The “Renaître de la Rue” project helps young people in difficulty navigate the support ecosystem
For this young population, the problem goes above and beyond homelessness to encompass the struggle to navigate aid agencies, whose limited resources create interruptions in their efforts to reintegrate.
To address this issue, Mikah Youbi founded Renaître de la Rue. A winning project of the 2022 cohort of the Civic Incubator, Renaître de la Rue offers personalized assistance through the existing support ecosystem for young people experiencing homelessness or precariousness.
The specifics of youth homelessness
What circumstances might lead a young person to leave home? To answer this question, we had to wait until youth homelessness achieved wide visibility at the outset of the 1980s. Until then, the phenomenon had been associated with running away from home and adolescent rebellion. Studies have finally begun to address a much more complex reality in which youth homelessness may be the only alternative to a family or social environment that has become violent, dangerous, and untenable.
These young people flee from lives defined by social and economic relationships in which they have been generally depended on other individuals, such as parents, relatives, persons providing care for them or an intervening team for young people with a background in protection of the youth. Amid their own physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development, they must fend for themselves. They are forced to emerge from adolescence and to quickly adopt adult roles, even though they have no access to institutions or activities designed to help them to achieve security and independence. Rather than a planned, empowering transition to responsibility, they follow a rocky path that puts them at risk of the long-term consequences of homelessness.
A more or less “visible” homelessness
While progress has been made in understanding the issue of youth homelessness—it has even been given a precise definition by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness—studies struggle to shed light on it. This is because many young people experiencing homelessness or residential instability do not identify themselves as “homeless” while they live temporarily with an acquaintance, share an apartment in substandard housing, or sleep in squats rather than shelters.
This invisible nature of homelessness makes it difficult to put in place intervention or prevention strategies. The mandates for organizations in charge of a particular territory, age group, and specific challenges are based on the available statistics—which are incomplete. Due to limited resources and the lack of clarity in pathways, community teams can offer only formatted services to respond urgently to a short-term need. At the conclusion of this intervention, they lose contact with the young people. Having recognized that this siloed approach is detrimental to sustainable reintegration, they are seeking solutions.
The challenge of "Renaître de la rue”
“Renaître de la rue” is the personal challenge Mikah Youbi set himself in 2017 when he found himself homeless. In his efforts to escape the precariousness of his situation, he sought help from various organizations. During a journey that took him from Quebec to Manitoba via Ontario, he approached a dozen organizations, each of whose programming, he quickly realized, was extremely limited.
Over the next several months, Mikah carefully recorded his own observations, along with the many testimonies given to him by the people around him, including both users of emergency services and intervention teams. He noted the frustration caused by limited resources, the lack of interinstitutional collaboration, narrowly targeted mandates, and the consequences of this disjointed system on young people’s confidence in themselves and in the organizations assisting them:
“There are help centres that meet basic needs, but each one has its own admissions criteria. For a confused young person who has to take charge of their life from one day to the next, imagine the difficulty of having to find an organization, explain their traumatic situation, take the risk of being refused access to a service because they don’t meet the conditions of the mandate, be redirected to another organization—whether or not they actually received support—and start over again. In fact, navigating the youth-homelessness ecosystem is like that game where a disk slides down a board, caroming off one nail after another, until it ends up in a random box at the bottom.” — Mikah
Except that a pathway out of precariousness cannot be arbitrary. It requires that organizations understand the needs of people in distress, guide them towards the right resources, and support them through the different stages. Above all, it can’t succeed without rebuilding the young person’s self-esteem:
“Having been in close contact with the reality of the lives of these young people—having been one of them myself—I understand that rebuilding self-esteem is fundamental. It is the first step to regaining self-confidence. Without it, how can you expect a person to make decisions, to have the courage to accept help, and to take on new challenges?” — Mikah
Mikah then envisioned a project built around a mentoring team and a digital platform that would increase the visibility of existing organizations and demystify them for their target audience by concretely presenting the services offered by social workers—from psychological interventions to training in nutrition. With this tool and the support of Renaître de la Rue, Mikah hopes to empower young people build their reintegration trajectory with the tools they consider useful, thanks to a better understanding of structures and services.
Joining the Civic Incubator to get his idea off the ground
Mikah saw a call for projects on social networks whose title excited him:
“‘Support an emerging project to take it from idea to deployment.’” Wow, that’s when it happened! I had my project in my hands for several years, I knew the idea was good, but I didn’t know how to take it further. The opportunity to join the Civic Incubator was exactly what I needed—to expose Renaître de la Rue to the light of day, formalize it, and present it to a jury. This very first stage has already pushed me to assert myself as a project leader, as has each subsequent module of the course.” — Mikah
To follow the Civic Incubator program involves interrogating many aspects of one’s project: the desired impact, the initial form, a new solution, one’s own leadership. For Mikah, the journey started with taking a step back from his initiative and adopting a critical perspective so he could make decisions that served not only his personal situation, but also the mission of Renaître de la Rue: “I tested the process and got myself out of being homeless. So today, the project is no longer for me, but for other young people. It’s their journey and their needs that I need to understand.”
Mikah subsequently realized that the online platform wasn’t an ideal vehicle for the desired impact. He reinstated human contact to the heart of the process, relying above all on a personalized, face-to-face, on-site support approach. Thanks to the strengthening of his leadership, Mikah enthusiastically embraces the new version of his project: “The phrase that my coach Sarah often repeated to me was, ‘What do you think?’ It seems trivial, but it changes everything. The MIS team gave me the opportunity to express myself and to be heard in the development of a new approach. It’s great to be able to formulate a concrete solution to a dysfunction and to move forward with your idea!”
In the summer of 2022, the Renaître de la Rue team launched its pilot program for young people in difficulty thanks to a support ecosystem made up of two therapists and the Collective Ex-Placed DPJ (Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse). At the moment, the organization is looking to expand and is seeking a person with management expertise who can lay a solid foundation and allow Mikah to focus on supporting young people.. The organization also wishes to develop the school-dropout axis and is looking for collaborators in this area. The organization is of course open to volunteer supporters and any complementary funding that will enable it to deploy its program on a larger scale. Does the mission of Renaître de la Rue appeal to you? Don’t hesitate to contact Mikah!
¹ Gaetz, S. (2014a). Coming of Age: Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness in Canada, Toronto: The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press, 128 p.