Youth facing increasing pressures from pandemic, drug crisis: Winnipeg support worker

One Winnipeg man using his lived experience to help at-risk youth says today’s young people are facing more challenges than ever before.

“I know that our youth today are carrying a significant amount more trauma than I did when I was experiencing houselessness,” said Daniel Emerson, the youth hub program manager at The Link Youth & Family Support.

“And more importantly with the COVID pandemic and the drug crises were seeing in the community, a lot of those things didn’t exist, especially with COVID, but those things didn’t exist when I was 15. So I know that youth carry a lot more challenges and traumas and barriers (now).”

Read more: Gun crime, homicides remain high in Winnipeg, annual police report says

The City of Winnipeg has seen an escalating level of violent crime this year, with many incidents notably involving youth.

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Emerson says The Link is one of numerous organizations helping youth get their lives on-track – something he experienced firsthand.

Read more: ‘Living the only lives they know’: Winnipeg outreach organizations concerned with youth violence

“As a 15-year-old I really struggled with houselessness,” he said, adding that he when he reached out to The Link, formerly known as MacDonald Youth Services, it was a life-changing experience.

Daniel Emerson says his lived experience helps him connect with youth at The Link. Marney Blunt / Global News

“That was my first eye-opener to what I wanted to do with my life. So the last 10 years I’ve really worked towards getting myself in this field and working with the youth. And just because I have the lived experience, I share those connections and understanding and empathy with the youth that we are working with.”

The Link offers a variety of services dealing with mental health, addictions, family support, resources, and emergency shelter.

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Chief executive officer Kerri Irvin-Ross says services like these are more critical now than ever before.

“They are invaluable, they’re priceless,” Irvin-Ross told Global News.

“When a family is in crisis and they need a resource and they can call us and we have teams that go out and support that family; it’s incredible the outcomes that can happen.”

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