We remove barriers for youth experiencing homelessness to reach their full potential through physical activity and industry employment.
Fitness can break the cycle of poverty: we view poverty as a cause and consequence of ill-health. Through cross-sector collaboration, every at-risk youth will thrive through better health with a foundation for a sustainable livelihood. By improving the physical and mental health of those we serve and dismantling stereotypes, we alleviate burdens on Canada’s healthcare and social welfare systems.
Although a variety of organizations work to improve the plight of homeless individuals, they primarily focus on mental health and emergency medical care, with substantially less attention paid to health behaviors including smoking, diet, and physical activity. Often, health behaviors are perceived as low priority issues, despite the fact that tobacco use, poor diet, and obesity are among the leading causes of chronic disease and preventable morbidity/mortality in this population.
Social Determinants of Health
We start with systemic change, and meet youth where they are. Some social determinants of health we address (health services, social exclusion, unemployment, income, housing, & education) play such an important role in determining the health outcomes that vulnerable populations face.
By removing barriers to fitness programming and industry education for at-risk youth, we can improve so many facets of their health and well-being, and subsequently, affect change on a broader health system level for generations to come.
More than half of people experiencing homelessness report at least one type of health condition. This shows the importance of providing physical health services and education to youth. Stressors associated with poverty and homelessness have been correlated with the onset of cardiovascular disease, chronic illnesses, and diabetes.
The homeless and marginalized face barriers to improving their employment status. Bootcamps for Change promotes economic mobility to address this through our #SweatierForTheBetter Scholarship Program. We hire youth experiencing homelessness to teach their peers’ classes, after we have supported them in education and mentorship. Approximately 75.7% of homeless youth in Canada are unemployed (Without a Home, 2016) compared to 11% of the average Canadian youth population (Trading Economics, 2019)
The National Human Services Assembly identified mentoring as key to enable individuals to break out of the cycle of poverty. In addition to providing education and positive roles models, mentoring (characterized by sustained support, guidance, concern, and encouragement) also promotes healthy relationships and positive social development.
Youth unemployment is linked to education levels: the less educated a youth is, the higher the likelihood of remaining unemployed for a longer period. Income is a detriment of health and those living in poverty have lower life expectancy and higher rates of illness and injury. This works to create barriers for youth who may not have attended post-secondary education and is a contributing circumstance to homelessness.