Youth in group homes are some of the most overlooked segments of vulnerable populations in our community, but a team of young people from EGADZ are making their voices heard and changing how policy governs at least one youth home in the province.
On Friday, December 8th, 2023, EGADZ opened Garden of Hope, a youth home offering mental health support for young people aged 12 to 18. The eight-bed space provides a range of supports designed to reduce self-harming behaviors, suicide attempts and hospital visits.
A different kind of group home
But this group home is a bit different than other youth housing facilities in Saskatchewan. From the start, a committee of youth with experience living in group homes helped design the space and even the intake forms. Committee member Vinny Moccasin said in an interview that the group of young people looked over the forms and “added things that we thought were missing.”
“We felt like nothing was being done,” said Moccasin in an interview with CJWW. “[Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman] came to one of our meetings, and we all kind of just completely dumped everything on him on what we wanted. That we wanted things to change, and that things aren’t okay right now for youth. There’s a lot of kids out there that need homes.”
For youth, by youth
Creating a space that feels like a home – something often missing in other group homes throughout the province – was important to the committee. Moccasin said she wanted to be a part of designing the program because her siblings will soon be living in a group home, and she wanted to make sure they were taken care of.
For EGADZ executive director Don Meikle the only way forward on the project was with youth involvement all the way through.
“We are very excited about the new Garden of Hope,” Meikle said in a statement. “This project has youth involvement from conception to completion, laying the groundwork that will assist youth well into the future. It is a true home that is for youth, by youth.”
A donation from United Way
Thanks to the generosity of United Way donors, $10,000 from the recently announced emergency fund was designated to furnishing the home’s recreational space. The committee made decisions about the types of chairs, pictures, and other items in the space. Simple objects that many of us take for granted are critical to enhancing a space so that it feels like a real home.
“On behalf of United Way donors, it was an honour to invest in this project and see young people take control of how the space and intake process for the home was designed,” said Sheri Benson, chief executive officer for United Way Saskatoon and Area. “The voices of youth are often drowned out by well-intentioned adults, but these young people stood up and reminded all of us that their perspectives are vital to the process of healing and creating opportunities for a better life for everyone in our community. I hope we see more projects like this, where the people being impacted by the process have a decision-making voice in its design.”