Sir: A young man’s journey began in October 2012. Now 19 years old and with no place to go, he arrives in Chatham-Kent to seek aid from his extended family.
With assistance he was set up to receive Ontario Works (welfare benefits) which provided money to pay rent for a room and have money for food.
Within a few weeks, he seemed to be settling in to his new surroundings. This did not last long. He started wandering the streets of Chatham, got into random fights and loitering. He was recently arrested and is now incarcerated in a men’s detentions centre.
The only crime this young man is guilty of is having a mental illness and addictions that have gone untreated.
As a community social worker, I have seen the problem of youth homelessness, addiction and mental illness increase. An under-utilized support system, decreases in financial support for mental health programs and our failing social safety net have left these young people to fend for themselves. As a community, we need to embrace a community-based approach to assisting our young people before it’s too late.