Learning Objectives–At the end of this module, you will be able to:
- understand the needs of LGBTQ2S youth who access drop-in centres.
- develop a plan to revise programs to meet the articulated needs of LGBTQ2S youth.
According to the Toronto Drop-In Network’s Good Practices Toolkit there are four activities of drop-in centres:
Providing for basic needs: Basic needs can include food, clothing, showers, laundry, and a safe place that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer… Drop-ins provide an environment that is safe, with staff that are responsive to personal health and well-being.
Providing opportunities for social contact: All drop-ins have some kind of common room where meals or snacks can be eaten and participants can socialize. Many participants may not feel welcome or comfortable in “traditional” community centres and find drop-ins more accessible. Many participants have weak informal social networks and little or no contact with relatives, and drop-ins can provide a relaxed social setting in which people can make new friends. Many housed participants are formerly homeless and are currently only precariously housed. For them, having access to a supportive community may help them stabilize and stay housed.
Providing support for well-being: In providing support for participants’ wellbeing, drop-ins fill a gap in the provision of community support services for vulnerable people, though this role is not adequately recognized and is often constrained by insufficient resources and staff. Drop-ins provide support for participants’ well-being in different ways, corresponding to their organizational mandate, staffing capacity, and financial resources…
Providing the opportunity for change: Many drop-in programs help people build skills, motivation, confidence and self-esteem so that they can rebuild their lives and sustain housing (if they have it). Life skills training, meaningful activities, education, and work training programs are offered… (Toronto Drop-In Network, 2007: 1A3 – 1A4).
Making Drop-In Spaces Safe Enough for LGBTQ2S Youth
In our focus groups we asked participants What would the first 15 minutes look like at a drop-in for you to feel comfortable, supported and respected?” Youth told us that they need to know that there are staff in the space and who to identify staff. Staff need to introduce themselves and their pronoun; staff taking initiative ensures everybody feels safe and they respect pronouns. Youth would like to have information about the drop-in available (from staff or posters etc). Drop-ins should have the code of conduct visibly displayed. Youth would also like to see LGBTQ2S signage. Youth need their to be evidence of security in the drop-in. Having access to medical supports and/or referrals to medical supports is important LGBTQ2S youth.
Next we asked youth “After that 15 minutes, what do you need to feel comfortable, supported and respected?” Youth shared that they require a consistent worker to meet with to develop relationships with to better enable case management. Staff need to respect confidentiality and discretion around identities and youth information and be open and non judgemental. Youth require staff to ask and use their preferred pronoun and name. Youth would like there be to be fun events that enable youth to interact with each other and staff without having an educational agenda. Youth also want to drop-ins to host LGBTQ2S inclusive programming. It is also recommended that there be gender neutral/gender free washrooms available. Most important is that youth feel safe enough in the space.
Toronto Drop-In Network. (n.d.). Toronto Drop-In Network – RESOURCES. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://tdin.ca/resources/show_resource.cfm?id=150
Paul Dowling Consulting, Good Practices Workgroup, & Agora Foundation. (2007). Good Practices Toolkit. Toronto: Toronto Drop-In Network.