Operation Come Home (OCH) has been working with at-risk and homeless youth since 1971. OCH provides a variety of supports in an integrated manner, centered on their drop-in center. The drop-in/resource center is the first point of contact for youth, providing crisis and social support, a breakfast program, a clothing cupboard, housing support, and harm reduction supplies on a needs-basis. Through this resource, youth can access outreach workers such as a mental health nurse, and a sexual health nurse. These resources are offered in an open, safe and non-judgmental environment. Once the youth is stable, they are directed to other specialized services provided by OCH such as the educational program. OCH uses the Stages of Change Model to assess client readiness for support, which helps to ensure that both the client and the provider know what the appropriate and most efficient next steps are for treatment and support.
The RAC Transitional Educational Program
The RAC transitional education program provides full time course instruction with a licensed teacher through a partnership with the local School Board. Unlike mainstream school settings, the program is flexible and accommodating: students are only expected to work 2 hours per day, and have the option of accessing the support services on a drop in basis or through scheduled meetings, either onsite and offsite. Multiple supports are integrated with the curriculum including social, literacy and educational supports:
- A teacher provides assistance for all students individually: setting educational goals, working on individual credits, coordinating work placements, assisting with credit recovery and preparing for standardized testing. There is an emphasis on alternative education strategies, through the use of experiential learning, and support beyond curriculum, with the teacher advocating for youth and providing overall guidance and encouragement.
- A social support worker encourages, motivates and assists youth. They encourage success through problem-solving, counseling, one to one support, crisis intervention, referrals, advocacy, personal goal setting, field trips, housing support, resume writing and assisting with tackling any other barriers that would prevent the student from attending and completing the school program successfully.
- A literacy support worker helps any students needing assistance with their reading or writing skills as well as with financial literacy. The literacy support staff also helps fill out applications.
- As one of the most common and influential barriers that students have to face is addictions and/or mental health concerns,5 an Addictions Support Staff offers one on one support to students who would like to work on harm reduction, and recovery from previous addictions. They also provide referrals for students with both addictions and mental health concerns.
Working with the education team, the mental health outreach nurse, other community health services and the Mobile Crisis Team allows OCH to provide a wrap-around model of assistance for youth that feeds into and encourages success in the educational setting.