Good news

New recovery centre empowers youth at risk of homelessness with harm reduction and life skills

Threshold Housing Society takes unique approach to addictions treatment offered nowhere else on Vancouver Island

By Emily Fagan
May 21, 2021
Good news

New recovery centre empowers youth at risk of homelessness with harm reduction and life skills

Threshold Housing Society takes unique approach to addictions treatment offered nowhere else on Vancouver Island

By Emily Fagan
May 21, 2021
Jasmine Campbell. Photo: Submitted
Good news

New recovery centre empowers youth at risk of homelessness with harm reduction and life skills

Threshold Housing Society takes unique approach to addictions treatment offered nowhere else on Vancouver Island

By Emily Fagan
May 21, 2021
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New recovery centre empowers youth at risk of homelessness with harm reduction and life skills
Jasmine Campbell. Photo: Submitted

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It’s the little moments of her workday that bring Hollis Thorau the most joy. Testing new flavours of chips or facing off in video games alongside the teens she works with might not seem significant to an outsider—but to Thorau, it’s another moment when they get to laugh easily and enjoy being young. 

For youth working to recover from addictions and substance use disorders, these are not moments taken for granted.

“Substance use and mental health does not discriminate based on age,” said Thorau, program manager of Threshold Housing Society’s supportive recovery program. “Programs like this are needed because we have adult programs that are substance-specific, but not any youth programs.”

Since Threshold Housing Society’s supportive recovery centre opened its doors at the end of February, six people between the ages of 15 and 21 have begun their journeys of support and recovery. While living in the two-storey residential home that houses the recovery centre, each youth works towards the case plan and goals around recovery they mapped out before arriving. They also attend school, participate in outings, and learn practical skills for life.

Already, the demand for this program is evident. Thorau has received applications from children as young as 12, even though the program only accepts those 15 and older

This program is the latest step in Threshold Housing Society’s goal to empower youth at risk of homelessness with skills and a supportive community so they can thrive in adulthood.

Threshold Housing Society has been providing homes for young people across the Capital Region District for 31 years. Currently, about 60 youth currently live in communal or independent homes thanks to their support.

“We want to [catch] youth at an age where they're the most vulnerable and provide these interventions so that they don't continue on experiencing homelessness or they don't age into homelessness when they're aging out of care—they have a space where they can come and learn the life skills required to live sustainably on their own,” said Jasmine Campbell, development manager at Threshold Housing.

Upon entering the supportive recovery program, residents develop a case plan and personalized steps they’d like to work towards. Some steps might be taking time to practice self care or attending school on time every day for a week. Bigger steps, which the team helps them to work up to, might involve working on their recovery or relationships with family members. 

Throughout this program—each resident can stay up to four months—case managers and round-the-clock support staff are there to check in and help when needed. 

And if they have a relapse, unlike most recovery programs, Threshold doesn’t make the residents leave. Instead, their harm-reduction model works to guide them back towards their journey of recovery. There are provisions in place, however: substances aren’t allowed on the grounds of the recovery centre, and residents have been trained on administering Naloxone.

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“[We’re about] meeting anyone where they're at and being accepting and non-judgmental so that when somebody is ready to access services, and maybe be abstinent from substance use, they feel comfortable to do that,” said Thorau.

“We are coming from a place of understanding and caring.”

Shona Mockford helps to facilitate some of the evening activities at the recovery centre, such as art therapy. So far, she’s heard positive feedback about the harm-reduction approach and space for independence provided through the program.

It makes Mockford happy to see the residents use skills taught by the program like setting boundaries while in recovery, and apply it to improve other aspects of their lives. 

“I find that they're very resilient, capable, and smart. We have a lot of youth here that are really engaged in the community and social justice issues,” she said. “It's just really fun and exciting to work with them every day; they also teach me a lot.”

In her years at Threshold, Campbell has seen the impact this crucial intervention of support can have on people’s lives. Traditionally, each participant in the programs receives a quilt made by an anonymous member of the community. Recently, when she shared about this tradition on social media, an alumni of the program wrote back that they still have their quilt years later—and their three-year-old sleeps with it every night.

This is the kind of legacy Thorau wants for the supportive recovery program: a safe place where people can find the services and support to help them make a change that they will carry throughout their lives. 

“We empower youth to advocate for themselves and what they need, and then they take that into other aspects of their life,” she said. “We're always there to support them and be their cheerleaders.”

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