Homeless youth have been hit hard by the pandemic and lockdown, says the director of a Sarnia drop-in centre.
“Sarnia was already in a housing crisis so this has certainly put additional pressure on those youth,” said Ryan Mitchell of The Hub.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, about 20 young people he knew were “chronically couch surfing” at family and friends’ homes to keep a roof over their head.
During the lockdown, though, as many of them are having a difficult time finding anywhere to stay, Mitchell said.
“That changes every day based on how relationships are going. People are all isolated inside homes together and tension brews,” he said.
“The housing status can change day-to-day.”
The HUB was established in 2017 at St. Luke’s United Church, at on the corner of Indian and Wellington roads. From the beginning, its mission has been to help keep at-risk youth off the street by providing assistance with everything from a hot shower to life skills training.
It normally serves about 65 people ages 16 to24.
With its doors currently closed, The Hub has seen an increase in youth needing essential supplies and mental wellness supports, in addition to housing.
Services have been modified, but that face-to-face interaction many young people come for is no longer possible, Mitchell said.
“I have been getting calls from youth that are overwhelmed with the situation, and really just kind of need that assurance and that support,” he said.
“That kind of stuff is what youth are really missing out on right now. They utilize The Hub as sort of a hangout, a place to come and connect with staff.”
Toiletries, hygiene products, food supplies and a hot meal are available for pick-up or delivery. The HUB also makes about a dozen check-in calls each week, Mitchell said.
Since the pandemic, staff and volunteers have been able to place several young people in housing.
The Hub is affiliated with 34 other social agencies including St. Clair Child & Youth, and Children’s Aid. Counselling is possible and hope offered.
Anyone able to help with donations can call 519-381-2500 or email [email protected] or through direct messaging to the HUB’s Facebook page @TheHubSarniaLambton.