A caring approach for homelessness: graduate’s pilot project delivers cultural supports
Lehran Young wants nothing more than to help.
For as long as she can remember, she’s been putting up her hand to lend a hand – at youth group in high school, and later, moving to Victoria to pursue studies in helping professions like nursing and acupuncture.
“I remember thinking in high school that no matter what I do when I grow up, I just want to be adding to society or contributing in some way,” says Young who grew up in the Cowichan Valley.
Young crosses the stage at Royal Roads University’s Fall 2023 convocation Nov. 17 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. She’ll also be presented with The Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy, and Reconciliation for her commitment to supporting transformative change, especially in the area of justice and housing.
Young, who is of settler ancestry, interned with the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness (ACEH) during her studies. There, she supported the development of and applied for a successful funding grant for YEḴ,ÁUTW̱, or Place of Hope pilot project with guidance of Executive Director Frant Hunt-Junnouchi. The four-part framework focused on delivering cultural supports for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are involved in or at risk of involvement in the justice system.
"The toolkit provides a background on the available resources locally, provincially and federally in the justice sector," Young says.
It also outlines how the coalition can provide support through prevention, diversion, post-incarceration and gladue aftercare and is used as an on-boarding tool for staff joining the ACEH justice program.
“Lehran’s internship at ACEH resulted in Lehran’s increased awareness of the many issues and challenges Indigenous Peoples experience in Victoria, as well as elsewhere in Canada,” says Prof. Shelley Jones, who nominated Young for the award.
It’s an honour Young says she owes to ACEH.
“I was privileged to work under two really amazing directors,” Young says, one of which, Hunt-Junnouchi, supervised her during her final project. “I couldn’t have done this work without being inspired by her or being pushed to do better.”
It’s work that Hunt-Junnouchi says has left a lasting legacy at the coalition.
“What Lehran produced will have great applicability to the orientation and development of the Place of Hope Indigenous Justice Program. The content was very good,” Hunt-Junnouchi submitted as feedback after Young’s internship, ultimately supporting the award nomination.
As for the future, Young hopes to continue to her work in the areas of housing and social justice, but for now, her hands are full. She’s a new mom caring for her three-month-old son, Rupert, back in her Cowichan Valley home on Quw’utsun territories.
“I feel like a salmon who’s come home to spawn,” she jokes.
“What’s next? It’s an overwhelming question,” says Young, who is on maternity leave from her acupuncture practice in Victoria.
Rupert gently coos into the receiver of the phone after waking from his nap. Young tends to him before continuing.
“I just have that overriding value of wanting to help or contribute to the community that I live in. I just don’t know what that looks like yet.”