Turning mountains of obstacles into hills
With a grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, RaY Inc. helps homeless youth have a safe space to call home and learn how to cope with mental health and substance abuse.
Based in Winnipeg, the child poverty capital of Canada, Resource Assistance for Youth, Inc. (RaY) knows that providing homeless youth with what they need on their terms is the only way to help them improve their lives.
RaY is a non-profit agency working with vulnerable, at-risk and homeless youth up to the age of 29. It offers a non-judgmental and non-partisan environment, employing a harm reduction approach to all interactions with youth in need.
"Over our 25 years operating a street level program we have seen a marked increase in youth with serious trauma and complex mental health issues, often accompanied by addiction issues.” says Kelly Holmes, Executive Director of the longstanding Winnipeg-based organization.
“We at RaY strive to assist youth on their journey to safety and independence by providing information, systems navigation, cultural connections, training and employment opportunities, and timely basic need resources. Aspects of our programming will fall short if the young person is in the throes of a mental health crisis. At RaY we hope to provide the opportunity and space to address these health issues through the provision of supportive, timely and relevant resources."
Many of the youth who use RaY’s resources first experienced homelessness because of unaddressed mental health issues. As a coping mechanism, many of them turn to substance use, resulting in co-ccurring disorders that are incredibly difficult to overcome alone. With the grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, RaY will be able to provide a unique digital and in-class curriculum called Hazelden that helps youth understand their co-occurring disorders, and how to overcome them with support.
This accessible curriculum will help youth identify underlying mental health and substance abuse issues, while providing tools to help them move forward using cognitive behavioral therapy. “The goal of the program is to help youth to identify what their needs are and give them a safe, non-judgmental space in which to acknowledge that they have a substance abuse problem without feelings of fault. It helps to make co-occurring disorders feel like less of a mountain to climb and more of a hill” explains Breda Vosters, Director of Grants and Information.
The need for programs like RaY’s, which is dedicated to ensuring that no young person is left behind, is increasing. That’s why addressing youth homelessness is at the core of the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation’s mission. Joseph, a young man who leverages RaY’s services, believes in the power of what they do. “As a youth, I was always locked up or doing drugs,” he recalls. “Then I came here and they gave me insight into what I should do and how I can change myself. They completely changed my life.”
By supporting the work of RaY – and hundreds more youth-based charities across the country – we can work together to end youth homelessness and help give our kids a brighter future.
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