In honour of Calgary Pride Week, Calgary Homeless Foundation is shining a light on 2SLGBTQ+ youth and the agencies helping them find a home where they can feel safe and free to be themselves.
As of August 26, 2021, 101 youth, aged 24 and under, are awaiting housing with supports in Calgary. Out of those 101, 23 have identified an interest in 2SLGBTQ+ supports.
According to the 2016 study, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” 29.5% of youth experiencing homelessness in Canada identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The survey notes this overrepresentation is a result of homophobia and transphobia in families, schools, and communities, which make it difficult for young people to remain at home.
These unique challenges demonstrate why homeless-serving programs for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in Calgary are so important. With the support of the Government of Alberta, Calgary Homeless Foundation recognized and responded to this need, funding programs like Aura, run by Trellis Society.
The Aura program supports 2SLGBTQ+ youth, aged 14-24, who are experiencing homelessness by helping them find appropriate housing where their gender identity and sexual orientation is respected and celebrated.
We spoke with Kim Ledene (she/her), Program Director at Trellis, to find out more about the Aura program and the unique challenges that 2SLGBTQ+ youth face as they journey home.
Can you tell us more about the need for a program like Aura in our city?
The Aura program is proud to support a caseload of 10 youth at any given time. In 2021, it has supported 14 youth to date. However, there are far more youth who could use this type of program in Calgary.
Can you tell us more about the supports offered by the Aura program?
The Aura program provides intensive, one-on-one case management as well as housing supports, with the aim of helping youth develop the life skills and the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health necessary to be independent adults.
Through case management, our team works with youth to set goals and to access systems that support their physical and mental health, including any challenges they may have with addiction. Youth also receive support in the areas of employment, education, and making cultural connections.
In addition, we connect youth with their family and friends so they have natural support networks that can assist their growth into adulthood and independence.
What impact does this program have on the lives of the youth it serves?
Youth have consistently given us the feedback that the Aura program makes them feel supported and encouraged during such a challenging time. Youth who have been supported by the program have told us:
- “Aura has given me a reason to have hope.”
- “The people I’ve met make me happy & feel not alone.”
- “The openness and support of the staff, their willingness to help – whether it’s a drive somewhere to getting trans confirming gear.”
Can you describe the unique experience of a 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness and the contributing factors?
Rejection is one of the major reasons kids leave home, and 2SLGBTQ+ face a lot of unique barriers and challenges that leave them feeling rejected as if they don’t belong.
According to Dr. Alex Abramovich, family rejection is the primary reason for youth homelessness. In addition, program design often challenges 2SLGBTQ+ identities through things like dorm set-up, washrooms and intake paperwork.
This is why it is incredibly important to support programs and organizations that are offering supports and services that are specifically geared towards making 2SLGBTQ+ feel accepted and encouraged to be who they are.
If you or someone you know is a 2SLGBTQ+ youth in need of supports, what resources would you suggest?
Two-Spirited identifying youth can reach out to Trellis’ Iiyika’kimaat Program. This program supports Indigenous youth and offers a very inclusive space. The team can connect the youth to affirming elders, if requested.
Trellis offers a youth program called Proudly every Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm and it is for 2SLGBTQ+ identified or questioning youth aged 13-24. Each week there are games, activities and guest speakers. Come hang out, ask questions and have fun!
Other organizations in the city doing great work with 2SLGBTQ+ youth include the Centre for Sexuality and Calgary Outlink.
How can 2SLGBTQ+ youth in need of support connect with the Aura program?
Youth looking to access the Aura program must complete an assessment through SORCe to be eligible. To book an assessment or find hours of operation for SORCE, please call 587-779-5015.
How can Calgarians support 2SLGBTQ+ youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness?
Calgarians can support 2SLGBTQ+ youth by being kind and supporting organizations that create safe spaces. We also encourage Calgarians to reflect on their own attitudes and biases. Everyone is looking to be accepted and to feel like they belong in the community, and this is no different for 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.