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Good Shepherd’s Notre Dame House fights to stop the spread of COVID-19 among homeless and at-risk youth

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“These are all amazing people going through the hardest time of their lives,”
Good Shepherd’s Notre Dame House fights to stop the spread of COVID-19 among homeless and at-risk youth


Cale has been an Intensive Community Case Manager at Good Shepherd’s Notre Dame House for 9 years. Notre Dame House is a shelter for youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless due to issues like family violence, conflict, abuse, neglect, poverty, mental health and addiction issues.

“These are all amazing people going through the hardest time of their lives,” he says. “My job is to get them housed and connect them to resources but most importantly to empower them so they see what they are capable of.”

Notre Dame House is currently operating at half capacity to allow for physical distancing during this crisis. Typically there would be up to 5-6 youth in one bedroom but that number has been reduced to two. Staff have had to be creative in coming up with ways to deliver supports to youth as they adjust to the current situation in the world.

“It’s hard for the kids right now. They are bored, they can’t go out with their friends or access some of the community programming that they are used to,” says Cale.

Youth are free to come and go from the shelter as they please but staff have put great effort into educating them so that they understand the risks and what they need to do to keep themselves and the community safe.

“They see us sanitizing everything like crazy and screening everyone when they come into the building,” says Cale. “We’re taking all the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe and I see that the youth are taking it seriously too.”

An unexpected positive outcome of the pandemic is that youth are being housed at a more rapid pace due to newly vacant student housing opening up after the closure of universities and colleges.

“One of the landlords I work with called me and said he just had 30 units become available immediately,” he says. “I was able to house a bunch of youth within two days of that phone call.”

Cale says that his job is always very rewarding but the success stories are made even sweeter given the current situation. Last week he helped secure housing for a youth that has been struggling after another agency he was working with lost their funding.

“We were able to find him housing in 48 hours, a job the day after he moved in and then he welcomed a new baby with his partner the day after that,” says Cale.

Notre Dame School, which operates in partnership with the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board has been preparing to offer virtual learning for the kids to complete their school work. Youth at Notre Dame School are able to complete their high school diploma and receive support applying for post-secondary school or job opportunities.

“Everyone who comes here is at a different level,” he says. “It’s about meeting them on the level and working with them from there because they don’t always have the supports they need to succeed.”

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