TRURO – At-risk and troubled youth in Nova Scotia will soon have non-judgmental outreach workers to turn to for support through a pilot project launched Wednesday in Truro.
"What this investment is about is to be reaching out to our youth," Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse said, in announcing funding of $614,000 for the program. "To provide support to our youth so they don't have to come to us."
The program will see 10 outreach workers hired through community organizations across the province to provide support to vulnerable youth to help them stay in school, find jobs, get help with family problems and become involved in their communities.
"I'm excited to launch this program that finally addresses the gap in services for this age group of 16 to early 20-year-olds," Peterson-Rafuse said in her announcement, held at the Truro branch of the Canadian Mental Health Assoc (CMHA).
"We are making life better for families by adding to a wide range of services that are already available for vulnerable youth."
Both the CMHA and the Native Council of Nova Scotia in Truro will be included in the program, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters in New Glasgow, the Valley Refuge Association in Kentville, SHYFT Youth Services in Yarmouth, Phoenix Youth Programs in Halifax and Family Services of Eastern Nova Scotia in Sydney and Port Hawkesbury.
The departments of Education, Health and Wellness and Justice and Community Services are working in collaboration to implement the program.
"It's very exciting because we're talking about building a framework of support for youth provincially that's really coming at it from a different way," said Susan Henderson, executive director of the CMHA branch.
"It's about putting the youth first, going where they are, whether that's to a basketball court, you know, not asking youth to come to my office and meet with me. So I'm hoping that those will help break down some barriers. I think it's extremely important."
Peterson-Rafuse also said the program is not a temporary effort but will be supported going forward with funding built into the province's annual budget.
Melissa Rogers, the parenting journey home support worker with the Nova Scotia Native Council, also expressed her support for the pilot program.
"I'm hoping it will give youth the opportunity to realize that this program is there and make them aware of it and bring them out to start taking advantage of all the things that we are going to be able to offer them now."