Ian McHale isn’t surprised that a survey has found that Victoria teenagers feel less connected to the community. He compares high-risk youth to ghosts.
“They’re hidden and undercover — not connecting to their probation officers, foster homes or others in their lives,” said McHale, a staff member with Sanctuary Youth Centre. The centre, which is multi-church and inter-denominational, offers outreach to at-risk youth in the Greater Victoria area.
In its fourth year, the Victoria Youth Vital Signs survey is a product of the Victoria Foundation that measures the vitality of Victoria from youths’ perspective.
Survey results reflect the feelings of 234 young people aged 15 to 18 years. Seventy five per cent of those responding were female. Sixty-four per cent of youth in 2012 said they felt a connection to Victoria, down from 75 per cent in 2009.
Those who feel isolated are a concern to Faelan Prentice, a Grade 12 student at Reynolds High School.
“Those statistics stood out to me about something that we need to work on,” said Prentice, a speaker at an event this week in downtown Victoria where the report was released.
“I don’t think students should be forced to [connect] but we need an approach for students that’s more accessible.”
Affordable housing, education and transportation were also identified as issues of concern.
One statistic that stood out was that almost 20 per cent said they have experienced homelessness — either not having a home, living on the streets, staying with friends, couch-surfing, staying in a hostel or living in an unsafe situation.
Suzanne Cole, executive director of the Burnside Gorge Community Association which runs a “youth self-sufficiency” program, said the contents of the report are concerning.
“Our goal is to focus on all the number one priorities and significant issues,” she said.
“It’s tough enough for kids who do have support to deal with finances, homelessness and education.”
The youth in the Burnside Gorge program work with advisers who help them set and achieve their goals, she said.
The survey had youth rate various aspects of the community. The highest grade, a B, went to sport and recreation. Youth would like to see more non-competitive leagues where they can learn new sports and be active.
Victoria rated a C+ for youth who wanted to be themselves. Still, they’re asking for more affordable playgrounds, sports venues and theatres.
Getting around Victoria can be challenging without a driver’s licence or access to a car. Youth responding to the survey gave transportation options a C+, calling for more frequent bus service. They’d also like to see additional late-night bus runs and lower fares.
Respondents gave Victoria a C+ for education and learning. The cost of post-secondary education remains an issue, as does the lack of life-skills education in high school.
They’d like to see smaller class sizes and more emphasis on tolerance for other races and sexual orientations.
For more information, visit victoriafoundation.ca.