Old Strathcona Youth Society
The OSYS started in 1998 as a multi-agency, “one stop shop” for information and referrals geared towards the emerging population of high risk street youth in the area.
The youth we work with are between the ages of 14 and 24 and most are street involved. This can be anything from outright homeless and sleeping wherever it seems safe for the night, to couch surfing at friends’ places and staying sporadically in shelters, to having an apartment or room for a short period of time.
Many of the youth we see are transient, travelling from city to city or throughout Edmonton on a daily basis.
All of the youth are resilient in some way, able to struggle through unimaginable hardships every day. The OSYS strives to connect with each and every youth to learn about their strengths and capabilities and to build on those. Once we have a rapport with the youth, we can take the relationship to the next level and find out, on their terms, what it is they need to create some positive change.
We may meet a youth who is homeless, hungry, using drugs and not connected with any services. Once we create a relationship with the youth by chatting each time they come in, offering coffee and the occasional muffin, we can start to address their most urgent need. Surprisingly, this may turn out to be something entirely different than what would be an obvious conclusion. The youth may not feel that housing or food is their most pressing concern. It could be connecting with family or accessing health services.
We have no agenda for the youth. They let us know what it is they want to work on. In all of the other areas we work to educate and inform on harm reduction, safety, and services to help keep the youth as safe as possible in the situation they are in.
The Old Strathcona Youth Society is less structured than many programs, although we do have several regular activities and workshops such as: service providers in throughout the week, movie night on Thursday, collective kitchen on Friday, and recreation on Saturday.
The staff at the OSYS strives to learn daily from the youth we serve, and to better understand what will work and what doesn’t when it comes to youth in high risk situations.
When working with the youth we have learned that being genuine is very important. Many youth have been through relationships that are short term, often with professionals such as social workers, group home workers, shelter staff, etc. They sometimes become unable to trust and wary of connecting with anyone, especially an adult in an authority position. If we can be open and honest about who we are when we attempt to create a working relationship, it shows the youth that we are comfortable with maintaining a trusting relationship for the long haul. If we present a “work persona”, we show the youth that we are only here to do our jobs and they are a part of that. We want the youth to feel…and know….that they are more than just a part of our job; that they are people who are important and unique.
Our Mission: Old Strathcona Youth Society provides flexible resources and creates supportive environment that fosters youth empowerment and development.
Vision: OSYS is successful in providing responsive programming to meet youths identified needs, is a strong, financially accountable agency with well-trained consistent staff, and is known and respected in the community.