Setting up safe space for youth in London goal of new project

Indigenous youth in London, Ont. are the focus of a 10-week research project and the goal is to engage the young people to help remove some of the barriers when accessing services at the Youth Opportunities United Centre (YOU) at Western University.

“I personally think that indigenous voices should be at every table, especially when we’re looking at facilitating change or creating more culturally aware supports for indigenous youth,” said Rachel Radyk, Indigenous research fellow at Western.

She said because the fellowship is only 10 weeks, she’s hoping to work with the youth at the YOU to create an Indigenous leadership council to be the voice of change and create a safer space.

The YOU centre offers resources to all youth in the city, including an employment centre that offers work to those who are seeking experience.

There’s a café, a woodworking shop, a recycling centre and a kitchen at the shelter where youth are able to pick up some shifts.

What the centre doesn’t have is an inviting centre for Indigenous youth, especially those who are homeless.

That’s why YOU is collaborating with the university’s Head to Heart project.

Sarah Palmer is the youth development counsellor.

“It’s called EQUIP, it’s all about equity in healthcare. So, they’re trying to adapt it to fit in a homelessness atmosphere,” she said. “So, we’re really excited to be taking part in this research, so that we can help identify some of the barriers that indigenous youth face when accessing homelessness service and sort of amend those barriers and figure out why is this happening and how can we fix it.”

Palmer already has some of her own ideas on where to start.

“I could see us incorporating more Indigenous imagery in our buildings, I could see us trying to seek out and hire more Indigenous staff to create a safer space for indigenous youth and I could see us finding funding to be able to support, if you want to go to the reserves surrounding London to visit their families, participate in ceremonies.”

Radyk is hoping to have the Indigenous Leadership Council in place by the end of the project, which will be in August.

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