RAFT is a pilot program designed to help keep teenagers from homelessness, which will be expanding its reach in the Niagara Region.
The RAFT team began their observations at a local high school and watched for signs of homelessness, neglect, malnourishment or other warning signs that could show that a student may need help. The program helped to identify two at-risk students. Afterwards they were able to support these students by getting them into contact with support.
Lethby indicated that the best thing RAFT’s new Upstream Project could do was help youth stay away from the shelter they provide in the first place. This project is to find youth who are at risk of needing the kind of support that RAFT. This is provides effective way of handling youth-poverty and young people who cannot support themselves. As, the easiest solution to most problems involves stopping the root issue as it were. That is exactly what Lethby intends to do with his Upstream Project. It was confirmed that after the successful high school pilot program that RAFT’s Upstream Project would be returning to the same school, with plans to expand it to a second. Should it continue to yield positive results Lethby is sure that it can continue to be implemented nation-wide.
The program is based off Australian models that had incredible results. One of these programs, The Geelong Project was being used to help youth who were deemed at-risk. This included reasons like violence, poverty, lack of attendance in school, etc. This program was studied by Canadian activists due to how successful it had been. It is through this study that programs like Upstream have come to be. As Geelong Project’s steps were all incredibly useful in determining at-risk behaviour and signs in students at a young age. As such it can be said that the Upstream Project has somewhat already had a sort of proving ground by association to these programs.
The program works on a three step basis: Identify & Assess, Connect to Services, Measure & Replicate. The first step is based around the program’s proven screening method that has in the past been able to identify students who are either currently living without adequate support or are at-risk. Once a student or family is identified as being potentially at risk the program works to provide wrap around services in order to get the student the help they need. Afterwards Upstream identifies that it evaluates the program and its efficiency in helping the individual in question. The hope afterwards being that this program will be bettered with every student helped. Lethby hopes that eventually this program can be replicated Canada-wide.
Lethby shows that these simple steps can accomplish great results for at-risk youth simply through the implementation of them w hich RAFT also helps communities accomplish. They engage the community they are placed in, teaching them about their findings on youth-at-risk and fund the development and implementation of these programs that are so beneficial to students who need them.
While there are as many as 10,000 homeless youth between the ages of 12-20, RAFT is hoping to not only aid those who find themselves entrenched in this problem, but also stop the number from growing. It seems that as necessary as a good shelter for those who have lost their homes is to a city, a program that can stop people from becoming homeless in the first place is an investment in the future.