Aviva Canada youth co-op housing study marks International Day for Street Children

Toronto, ON (Apr. 12, 2013) – In recognition of the International Day for Street Children, Aviva Canada, one of the country’s leading providers of home, auto, leisure, group and business insurance, is pleased to announce the release of a study on YouthLink’s Co-op Housing Program.

Aviva Canada has supported YouthLink’s Co-op Housing Program, along with a number of other initiatives undertaken by the agency since 2010. The goal of the Program is to provide an affordable, safe place for vulnerable youth between the ages 16-21 to find stability and prepare for independent living. YouthLink is a non-profit organization based in the Scarborough area of Toronto, Ontario with a mission to support vulnerable youth in making positive life choices. They offer a range of community services that promote mental health and well-being.

The study, called Passport 2012 which was commissioned by Aviva was conducted by local researchers in Italy, Canada and two sites in India. What makes the study unique and more impactful is that it focused on interviews with the participants in the program, as well as the staff supporting them. This is a rare opportunity for both the report and the program participants, whose voices are often silenced or disregarded.

“We’re thankful for Aviva’s investment and collaboration in this study which allowed us to gain deeper insight into the how the Co-op Housing program is working, especially for the youth directly supported,” said Katina Watson, Director of Counseling at YouthLink.

Recommendations from the report were broken down into four audiences: policy-making and practice, corporate/donor support, research and for young people as service users.

Key recommendations include:

  • Youth need to be actively listened to for their insights.
  • Youth need time and a safe space to explore who they are and what matters to them, with youth who have lived chaotic or traumatic lives likely needing more time than others.
  • Services are needed to breach the gap from state care/childhood to independence.
  • Listen for depth, not just numbers: Funders in Canada want numbers; they want proof that programs are working, but quantity doesn’t always indicate success.
  • Funders often offer grants on one- or three-year terms. This is not enough time to show progress. It will be important to educate funders about the long-term impacts of programs such as the Co-op Housing Program.
  • Youth need to recognize their successes and how impressive they are. Focusing on continued improvement is important but so is realizing how much they have achieved and the hurdles they’ve overcome.

Aviva Canada is part of Aviva plc., a global insurer with over 31,000 employees serving 34 million customers. Aviva supports Street to School (S2S) programs through more than 20 charity partnerships around the world. Street to School is about championing the needs of street children and recognizing that every child living on, working on or connected to the street has the right to fulfill their potential.

Aviva and its partners chose a developmental evaluation and participatory assessment approach to find out from children and youth how well the S2S programs are doing, and if and how they could be more effective. View the full PASSPORT 2012 report on Youthlink’s Co-op Housing Program (PDF).

About YouthLink Co-op Housing

YouthLink has four houses in Toronto for youth aged 16- 21 that offer safe, affordable housing and a friendly, supportive atmosphere that helps youth to prepare to live independently. A live-in mentor and a full-time youth worker help residents to set and pursue their goals for education, employment and independence. Visit youthlink.ca/co-ops for more information.

About Aviva Canada

Aviva Canada is one of the leading Property and Casualty insurance groups in Canada providing home, automobile, recreational vehicle, group and business insurance to more than three million customers. A wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Aviva plc, the company has more than 3,000 employees, 25 locations and 1,700 independent broker partners. Aviva Canada and its employees invest in positive change including through the Aviva Community Fund and Eva’s Initiatives, its signature partner in Aviva’s global Street to School program to help homeless and other at-risk youth reach their potential. For more information visit AvivaCanada.com.

About the International Day for Street Children

Visit streetchildrenday.org for more information.