In 1997, a few Edmontonians, including a group of youth, came together to solve a problem: there were too many neglected and abandoned young people on the streets. Some were homeless. Others battled addictions and mental illness. The route to crime was too easy. And there was no existing model that worked well to solve this problem.
So iHuman Youth Society built an alternative model that was more attractive, more powerful and more Edmonton: we built it on creativity. iHuman invites and helps young people to find new directions and pathways in their lives through caring, artistic expression, and authentic programming. iHuman has helped hundresd of youth who have beaten the odds, broken the cycle, and become healthy members of our community. We have done this by employing a "keeping it real" approach that builds trust and bridges needs with advocacy in response to the problem.
iHuman Youth Society is a non-profit organization that engages traumatized youth who exhibit high-risk lifestyles to foster positive personal development and social change. We develop and implement innovative arts-based programming that function as a positive engagement tool. We seek to re-connect youth into the community by developing skills, self-esteem and a sense of worth and ability through mentorship, crisis intervention and targeted programming. iHuman serves 500 youth in the Edmonton area aged 12-24 years. Aboriginal youth make up a significant portion of our clients, however, we serve youth from every demographic and socio-economic group.
Our youth-driven programming engages head-on the issues of addictions and mental health with successful and meaningful impact on the youth and therefore the health of communities. Our youth are dealing with toxic stress on a daily basis: poverty, homelessness, addictions use or abuse, mental health issues, fetal alcohol syndrome, gang affiliation or membership and familial neglect means our youth are often known to the criminal justice or child welfare systems. A significant majority also exhibit some brain trauma or compromise to their brain development and functioning.
Our harm reduction programs are innovative because we listen to the youth. It is through their challenges that imaginative approaches are developed and piloted. We engage and encourage the youth to mentor their peers and contribute to our community in affirming ways. Our innovation has been honoured in 2011 with a Duncan and Craig Gold Laurel Award for Creativity and Innovation in Non-Profit Organizations.
Fostering an environment of acceptance and encouragement where youth can challenge old habits and stigma to start building towards healthier lives. We advocate on behalf of youth to provide solutions and opportunities, working with them as a group, as well as providing individualized planning and programming based on each youth's strengths and challenges. In 2012, we were honoured with the inaugural Lieutenant Governor's Circle on Mental Health and Addiction's True Imagination Award. A clean and sober group called "Friday Night Challenge" operates weekly using peer support to facilitate the development of a community-based solution to alcohol and illicit drug use among youth.
We have street credibility. By building trust and respect, encouraging dignity and developing a sense of belief and hope, iHuman is contributing to a safer community and innovating solutions that demonstrate positive outcomes which reduce the cycle of poverty, promote understanding, and enable holistic growth for a segment of our young population that is otherwise seen as a drain on society.