brampton Youth Shelter Replacement, which doubled the original commitment of the number of beds to a total of 80.

The report also highlights potential risk following the Region of Peel’s dissolution at the start of 2025, citing that it “may impact the Region’s (Housing Master Plan and non-HMP) affordable housing builds,” and that it, “poses risks to the ongoing and future projects but more so for the projects in the construction stage, where the Region has entered into agreements with third parties. It reads that staff will “continue to monitor and respond to direction from Council and the Transition Board, once established.”

The Region of Peel’s proposed 2024 budget says the Region will provide “241,000 bed stays to families, adults and youth in Peel’s shelter system through Housing Support.” The Region’s Housing Master Plan published in 2020 highlights the Brampton Youth Shelter Replacement as one of 31 projects included in the plan, which falls under the Build More Affordable Housing strategy within the Peel Housing and Homelessness Plan that focuses on a “long-term approach to affordable housing development.”

According to the Region of Peel project page, the Brampton Youth Shelter will aim to provide young people with “many of the basic needs they otherwise may not receive.” Residents aged 16 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness will be provided with access to “shelter, structured programs to address family reunification, addictions, mental health challenges, and other issues.” They will also “receive support for their housing needs, including education and employment.”

“Youth Workers” will be operating to support each person and “connect them to housing solutions and the appropriate support they require to be successful” upon leaving the facility, as the website says. “Our aim is to provide a supportive environment for youth to develop and achieve their goals in rebuilding their lives.” According to the 2016 Without a Home report, youth facing homelessness often face multiple episodes of homelessness, as well as housing instability “for years prior to their current experience of homelessness.”

The report, which discusses survey results from youth in Canada, shows that among this group, people of certain demographics face even higher rates of multiple experiences with homelessness, including transgender and gender non-binary youth (82.8 percent), LGBTQ2S youth (80.2 percent) and Indigenous youth (80.4 percent). The discrepancy, according to the report, is linked to these youth being more likely to leave home at a younger age, as well the higher likelihood of these youth experiencing “parental conflict and childhood physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse as contributing factors to their homelessness.”

The Region of Peel’s project website page shares that it will be undertaking informal meetings with “stakeholders in the area to provide further information and dialogue about this proposed development,” alongside the City of Brampton, and that it will provide further updates as they become available.

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